Cinco de Mayo tacos and a birthday treat

A Mexican feast from our book 'Amor y Tacos'

When I realized my day to post was May 6 I knew that I wanted to do something for Cinco De Mayo. Not only because I love Mexican food, but because it’s my birthday. Luckily I was able to post today, which is of course actually Cinco De Mayo.

I’m pretty sure that when I said I was planning on making something from the STC cookbook Amor Y Tacos everyone assumed I would make a delicious main dish. I assumed I was smart enough not to stick my thumb into a skillet of sizzling oil. I think we all know what happens when we assume.

Being a bit of a procrastinator I didn’t get around to deciding what I was going to make until this past Saturday. As I flipped through the delicious recipes I realized that after a few days of heavy eating (thank you Royal Wedding), I didn’t want a big main dish. So I decided to make three different recipes that would give me a light, fresh snack.

After a quick trip to the store I got to work.

First up, Watermelon Agua Fresca. With the recent warmer weather we’ve been having in NYC I was craving watermelon and even though the recipe says you can use almost any fruit I knew I wanted watermelon.


2 cups cubed seedless watermelon or other very ripe fruit
3 cups water
Fresh-squeezed juice of 1 lime
1 tablespoon agave nectar or cane sugar (if desired)
Garnish: lime wedge

Directions: Mash the fruit to a pulp. Stir in the water, lime juice, and sweetener. Chill well. Serve over ice with a lime wedge.

Verdict? This was very refreshing and incredibly easy. Rather than mashing the watermelon myself I threw it in the blender and the entire drink was ready in about 10 seconds. And even though I ended up not using the agave or sugar I thought the drink was perfectly sweet.

Next came the pico de gallo. I have made pico de gallo many times in my life and it’s never been exactly what I wanted so I thought I would give the Amor Y Tacos’ recipe a try.


4 large, ripe Roma tomatoes, cored, seeded, and diced small (about 2 cups)
1⁄2 cup finely diced white onion
1⁄2 medium serrano chile, minced
1⁄2 cup loosely packed, roughly chopped cilantro leaves
1⁄2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice, or to taste

Directions: Combine all the ingredients 1 hour before serving. Taste for seasoning and add more salt or lime juice as needed. This salsa is good for 24 hours, refrigerated, but may need to be drained and reseasoned.

Verdict? I was very happy. I don’t know if I had ever made a pico without olive oil before and this one, with just the lime juice, was perfect.

Finally, came the Spicy Masa. I decided to take some liberties here and follow the recipe for the dough and then make them into my own masa cakes.


2 cups Maseca brand masa harina for tortillas
1 1⁄2 to 2 cups warm water
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon finely minced seeded jalapeno
1 teaspoon finely minced garlic


1. In a bowl, combine the masa harina, 1 cup water, and the salt. Work the masa with your hands to form a soft dough. Work in the jalapeno and garlic.

2. To test the consistency of the masa, form a small ball and press it flat. If it cracks around the edges, add more water as needed, a little at a time. The dough should be very soft but not wet. Form into balls the size of a golf ball and cover until ready to use. If the dough begins to crack while you are working with it, dip 2 fingers into water and work it into the dough ball; do not pour water directly into the dough.

After I formed the balls I let the dough rest for about half an hour in the refrigerator. Then, I sprinkled a little water on a piece of saran wrap and pressed the dough into a flat cake (you could also use a tortilla press if you had one, I don’t, did I mention it’s my birthday?).

While flattening the cake I let a generous amount of canola oil warm in a skillet over medium-high heat. Once the oil was sizzling I put the masa disks into the skillet and cooked them for about 2 minutes on each side.

As you saw in the first picture I then topped the masa cakes with pico de gallo and served! I really liked the combination of the slightly spicy masa and the pico de gallo. This obviously isn’t a meal, but I would definitely make these as appetizers (making the cakes smaller in diameter) for a party. And, just as a note in case it didn’t occur to anyone, all 3 recipes are meat, dairy, and gluten free.


on Thursday, May 5th, 2011
in Cooking
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