Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Pico de Gallo - My Favorite Mexican Condiment


Every year, I plan to make a recipe specifically to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. And I fail to do so every time. Though Cinco de Mayo is observed to commemorate the Mexican army's unlikely victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862, over the years it has become a celebration of the rich Mexican culture. 

Mexican cuisine, though utterly delicious, has quite a bad rap due to its high calorie food. Cheesy enchiladas and nachos, re-fried beans, deep fried chimichangas.... sounds familiar!

Personally, I love the Mexican flavors but cannot handle the grease that comes along. We rarely frequent Mexican restaurants here. But Mexican food need not be calorie heavy.  The basic ingredients in Mexican cuisine is actually good for you. Thinks about the great array of beans, the fresh tomatoes and corn, the salsas and the spicy peppers. You can get all the great smoky and earthy flavors minus the calorie, by making the right choices. Choose lean meat like ground chicken or turkey instead of beef. Using fat free yogurt instead of sour cream. Go low on the cheese or opt for the low-fat variety. Top your tacos and burritos with low calorie salsas. The options are endless. 


Pico de Gallo is by far my most favorite Mexican condiment. I make it all the time and I love topping my Chili and my burritos with it. I am not of a out-of-the-jar salsa person. I like making my own. And the fresh variety always triumphs over the cooked version. Pico de Gallo is also called salsa fresca, which means Fresh Salsa

The freshness of tomatoes , the crunch from the onions, the kick from the jalapenos, the fragrant cilantro and zippy lime juice - what's not to love about it! 




Like many people. I use was under the impression that tomatoes is the key star in Pico de Gallo. Onions, cilantro and the jalapenos mere supporting actors. And then Pioneer Woman came to my life and my Pico was never the same again. 

She said "the tomatoes are only one part of the ultimate product. The jalapenos, the cilantro, the onions—they require equal billing with the tomatoes to make Pico de Gallo work". And was she right! There is such a difference. You would never know until you make it the wrong way and then the right way! But you do it the right way. The wrong way isn't worth at all. 


One thing I add to my Pico de Gallo that it from "Wow! its Good..." to "OMG... This is Goooood...." is a tiny spec of minced garlic. Not too much. Just a hint. And you'll go bonkers. I swear. 

Now take a look at the quick and easy recipe and run to you kitchen and make some. You probably have all the ingredients on hand. 


Recipe Snapshot: Pico de Gallo

Serves: 1 serving

What I used:
Tomatoes - 1, juicy but firm ones, diced. (about 1 cup)
(Roma tomatoes work well, but I love on-the_vine tomatoes. Avoid beef steak tomatoes.They are very mealy. )


Onion - 1, medium sized, chopped (about 3/4 cup) 

(I used red onions but white onion is traditionally used)


Garlic - 1 small clove or half of a fat clove, finely minced


Serrano peppers or Jalapenos - 1, seeded and finely chopped


Cilantro/ Coriander leaves - 1/2 cup, packed, chopped



Lime juice - Juice of half a lime (about 1 tablespoon)


Salt to taste


What I did:
1. Dice up the tomatoes and chop the onions. Roughly chop the cilantro. Seed the Serrano Peppers(or Jalapenos) and mince them finely. You can leave the seeds and the membrane behind like me, if you like heat. Mince a tiny clove of garlic too.

2. Combine the tomatoes, the onion, the garlic, the cilantro and the Serrano peppers and mix well. 

3. Squeeze juice of half a lime and toss. 

4. Sprinkle about half a teaspoon of salt and stir and combine well. I use coarse sea salt. 

5. Give a taste check and add more salt, lime juice or minced Serrano peppers as required.

Notes/Tip: Pico de Gallo does not store well. Use it the same day you make it. I make it right before serving. 

Diabetic Platter:
Pico de Gallo is packed with antioxidants, which fight the harmful free radicals that cause cellular mutations. This damage, called oxidative stress, also contributes to the development of chronic health conditions. The antioxidants in onions and garlic include organosulfur and allicin, which are compounds that help combat disease, such as atherosclerosis, and supply the potent aroma in these vegetables. The antioxidants in tomatoes include vitamin C, vitamin E and lycopene. Lycopene is a carotenoid that provides the red pigment in tomatoes and helps protect the body against prostate, urinary, intestinal and some stomach cancers. Cilantro contains a plethora of antioxidants, including gallic acid, caffeic acid, ferulic acid and chlorogenic acid, which may combat cancer cells and increase insulin sensitivity among diabetics, suggests a study published in 2005 in the “International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition.” 

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