Making Salsa While Drinking Tequila!
Updated: May 21
Ruben has been a chef and restaurant owner for years here in Vallarta. He had his own Greek restaurant, worked with his sister who owns Coco’s Kitchen, and now is head chef at Eclecticos restaurant in Vallarta. In his spare time, he offers cooking classes.
Some friends and I took one of Ruben’s classes where we prepared several salsas from scratch along with a couple side dishes. We sipped some amazing tequilas while we roasted, chopped, mixed, and ground. After all, this was a lot of work. Imagine cooking like this every day? And no, I cannot seem to remember the names of those tequilas.
This was a fun five-hour adventure held in Nathalie Herling’s fabulous Mexican kitchen at Art Vallarta. She is a collector of original and unusual kitchenware and utensils from many places in Mexico. We were honored to use some of her volcanic stone molcajetes for grinding and mixing the different salsa ingredients. Molcajetes are typically made from the porous basalt rock of the volcanic regions in Guanajuato, Jalisco, and Michoacán. Their rough surface is perfect for grinding down ingredients and spices.
Each salsa had its own molcajete which has been flavored over the years from the many salsas created in their bowls. The porous basalt absorbs the flavors of the food and spices ground in it so no mixing up the green salsa molcajete with the avocado salsa molcajete unless you are fine with the end results!
The gastronomy of Mexico is varied and complex with a history spanning hundreds of years if you include some of the indigenous recipes that are still in use today. Salsa is a Spanish word meaning sauce, the origin of which can be traced to the ancient Aztec and Inca civilizations thousands of years ago. They cultivated pepper and tomato plants and worked with them into tasty combinations creating condiments to serve with turkey, venison, lobster, and fish to give them more flavor. Salsas became everyday fare in Mexico when the Mayans brought them up from the south long before the Conquistadors arrived in 1519.
We also took maize dough used for tortillas and molded little sopas. These are small tortillas with sides that we grilled on the stove then filled with a mixture of ground beef, onions and spices and served them as an appetizer.
Once everything was done, we floated out to the jungle patio. Nathalie had prepared a beautiful table using some of her Mexican dishware. I felt we were stepping back in time when life was slow here and food was made with love, a feast for the soul to be shared with family and friends. More wine, more tequila helping our salsas burst forth with flavors as we ate and laughed our way through the rest of the evening.
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