This week our Tabletop Traveling series is going south to Mexico, where fresh produce from your backyard or the farmers market takes the spotlight in a summer fiesta.
Mexican cuisine varies by region and spotlights native ingredients like corn, chili peppers, tomatoes, avocadoes, cacti and cocoa. Vegetables shine in Mexican cooking, which makes it perfect for a socially distanced outdoor summer Shabbat. Stock up on fresh corn, tomatoes and peaches for a colorful fiesta that will banish any pandemic blues.
You can never go wrong with tacos, especially when you go the DIY route, with fillings and toppings separate so people can mix and match.
Light fish tacos can be made on the grill along with any other veggies you want to add to your taco bar, but veggie-centric fillings also work great. Consider cauliflower shawarma for a Mediterranean twist to Mexico or bell pepper and tofu fajitas seasoned with fresh lime juice and chili powder.
Any taco bar needs a wide variety of toppings. Put your chopping skills to the test with some homemade pico de gallo, mango peach salsa and a simple cabbage slaw. Mash up avocadoes for classic guacamole or an extra green avocado, spinach and pickled jalapeño dip. Pro tip: Use a separate cutting board and wear gloves when cutting jalapeños. And—in true pandemic form—don’t touch your face! If you don’t want things too spicy, remove the seeds to keep the heat down.
Keep the DIY theme going with a large batch of vegetarian posole that can use the same toppings as the tacos. Plan ahead, as the dried beans and hominy need to soak overnight; once they’re soaked, though, the recipe is very hands-off and can simmer away while you prepare the rest of your fiesta menu.
For dessert, go for either a dairy-free Mexican Hot Chocolate Filling that is great spread on cookies or graham crackers (Mexican-inspired s’mores, anyone?) or a Guava Cheesecake that marries the popular combination of Mexican cheese and fruit paste.
The food is the star of this party, so let your spread shine in its presentation. Lay out a colorful tablecloth, and top it with bowls of taco fillings, salsas, chips, guacamole and posole. Let garnishes be decoration, too, with plates of sliced limes, jalapeños, pineapple and cilantro for pops of color and flavor.
Instead of flowers, put cacti out on the table for a spiky centerpiece. You can string up a banner of butterflies to pay homage to the monarch butterfly migration each year to Mexico. While we can’t go see this natural phenomena ourselves this fall, you can bring the spirit to your fiesta.