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Spirited and earthy, Southwest cooking is best characterized as a cuisine of complex flavors produced with simple ingredients. Beans, corn, avocados, tomatoes, chiles, jicama and squash—all native to the New World-come together in this lively and satisfying meal. Originally called burros or burras, burritos—which include a wide assortment of savory ingredients rolled in a tortilla—are native to Sonora in northwestern Mexico. Our distinctive burrito is filled with creamy cannellini beans, sliced mushrooms and soy “chicken” strips in a tasty dish that can transform a casual summer supper into a fiesta.
Tortillas make a tasty and pliable wrap and are commonly used as eating utensils. Purchasing these wholesome, heart-healthy flatbreads is not the daunting task it once was. Most of us can easily find whole-grain tortillas, made without lard or hydrogenated oils, in health food stores and supermarkets. Note that foods whose labels list hydrogenated oils contain trans fatty acids, which, studies indicate, elevate the level of LDL (“bad” cholesterol), increasing the risk of heart disease.
Salsas have surpassed ketchup as America’s favorite condiment. We dip into salsa for an appetizer or snack, to add a piquant accent to the food we cook and even enjoy it on sandwiches. Although countless varieties of salsa are widely available, nothing compares to the fresh goodness of one made in your own kitchen, such as our delicious Chunky Avocado Salsa. Mingling flavors and textures, this snappy salsa is a delightful mix of creamy avocado, crunchy red bell peppers, celery and jicama. Adding a luscious, rich mouth feel, avocados are high in monounsaturated fat like that found in olive oil, which can help lower blood cholesterol.
A summer standard, potato salad is best made with thin-skinned, waxy varieties of potatoes. When cooked, this type of potato maintains a moist flesh with a waxy sheen that won’t fall apart when sliced. The addition of fresh lime juice and diced chiles gives this potato salad its unique flavor.
Southwestern cuisine isn’t all hot and spicy, and mild chiles can add a distinctive flavor to many dishes. Roasting chiles intensifies the flavor, and I often use the convenient, whole, fire-roasted red and green chiles packed in 12-ounce jars found in many supermarkets. You can also use whole, canned green chiles, which are also mild.