Jan recently discovered that her birth father’s people live/lived in the mountainous region of along the Jalisco / Nayarit border. She asked for a Mexican Christmas with tamales this year. I decided that I needed a salad to go with them. A site I found describing Jalisco cuisine mentioned a pico de gallo of “pieces of jicama, orange, pineapple with lime juice and ground chili.”
Son-in-law, Chris, is allergic to raw pineapple so that was out, but I could work with the rest of the ingredients. Finding that pico de gallo translated as “rooster’s beak,” I took a fancy to cut my vegetables into triangular “beaks.” I also decided that I would use another popular ingredient of the region, pepitas (pumpkin seeds), as a garnish.
Note: I have to limit the spiciness of my dishes, because Miriam has been sick. Feel free to use more chilies or to leave in the spicy seeds if you wish.
Guajillo chili is a milder, sweeter pepper than many that are used in Mexico. It also pairs very nicely with fruit. If you would like your dish a bit spicier you may add a chili de arbol.
Karl’s Jalisco Pico de Gallo
2 dried Guajillo chilies (~1 ½ tsp.)
(optional) 1 dried Chili de Arbol (~⅛ tsp.)
2 navel oranges
1 medium to large jicama
½ red bell pepper
Pinch Kosher salt
1 tsp. lime zest
1 lime, juiced (~2 tsp.)
½ cup cilantro leaves
¼ cup pepitas, toasted
1. Deseed the chilies and tear them into ½ inch bits.
Note: Much of the capsicum, the chemical that makes chilies “hot” is carried in the seeds. If you want to make your dish spicier, leave some or all of the seeds in.
2. Roast the chilies for 1-2 minutes in a dry hot pan, until fragrant.
Tip: Toss the chilies frequently to prevent them from burning.
Note: The thin dry chilies will go from toasted to burnt black very quickly.
3. Transfer the chili pieces to a bowl to cool when they are done.
4. Grind the chilies to a fine powder and set it aside.
Tip: I use a dedicated electric coffee grinder to process spices. This is much quicker that the traditional Mexican method.
5. Cut the top and bottoms off the oranges.
Tip: Squeeze the juice of these bits into the small bowl.
Note: This gives you a solid base to the fruit and keeps them from rolling around while you are cutting off the peel.
6. Lay the oranges on a cutting board and slice away the peels.
Tip: It is OK to cut into the sections a tiny bit, as you want to remove all of the white pith as well as the rind.
7. Hold each orange in one hand over the bowl and use a paring knife to slice along the membranes on each side of one of the sections.
Tip: Some juice will be released as you do this and drip into the bowl.
Note: After you have freed the orange sections handle them gently. Only the cohesion between the juice cell walls is keeping the pieces whole. Do not add the oranges to the salad until the last minute and toss them in very carefully.
8. Cut the segments in half and put them into the bowl.
9. Work your way around the oranges until every section has been transferred to the small bowl.
Tip: Squeeze the juice from the remaining membranes into the bowl.
10. Set the orange segments aside.
11. Peel the tough outer skin off of the jicama, and cut the vegetable into planks.
Tip: Slice down through the jicama to make ¼ inch slices and then cut the slices into ¾-1 inch planks.
Note: A jicama is a tough, but brittle vegetable, and it is hard to cut it into thin slices. It is slightly easier if you cut into half inch slices, and then cut the planks thick planks into ¼ inch thick planks.
12. Cut the planks into 1½ inch pieces and then cut each piece diagonally into triangles.
Tip: The idea is to have your vegetables look like triangular “rooster beaks” (Pico de Gallo).
13. Put the jicama pieces into a salad bowl.
14. Cut the red pepper, pole to pole, into planks and then into triangles.
15. Reserve ¼ cup of the red pepper pieces for garnish and add the rest to the jicama.
16. Add the salt, lime zest, lime juice and just the juice from the bowl of oranges to the vegetables and toss to coat.
17. Sprinkle half of the chili powder over the vegetables and toss to distribute the spices.
18. Sprinkle on the other half of the spice and toss the vegetables again.
19. (Optional) Let the vegetables marinate for 30 minutes, tossing occasionally to redistribute the juices, to meld and absorb the chilies’ flavor.
20. Add the orange segments and cilantro to the salad and toss, gently, to mix.
21. Garnish the pico de gallo with the toasted pepitas and serve.
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