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Fast fix dinner: Mexican

Diana De Cicco is a food editor and writer based in New York City. She has a master's degree from New York University in Food Studies. Her passions are eating, traveling, and eating while traveling.

Make a fast fiesta

Although many Mexican dishes take time to prepare, tons of delicious Mexican recipes can be made in less than an hour. The key to perfecting any Mexican recipe is using the freshest ingredients possible. Make any night a fiesta with these simple tips and tricks on preparing fun and festive Mexican cuisine.

Family eating mexican food

Start with authentic ingredients

Many Mexican recipes rely on using true Mexican ingredients to make them perfect. For example, when making tacos, using fresh tortillas will enhance the outcome and taste of the taco; if you have ever had a fresh, handmade tortilla, then you know the difference between that and the packed kind from the grocery store. If you live in an area with access to homemade corn tortillas, use those for your tacos; otherwise, you can make them, which takes almost no time at all and only two ingredients (water and corn masa). For other authentic ingredients, visit a Mexican grocery or taqueria, which often sell homemade products; otherwise, you can find what you need online at MexGrocer.

Make sure they are fresh

As in many cuisines, using fresh ingredients is extremely important for flavorful dishes. For guacamole and salsa, the freshest possible avocadoes and tomatoes are key. For tacos, good cuts of meat make for even more flavorful fillings.

Keep it simple

In Mexican cuisine, you want the fresh ingredients to speak for themselves. Instead of topping your tacos with loads of sour cream or premade salsa, keep the garnishes to a minimum and use cojita or manchego cheese or crema fresca, make your own homemade salsa, and sprinkle with diced vegetables or fruit. For the taco fillings, simply marinate your meat, fish,= or vegetables in herb and spice marinades, and grill or braise them to perfection.

Have fun

Mexican food is all about being fun and festive, so be creative when you are putting together your dishes. Think outside the box and combine ingredients you thought would not work together. For example, instead of sticking to one style of guacamole, make different flavors. Apples, pineapple and even watermelon work great in guacamole. The sweetness balances nicely with the luscious taste of the avocadoes.

Spice or no spice?

Mexican food is known, of course, for being extra spicy, but the choice is yours on whether to go five-alarm. A little bit of spice will enhance the flavor of your dishes, but for some, too much spice ruins it. To add only a little bit of heat, remove the seeds from the chile and dice up the rest in very small pieces. Also, do some research on what the hottest and mildest peppers are so you know which you will enjoy the most. Another way to dull down the heat is to add the sweetness of fruit to the dish. And if you accidently eat a pepper that is too hot, drink milk, not water, to cool off.

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