For Years I thought that the molcajete was one of those many decorations that tourist would purchase on their trips to Mexico. I did not realize that you could actually use it for preparing meals. Until one day I walked in to my abuelita’s kitchen and sat watching her grind spices for that evenings dinner. The aromas are amazing and nothing like you would ever experience from store bought spices. Every Mexican family has that special molcajete that is passed down from generation to generation. My oldest sister still uses my Mom’s molcajete in her own kitchen. Right below is a picture of my abuelitas molcajete, still in Mexico, still in use today….
Salsa Picante de Chile Piquin/Limon. Chile piquin, fresh, dried or pickled holds a very special place in my heart. I associate it with my many trips to Monterrey, Mexico when I was still living at home. My abuelito Ismael was a smart and succesful business man and planned for his large family. Each brother and sister had a special piece of land that was purchased for them to build their future homes on when the time came. My abuelo also owned this big ranch in Higueras, N.L. and I specifically remember the plants filled with aromatic oregano and chile pepper bushes with bright green chile piquin. Just like the salt and pepper shakers on the table, there was always a small bowl with assorted shades from bright green to deep red colored fresh chile piquin on the kitchen table. As kids we would dare one another to eat them while enjoying the wonderful homestyle dinners that my abuelita would cook for us. Perhaps this is where I first learned to love eating spicy foods. Fresh chile piquin is hard to come by, unless you live in or near Mexico or in a well stocked Hispanic market in the states. I was lucky enough to purchase several bags of the dried version on various trips I have made to Texas and North Carolina. A well seasoned and polished molcajete is one of the best tools in my Mexican kitchen.
For Chile Piquin /Limon Salsa
1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
2 teaspoons dried chile piquin
2 cloves garlic with the skins on
1/2 teaspoon salt
juice of 2 limes
1/3 cup light olive oil
1. Heat a comal or skillet to medium/low heat. Add the peppercorns, cumin seeds, oregano, piquin and garlic. Toast, stirring often until herbs, chile and garlic become aromatic, about 5 minutes. Remove the spices and chiles and transfer to molcajete. Continue cooking the garlic for another 5 to 7 minutes until softened. Remove skins and set aside.
2. To the molcajete mixture, add in 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Using the pestle of the molcajete, grind down all of the ingredients as fine as you can. Add the garlic, another pinch of salt and grind into the mixture until a paste forms. Add the fresh lime juice, whisk in the olive oil. Taste for salt. Serve in molcajete.
3. If you do not have a molcajete, you can use a regular mortar and pestle or spice grinder to process the dry ingredients. To finish the sauce, you could whisk all together or add all ingredients to a tightly sealed mason jar and shake until well combined. The flavors will improve with time. Keep stored in the refrigerator for a longer shelf life. I like to use this salsa to finish garnishing my favorite tacos or guacamole recipes.
1 large ripe avocado
2 large roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
1/3 cup pickled red onions, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped
*Salt and pepper to taste
For Guacamole de Molcajete: Transfer the chile piquin salsa to a serving dish. In that same molcajete(do not clean out), add chile serrano and a pinch of salt. Grind down until minced into a paste. Add the avocado and gently mash until desired consistency. Fold in the tomatoes, onions and cilantro. Serve as is or drizzle some of the chile piquin salsa on top before serving.