Escaping Los Angeles calamity to restore in Mexican vastness—ocean, land, menus—was/is a defining part of my West Coast upbringing and the greatest influence on my food craft.
Baja (California’s equatorial extension) is love. In the 1530s, Hernan Cortes married the now forever Sea of Cortez and Pacific Ocean. Cabo’s stretches of biologically rich waters are the love-making grounds of Gray, Blue and Humpback whales. And mapped with hot spots with names like Lover’s Beach, there’s no wonder couples flock to this love peninsula for honeymoons.
I confess: I’ve fallen in love in Mexico, too. After years of chanting “what happens in Cabo stays in Cabo” at Giggling Marlin, I’m about to break all jello shot-influenced promises….I fell in love with Los Tres Gallos.
An off-the-Squid Roe-beaten-path dining gem in downtown, Los Tres Gallos plates several generations of deep-rooted Mexican heritage in the form of refined, authentic recipes.
Unwind after a day of surfing Old Man’s in Gallos’ al fresco courtyard canopied with culture. Salute the Pacific sunset while skimming clay-potted posole with 1/4 inch-thick hand-pressed tortillas among Grandma’s citrus trees and native herbs de Baja del Sur. You eat their harvest… Gallos’ waiters—as genuine as the menu—make you a part of their family. It was in this garden—with a bitter hibiscus tea in hand and a nourishing mole-scented breeze in my hair—I realized the soul of authentic Mexican food: fresh ingredients.
And this is why I can never buy jarred/canned enchilada sauce. Old El Paso is, well, old. And guess what? Yes! They add sugar, too.
Here’s a recipe for quick, easy, authentic enchilada sauce inspired by los Dios de Gallos.
Huckleberry Thinn’s Rustic Red Tomato Enchilada Sauce
Adapted from Pati’s Mexican Table: Enchiladas en Salsa Roja
Place 2 pounds of local, ripe, de-stemmed tomatoes, 4 garlic cloves (skin on), 1 yellow onion, sliced 1-inch thick and 2-3 jalapenos (seranos if you’re a weak body) in a medium baking dish or ovenproof skillet (I used my cast iron) > Broil 10 minutes, keep an eye on your tomatoes > Rotate produce and broil a few minutes longer to wrinkle tomato skin and charr on all sides.
Transfer fire-kissed vegetables into a blender > Remove garlic out of their husks and add to blender > Puree until smooth> Transfer sauce back to iron skillet and simmer on low > add salt and pepper to taste > a pinch of ancho chili powder never hurts.
Use this homemade enchilada sauce for your favorite enchiladas, or try mine:
Huckleberry Thinn’s Winter Squash Poblano Enchiladas
Preheat oven at 350 degrees > Halve a 5 lb butternut squash lengthwise > Remove guts from squash cavity > Poke holes in the squash rind and massage flesh with water > Dust with cumin and ancho chile powder > Bake ‘flesh up’ ~1 hour or until you can easily make a mash > Remove tender squash from oven, scoop flesh into a bowl and smash with a potato masher > Add 1 lb of fire roasted poblano chilies > Heat 24 fresh corn tortillas (try to find a local panaderia—this makes a huge difference) in a tortilla warmer to help it absorb the sauce (I use a ceramic tile on my stove top) > Alternatively, you can lightly toast the tortillas on a hot skillet set on medium heat for 20 seconds on each side.
Carefully transfer your sauce-soaked tortilla into a baking dish > Spoon a layer of your poblano butternut mash down the middle of the tortilla > Cover mash with your favorite Mexican cheese (Queso Fresco!) > Roll enchilada > Continue stuffing and rolling enchiladas and press enchiladas together so there’s no gaps in your baking dish like a pack of cigars > Poor the remaining sauce over your bed of enchiladas.
Cover with foil > Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes > Remove foil, top enchiladas with a generous layer of cheese and bake until melted > Site and let cool > Serve with creamy avocado slices or guacamole.
What’s a Colorado camping queen doing claiming homemade authentic enchilada sauce? While I’m not a latina, my best friend is an Estrada and I’m a ring away from becoming a Garcia. So yes, you should take Mexican food cooking tips from a pale forest forager (plus, I watch Patti’s Mexican Table on PBS).
Nutrition Facts Thinn Style Eat Fresh or Die Trying
Fresh is my favorite food. No matter the food, fresh is always best. Best in flavor and nutrition. I’m not talking about “supermarket fresh”. I’m talking about garden, farmer’s market, fruit stand-fresh.
UNEARTHED: 4 reasons fresh is best (supported by Washington Post):
- Fresh food should be eaten within a few days of being harvested. The instant fresh foods are picked, they begin losing their vitamins and nutrients. What’s more, they usually wait in a warehouse, then in transit for sometimes 2 weeks before they wait in your grocery store to be purchased. Then, they sit on your counter and continue to die. To reduce this degradation process, many commercialized food giants pick produce prematurely. BUT, this fruit or vegetable has had less time to ripen and develop its full scope of vitamins and minerals. Your reliable local farmer understands the precious farm-to-table lifecycle and strives to raise produce in your best interest.
- Fresh fruits and vegetables hold their water better than preserved or frozen alternatives. When consumed, this natural hydration is important for cellular health.
- ENZYMES! Enzymes make the world go round. Enzymes are what dietitians dream about. They help break down food into particles the body can use—digestion and nutrient absorption aids. A food with a “shelf life” generally means its been stripped of its enzymes. What a shame.
- TASTE! I invite you to think of a time when fresh didn’t taste better and challenge the Huckleberry.