There is just something about Mexico. Perfect people, perfect beaches and heavenly perfect food.

Johnny and I have three photo collages in our hallway – a grouping of our first big trip together to Newfoundland, another bunch hiking with our first dog, George, around the waterfront, and the last grouping is of our three trips to Mexico. We went to Cozumel five years ago and it was one of the most mesmerizing experiences of my life. I had never snorkelled before and was spoiled by the things I saw my first day out – dolphins, rays, barracuda, turtles, giant grouper and a huge host of other beauties. The people were downright magical and I feel it goes without saying the food was unforgettable.

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It was the first time I had grouper – on the beach at sunset, chickens mingling at our feet and tiki torches dotting the shoreline. We had the freshest ceviche, shrimp tacos and a glorious array of fruit. Our second trip was in Cabo San Lucas we were with a group for a wedding, but we stole away up to La Paz to snorkel with the whale sharks. Amaaaazing!!! We stopped at a road side soda with our guide and he ordered an array of empanadas, taquitos, tacos and other treasures. We also hit up an outdoor bar in town where some high-rolling couple was buying rounds of tequila for the room and music was a-plenty. Johnny had a tuna steak seared table-side with fresh ginger and garlic and lime. And no trip to Mexico is ever complete without some “sexy coffee” – and is it ever. A ton of liquor and spices set on fire… it’s hard to put into words and I don’t even know what the real name of it is – just watch this Sexy Mexican coffee video from Casa Mission in Cozumel (amaz-balls shrimp there too).

My third trip to Mexico was by myself to a little fishing village in the Oaxaca area called Huatulco. Oaxaca is such a highly regarded place internationally for food – from coffee to chocolate to mezcal to mole (to grasshoppers) – it is a special place for sure. My biggest regret was not being able to sync my trip with a great cooking class offered in town. I had such unique and great food there and resolved to get back to learn – and eat – my way around the region.

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There are so many reasons to love Mexico, but food lands at the top. When I have my aching need to travel back there I transport myself with food. These recipes may not always be faithfully traditional, but it helps to remind me that my time there isn’t over. More cerviche, more fresh goodness, and more of the striking colours and flavours of one of the best places I’ve been!

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Where are some great places in Mexico you’ve been? I keep a scrapbook of places to go, so help me fill it!

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SKIRT STEAK with GRILLED CORN and PINEAPPLE SALSA

serves 4

I love to make this in a large cast iron pan and serve it family style at the table. Throw some grilled limes, hot sauce and torts on the side. I also love it cold on a salad or warm on a bun. It’s great on it’s own too. I grab a big cut of meat so we have ample leftovers.

 

1 kg or 2 – 2 1/2 lbs skirt steak

2 tbsp olive oil

juice and zest of 1 lime

2 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp chilli powder

3 tsp kosher salt

fresh ground pepper

juice of 1 small orange

Salsa:

1 red pepper, quartered with stem, core and seeds removed

2 – 3 large fresh jalapeños, quartered with stem, core and seeds removed

2 ears of corn, husked

1 large red onion, skinned and cut in thick rings

2 medium tomatoes, cut in half width-wise

1 half  head of romaine lettuce, cut lengthwise with core in tact

olive oil

fresh pineapple, 4 or 5 rings or long strips

1 lime, cut in half widthwise

kosher salt and fresh pepper

a small bunch of cilantro, chopped

 

In a bowl or dish large enough to allow the steak to lay flat, combine the oil, lime juice/zest and spices. Turn the steak in the marinade and cover to sit in the fridge 4 hours – overnight.

To make the salsa, heat a grill pan or barbecue to medium/high and brush with a little oil. Toss or brush all the veg with a little more oil and place on your peppers and corn. Add your tomato, lettuce, lime and pineapple for the last few minutes as they take only a quick char. Don’t over-cook your veg, just get a nice smoky colouring, but retain their crispness. Remove them all to cool until you are able to handle them.

Stand the corn upright on a cutting board and run a sharp knife downward to remove the kernels. Add to a bowl. coarsely chop the rest of your ingredients – reserving the lime – to similar sizes and toss together with some salt and pepper, squeezing the lime over top. Toss in the cilantro and check for seasoning. Cover and put in the fridge.

Take your steak out of the fridge about half hour before grilling. Remove from the marinade and pat dry. Season again with a little salt and pepper and place on a hot grill. Depending on the thickness, grill each side about 3 – 5 minutes to medium rare. Remove and cover with foil to rest about 10 minutes. Slice against the grain into thin strips. Squeeze over the orange juice and taste to see if it can use a bit more seasoning.

Serve with the cooled or room temperature salsa on top of the steak with extra limes and some hot sauce.

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