When I was a child, my family used to travel every summer to Disneyland and stop in Mexicali to visit my Tía Letizia and Tío Mario. I did not love that because all the girls were beautiful there and I always felt so out of place. Also, my sisters and I would often wear the hand-me-downs of my beautiful cousins Lety and Any, which, even if they were hardy-worn Lanz and other expensive brands, they were still second-hand. Worst of all, if we did bring something we’d bought, it was never quite right.
Mexicali is the hottest place in Mexico and that is the one thing that provided some entertainment. You know how they always say, “It’s hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk”? Well, we did it and it came out with olan—the crispy ruffle of a sunny side up egg—no less. I won’t touch a fried egg: My mother used to call them “huevos sapitos,” which means frog eggs, because the undercooked yolk quivers when you put it on the plate. So can you blame me?
So what do you eat during these summer months? You have two options: A) something very spicy that will make you sweat profusely, which is typical in very hot places (think India, northern and southern Mexico, or Thailand); or B) something very refreshing like a cool cucumber or tomato soup, a sparkling shrimp salad, or sliced fruit and vegetables like they sell in markets all over Mexico.
Mexican food has the reputation of being heavy and fattening. Only the margaritas draw some people in to Mexican restaurants. Wrong, my friend. While dishes such as queso fundido or enchiladas are what many people order in restaurants, at home those same people want something light and easy to make. The salsa verde con aguacate and the hearts of palm salad we featured a few weeks ago are fine examples, but I have another great idea for you.
When you get to a restaurant in Michoacan, you are greeted with something they call Gazpacho de Bienvenida, or “Welcoming Gazpacho.” But it’s not a typical gazpacho at all. This one is made with pineapple, cucumber, jicama, and some Serrano chiles and topped with coconut. At my restaurant, Zarela, we thinned the serrano chile and cilantro sauce and made it into a soup.
By the way, in Oaxaca there is also something called gazpacho, but it is actually more like the salpicon de carne served in the Texas/Juarez border area. The Michoacan gazpacho and the salpicon would be perfect mates. They are easy on the hostess: Both can be made ahead and you can lie back on your chaise lounge and have someone fan you or, do what I like: Have someone run an ice cube all over your neck and shoulders. That will cool you, or vice versa!