27 Oct

In this country, restaurants have a tendency to take an ethnic theme or food and put a twist on it.  It is the mark of a great chef.  Taking command of flavors and textures to make a dish outstanding takes what I call the “3 T’s”, training, tasting, and talent.  A wonderfully inspired chef takes our palate to new heights when dining out.  I do that when I am cooking at home too.  I love to take a recipe and make it mine by adding a secret ingredient that is unique to my recipes and palate.

I generally use recipes to understand the construction of the dish more than anything.  I adjust the recipe to fit what I have on hand, time allotment, and what my family likes.  I am sure that restaurant chefs do the same thing in developing a signature dish or a special menu.  But I think some restaurants have gone a little overboard with adding cheese to most every dish on the menu.  One television commercial stands out in my mind for showing every single entree oozing with cheese.

We love dairy, and cheese in particular.  By some estimates, americans eat 632 pounds of dairy a year.  Cheese is fabulous when paired with fruit and even a great glass of wine.  But at many restaurants serving mexican food, there seems to be cheese on most everything.  Food inspired by our south of the border neighbors can be loaded with amazing seasonings, peppers, flavors and textures not used in typical “american fare”.  Why cover all of that up with cheese?

I recently ate at a mexican restaurant, and finding an entrée without cheese was my goal.  Now I have to admit to cheese being a guilty pleasure of mine, and my particular quirk with cheese is that I like some cheese, like cheddar, burned.  I know…weird, right?  But sometimes I feel like I need to clean up my act a bit and try to go on a “cheeseless” binge.  This was one such night.  I wanted to taste the purity of the mexican spices, preparation methods, and textures.  It took a bit of digging through the menu, but I found it.

I ordered steak. It came smothered with chunks of onions and was wonderfully seasoned.  Rice and beans rounded out my plate.   It was fabulous!  No cheese…but loads of flavor!  The most delightful part of this dish had to have been the “salad” that came with my steak.  A separate plate was served with my main dish.  It was piled high with lettuce, avocado, jalapeno pepper and fresh chunky salsa.  Savory cilantro capped off the seasoning to this side salad .  It was a tasty surprise, so fresh, and really packed with texture and flavor. The colors were very appetizing, and I could not wait to dig in!

The evening at the Mexican restaurant was to honor my oldest son’s graduation.  The celebratory dinner with family and friends was filled with joy and fun.  And the food was over the top delicious.  I did not have cheese that evening, and I truly did not miss it.  The flavors and aromas of the food placed before me made my mouth water from the get go.  After digging in, the dish did not disappoint.  It was fabulous.  So try it, go for it.  Look for a good solid mexican meal without cheese.  Enjoy the purity of the flavors.  It will be worth leaving the cheese off for the night!  Feast your eyes on the picture below of my “side salad”.  Now aren’t you getting hungry?

The "side salad" with my mexican steak! Fresh and delicious!

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