We returned home last Monday after spending over a week Loreto, Mexico, in the Baja California Sur, celebrating the nuptials of our very good friends, Debbie and Dan. Since I was coming off a full month + of exceptionally strict eating, since I did Whole30, I was feeling really, really great, but on top of it, I was also several weeks in on experimenting with the ketogenic diet, as an attempt to get my autoimmune kidney disease into remission (more on this soon as I continue to experiment).
I had some slight trepidations in spending a week at a resort, both in how hard it would be for me to keep up my preferred way of eating, but also from the standpoint of my actual health and well-being, if 1 week away would ruin 1 month of hard work.
The answer is it wasn’t hard and no it didn’t.
I went in with a plan, I would simply unapologetically, but politely ask for exactly what I wanted, as I always do, but I would do what I needed to to get it. Additionally, I also decided to go easy on myself. To not feel bad if I ate something slightly out of the ordinary, maybe food that wasn’t the “perfect choice” but food that would make me happy(like poolside gluten-free pizza). In essence, this is part of what makes vacation so great. It’s a break from your everyday life, in every sense of the expression.
While the resort we stayed at was wonderful with gluten-free awareness and being careful when preparing the food, their breakfast menu was full of traditional, quite heavy at times, Mexican breakfasts and a beautiful breakfast buffet. I am generally not a fan of buffets, no matter how nice, for obvious reasons with cross contamination and never fully knowing what is in everything – so, I felt slightly stuck that first morning. But I decided to just suck it up, go rogue and order off-menu, I just asked for what I wanted.
My breakfast of choice every morning in Mexico:
Dos huevos pochados, tocino, espinacas y aguacate.
Two poached eggs, bacon, spinach and avocado.
It was perfect, simple and set a great tone for the day without being to heavy or carb focused. By the third or fourth day, they knew exactly what I wanted and I hardly had to open my mouth.
When my beautiful plate of food came out, our server also delivered with it a small dish featuring a beautiful deeply colored sauce. It reminded me a bit of a molé sauce, but it was more oily and more red than brown. An infused oil or an oil-based pesto of some sort. I asked our server and he told me it was “Salsa Macha” and told me quickly some of what was in it. It didn’t sound at all like the salsa I was used to, but I was into the idea of it.
Salsa Macha is a smokey infused oil salsa, but really, unlike traditional salsas that we know, this is more of a chile paste or puree. A pesto. no tomatoes or fresh peppers. Just chiles, garlic, spices, nuts, seeds, olive oil and a little vinegar.
I grabbed a small spoon and drizzled a bit over my poached eggs and took a bite! WOW!!! Instant love. Instant obsession. Smoky, a little spicy, nutty with just the ever so slightest tang to finish it off. I quickly drizzled more over my eggs, as well as my spinach and avocado and immediately began to tell everyone at the table to do the same. Every time I had a meal with a new person at the resort, I introduced them to it.
The chiles you choose, and these can vary, will offer many variations on the flavor profile and the heat of your Salsa Macha. The resort, and now consequently I, add chipotle chiles as they add a beautiful level of smokey heat, in additional to guajillos, a mild to medium heat level that brings a slow but manageable heat. Garlic, almonds, pepitas and sesame seeds toasted in the olive oil add a nutty and earthy complexity and the splash of apple cider vinegar act as a bright spot.
This coveted, now kitchen staple of ours and the friends we traveled with, is great as a sauce on tacos, eggs or beans, it’s also quite perfect for dipping tortilla chips into. It would also be wonderful on grilled meat and fish, drizzled over vegetables, or you could use it to spice up a soup, sauce or stew.
From what I have read online Salsa Macha originated in Veracruz, Mexico and it is traditionally made with vegetable oil and peanuts. When I asked at the resort, if I can recall, they had said they used almonds and pepitas, olive oil, and these specific peppers, this is all more my speed, so I went that route. I used a Rick Bayless recipe as my starting point and base recipe, as this seemed to most closely resemble what the resort served us.
They key is to not fry the chiles as they will get bitter, which is why they are added at the end and let to infuse, slowly. In addition, you won’t want to over toast the nuts, seeds or garlic, for the same reason.
Hopefully this recipe will help bring a little Mexico to your kitchen, as well and something tells me, if you are like me, this is now essential to your well-stocked kitchen, too.
- 2 ounces dried chiles, I use guajillo and chipotle (arbol and morita chiles are also used commonly, see notes for other options)
- 2 cups Terra Delyssa Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- ¼ cup raw almonds
- ¼ cup raw pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
- 1 tablespoon raw sesame seeds
- 4 whole garlic cloves, peeled and halved
- 1½ tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 teaspoons Mexican oregano
- Remove the stems from the chiles, then cut or break them open and remove most of the seeds (you can scrape them out with a knife or just roll them in your hands and let them fall out). Cut the chiles into roughly ¼-inch pieces.
- In a large saucepan, combine the almonds, pepitas, sesame seeds, garlic and oil. Set over medium-high heat and cook until garlic and sesame seeds are highly golden but not browned, about 5 minutes. Remove from the pan from the heat and add the chiles. Let cool/steep for 5-10 minutes.
- Add the vinegar and sea salt to the pan along with the Mexican oregano. When the mixture has cooled to room temperature, pour it into a blender or food processor and pulse until everything is chopped into very fine pieces. Pulse a few times or run a short time, you aren't necessarily looking for it to be perfectly pureed and smooth, but more of a rough paste. Pour into a tight sealing glass jar and use right away or store in the refrigerator. It will keep for up to a month.
Other nut/seed options: peanuts, pecans, cashews, etc
If you can't do nuts, opt just for the pepitas and sesame seeds, maybe sunflower seeds?