Tex-Mex in Charleston

Tex Mex food seems to be a common occurrence in our house. I think because it is so easy to make tacos, tostadas, enchiladas, burritos, etc. with whatever you have in the house. There are so many variations it is unlikely we find ourselves without the ingredients for a southwestern feast.

My love for this kind of food probably started at El Cancun, Rock Hill, SC’s local Mexican spot. We went so much when we were kids that if one of us was missing from the group they asked where we were. I always got the same thing: 2 tacos, rice, and beans. I know El Cancun is Mexican, but when we recreated it at home it turned in to Tex-Mex. Somewhere along the line we ended up with a couple of homemade staples for those “Taco Tuesdays”: margaritas and salsa. My mom made the margaritas and one of my sisters made the salsa.

Mama's Margarita
Mama’s Margarita
Madeline's Homemade Salsa
Sister Madeline’s Homemade Salsa

We added a little agave to the original margarita recipe to eliminate mouth puckering, but the rest of the recipe came from “Mama”. (Her name isn’t Mama; it’s Mommy, but “Mommy’s Margaritas” sounded slightly creepy to me.)

Because I like spicy margaritas too, we used the Mama’s Margarita recipe as a base and made Cilantro Jalapeño Margaritas as well! It took a little extra effort to infuse the tequila, but when you sip this alongside a salty tortilla chip and Sister Madeline’s Homemade Salsa: worth it.

spicy Margarita
spicy Margarita

Mama’s Margaritas for 2


2.5 oz. silver tequila

2 oz. triple sec

3 oz. fresh squeezed lime juice

1 T organic agave

small plate of kosher salt to rim the glass

2 lime wedges

Run the lime wedges around each glass rim. Dip the wet rim of the glass in the salt. Mix the first four ingredients together in a shaker. Fill the glasses with ice to the top and then pour over the margarita mixture. Garnish with the lime wedges.

Cilantro Jalepeño Margarita


Before following the instructions for Mama’s Margarita above, infuse the tequila with 1/4-1/2 chopped jalepeño and 1/4-1/2 cilantro (the amount you use depends on how spicy/deep you want the flavor) for at least 24 hours. Strain the tequila.

Along with the lime garnish in the original margarita add a couple slices of jalepeño and a leaf of cilantro.

For some fresh salsa I turned to the oldest of my little sisters, Madeline. We love to make this salsa and have it around for an afternoon snack with some tortilla chips or to add to some tex-mex delights. This time we made it to add along with the avocado crema to the Black Bean and Avocado Tostadas. The quantities of ingredients are adjusted to our taste and tailored to make a quart of salsa. Double the recipe, but only if you can control yourself around chips and salsa.

The Avocado Crema recipe follows Sister Madeline’s Homemade Salsa. You can definitely prep these things beforehand. Your tostada making will go much more swiftly.

Sister Madeline’s Homemade Salsa


*makes about a quart

1 28oz. can whole peeled tomatoes

1/4 large bunch of cilantro, stems and all

1/2 onion

2 large cloves of garlic

juice from 1/2 a juicy lime

3/4 T cumin

1 small jalepeño, seeded

3/4 t salt

1/2 t pepper

Combine all ingredients in a blender and pulse until desired consistency. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.

Avocado Crema


1 ripe avocado

1/4 bunch cilantro, stems and all

1/4 cup olive oil

juice of 1 large lime

1/2 t dijon mustard

3/4 t salt

1/2 t pepper

1 smashed clove of garlic

cold water

Combine ingredients in a blender until smooth. Add cold water by the tablespoon until desired consistency.

After all the chips and salsa and the margaritas you might find yourself looking for something a little more substantial. Make tostadas! We weren’t originally going to put an egg on top, but it was screaming for a runny yolk and who am I to say no?

Black Bean and Avocado Tostada
Black Bean and Avocado Tostada

As with a lot of tex-mex food, all the components of the tostada could be made into tacos, burritos, etc. Use our recipe and add and take away from it until you find your personal tex-mex flavor combo. Make it vegan with no sour cream, queso fresco, or egg. You could add some grilled seafood or chicken or even marinated tofu for a heavier portion.

We’ve been eating these a lot this week for lunch and dinner (and, um, breakfast), but I think they lend themselves nicely to brunch. Everything can be made ahead of time except the egg. All you would have to do is hold your breakfast cocktail in one hand while you fry the egg with the other. Plus, how good would a spicy Bloody Mary be with these tex-mex flavors?

Don’t forget to mix in the yolk a little bit to make it creamier!

Black Bean and Avocado Tostadas with Avocado Crema


6 small corn tortillas

1 in. of oil for frying

juice of 1/2 lemon

juice of 1/2 lime

1 avocado

1.5 cups cooked black beans

3/4 cup chopped red onion

3/4 can organic sweet corn

1/2 cup chopped cilantro, plus more for garnish

1/2 cup Madeline’s Homemade Salsa

1/4 cup sour cream

1/4 cup Avocado Crema

1/2 cup queso fresco

6 farm fresh eggs, sunny side up

salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a small frying pan until about 350°. Fry the tortillas for a minute or two on each side. Remove to let drain on paper towels and sprinkle with salt and lime juice.

Mash the avocado and the lemon juice until well combined. Salt and pepper to taste and set aside. Combine the black beans, sweet corn, red onion, and cilantro until well combined and set aside.

Layer the tortilla, mashed avocado, bean mixture, queso fresco, salsa, sour cream, and avocado crema. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Fry the eggs. Place one fried egg on each tostada and serve.*

*Only plate the tostadas that you are going to eat immediately. These are delish leftover, but keep better when the components are stored separately.

I’m trying to get my act together for a Southern food post. We are trying to be a little innovative, but it’s hard to do in Charleston. It feels like everything you can do with southern food has been done.

The best place to start is with some local ingredients, so this weekend we are headed to the seasonal opening of the Charleston Farmer’s Market! It’s one of my favorite things to do in Charleston and it is going to be the perfect backdrop for our Southern meal this weekend. Any fellow southerners have a favorite family dish to share?

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