Tequila And Taco Fest Training Module: Pico de Gallo

September 2, 2015

Since we announced Tequila And Taco Fest, I’ve been on a bit of an everything taco kick. I was on a tequila kick as well, but you can imagine why it was short lived. But tacos! Such variety, always refreshing.  


The other day I set out to make pico de gallo, and it really came together. I took a shot at another batch, and it didn’t turn out quite as nice. Now I understand Miles Davis’ philosophy on first takes. But I wanted to take a crack at it without the help of Google, so here’s what I did.

I thought about a simple list of ingredients. Tomatoes, shallots, green onions, jalepeños, lemon, garlic… and some spices. Then I poured some wine, and got to work.

First thing I like to do is lay out ingredients, make sure there’s a balance of color. A friend of mine swears that combining ingredients comes down to the frequency they give off based on their color… but I digress. I do this because it just looks nice. 

Then it’s pretty much about dicing it all up. Here, a few things come to mind. First, the tomatoes. I learned from a cooking show I watched in Egypt, that most salads involving cubed tomatoes are prepared in a way that discards the seeds and guts. I’ve done that with Lebanese salads, and sides in the past, but in this case I don’t mind. So I simply chopped them up. 

Second, the shallots. My guess is that pico calls for white onions, but I use shallots almost always in place of onions in my cooking. Especially when they’re not being cooked. I learned while cooking at Pinxto Tapas Bar, that if you rinse shallots for a minute under hot tap water, it mellows out the harsh bite, and brings the flavor to the front. So that’s what I did here and it works.

I always like to lay out my prepped ingredients, and admire them before tossing them in to a mixing bowl. OCD? Perhaps. But it’s beautiful and gratifying. You can also see your proportions, I’m pretty sure I’m low on tomatoes here, but that’s all I had. I probably got carried away with the garlic as well, which I’m notorious for in the kitchen. 

Now, I’m not sure if pico calls for oil? But a drizzle won’t hurt to coat everything and help distribute the spices. I said I wanted to keep it simple, and I always get carried away with the spice rack as well. So here I stuck with ground black pepper, and sea salt… but couldn’t help from throwing some crushed red pepper in there, because it belongs on everything. I also remembered some fresh thyme and oregano growing in the garden, and threw it in there for the hell of it. 

Now everything is ready to mix up, but first I need to admire it, and take a sip of wine. And viola! Pico de gallo. Not the most authentic, but it'll make some mean tacos! Which brings me to the realization that I don’t have any tacos. But that can be quickly resolved. 

I’m kind of developing an aversion to meat lately, so mushrooms are a good substitute. Although I can’t recall ever having them in tacos… no matter. If there’s one thing I learned from Julia Child, it’s to make sure your mushrooms have their own space in the pan, or they won’t brown evenly. 

And voilá! A spoonful of rice and black beans, some sauté mushrooms, and a spicy pico de gallo, lunch is served. 

Needless to say, Lily and Bruno were not impressed that I spent that much time making something they couldn't snack on. But they're easily pleased with a scrap of tortilla.   


The thyme was overpowering, as fresh herbs can be. It totally blocked the cilantro, which to me is the flavor that pulls the pico together. It wasn’t all bad, but I’ll leave it out next time. 

Too much oil, I’m not even sure you need any. 

Red chili flake may be out of character here, but I don’t care. I put it on everything. It’s delicious. 

The heat is perfect, I could go hotter. The shallots are tasty, I was short on tomatoes, so that ratio could come up a bit and give it a refreshing liveliness. And you know what would really bring this to life? Capers, but let’s not go too fusion. 

Brown rice, not my preference. I love sticky white rice, and am partial to basmati. But I keep hearing about how healthy it is, so even in something like this where it really takes away from what the taco could be, I eat it anyway.  

Black beans, absolutely love them! Used to hate them. I thought they were flavorless, and they’re usually served cold at cuban joints. But over the years I’ve grown to love how refreshing they are. 

We'll have a great time with pico de gallo and more at Tequila and Taco Fest on October 24th. Get your tickets.