Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Cafe Rio Copycat Recipe

Have you ever been to Cafe Rio or Costa Vida? If you haven't eaten there, you're missing out. It's sooooo good. But you can make it at home! When you're serving 12 adults it's much cheaper to make the salads yourselves, and then you get the leftovers :) This is a super simple, though time intensive recipe for success! There is something to like for everyone. Picky eaters? Yes, they'll eat all or some of this. My picky 7 year old LOVES this meal. Vegetarian? Sure, make it a meatless salad! It's THAT good! And because it is SO good, I can never manage to take a picture before it's all devoured. Here is one from the next day, with half of the ingredients missing because it's the leftovers.


But I did capture a picture of the delicious (and easy) cilantro lime dressing. And a tip for you to cut your cilantro more easily.






Cafe Rio Salad (copycat)
Yield: 12 hungry adults

These salads are typically made with any or all of the following ingredients:

--Fresh Tortillas (uncooked from Costco are the best)
--Pork, chicken or beef
--Pinto or black beans
--Lime cilantro dressing
--Lime cilantro rice
--Romaine and/or red leaf lettuce, cut up
--Grated cheese
--Corn, frozen & thawed
--Guacamole or avocados
--Tomatoes
--Salsa
--Olives
--Cotija cheese, crumbled, optional
--Tortilla strips, or tortilla chips, optional

Once you've prepared the meat, rice, beans and dressing prepare the other "toppings." Chop your romaine, cook the corn, make your guac (or slice your avocado), chop cilantro (see TIP below), shred cheese, cut tomatoes, open a can of olives and slice your fresh limes! Yum!  When you're ready to serve, preapare your tortillas on a griddle or frying pan. I cook on one side until brown bubbles appear. Then I flip, sprinkle as much grated cheese as you'd like. Once it's melted, they're done! We like to eat these in pie tins because they are nice and deep. I layer the tortialla, then lettuce then rice, beans and meat. Then all the rest! Yum!!

PORK, CHICKEN OR BEEF
4 lb. meat
1 qt tomato sauce OR enchilada sauce OR salsa OR diluted tomato soup
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 T. cumin
3 cups Dr. Pepper or Coke (2 cans, NOT diet)
3 T. molasses
½ t. salt
 
Cook meat on medium heat in a crock-pot overnight. The next morning, drain most of the liquid left then shred meat and add the remaining ingredients. Continue cooking on low for a several hours (anywhere from 4-8 hours). After that time, if you're not serving it until that evening, you can change the setting to "warm" or "serve" until you're ready.

LIME CILANTRO RICE
5 T. butter
2 1/2 t. salt
1 ½ t. cumin
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
5 T. cilantro, finely chopped
5 c. rice (or "cup" that comes with your rice cooker. Mine is 3/4 cup)
10 cups water (or water equivalent according to your rice cooker)

Add all ingredients to your rice cooker or if you don't have a rice cooker add to a large pot, boil, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

LIME CILANTRO DRESSING
1 package ranch dressing mix
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1-2 garlic cloves
5 green onions, cut
½ bunch cilantro, finely chopped
2-3 tomatillos, quartered
½ lime, juiced
4 t. sugar
½ t. salt
½ jalapeno or 1/8 t. cayenne pepper

First, place the garlic cloves in the blender. Blend until it's minced. Chop the green onions into 2" bits. Add that to the blender. Blend. Cut cilantro (as seen in TIP below) and add to blender. Add the remaining ingredients. Blend until nice and smooth. It's best if made in advance and served chilled. The flavors really meld in that time and make for a stronger flavor.

PINTO OR BLACK BEANS
3 cup dry beans
9 cups water
**Read instructions below
4 1/2 cups tomato juice or tomato soup, diluted
6 garlic cloves, minced
3 t. cumin
1 1/2 t. salt
1/3 c. olive oil (revised---it was a typo before, sorry for confusion. 3 cups would have been nasty!)
1/3 c. chopped cilantro
1 onion, chopped, optional

Add dry beans and water to crock pot. Cook on high overnight. The next morning drain and rinse the beans. Then add the remaining ingredients. Cook on low for a few hours. If you're not serving this until the evening, after about 6-8 hours of cooking, set crock pot to "serve" or "warm" until you are ready to eat.


CILANTRO CUTTING TIP: 


TIP to cut your cilantro. I found this in a Cooks Illustrated magazine years ago. To cut herbs or cilantro or parsley, simply tear off the leaf from the stem. Place in mug and chop with kitchen shears. It's that simple. So much easier than chopping. If you're really lazy and don't mind, you can just throw in the whole plant. 




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