What to CookMexican

A Make-Ahead, Mexican-Inspired Feast Starring Grilled Salsa, Pernil, and More

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This summer, we're partnering with Jet.com to share recipes that will help you hone nearly every skill in the book. (And Jet will have you covered with all the fresh and pantry goods you will need. Seriously, they have everything. Use the code Food52 at checkout for 20% off your first 2 orders of $35 or more. Maximum discount $30.*) These past couple months, we've shared tips to arm you for easily prep weeknight-friendly meals and picnic (gluten-free!) all summer long—and there's more to come. On the docket today: our favorites for a make-ahead salsa meal!

'Make-ahead' is music to my ears when I'm planning dinners. It's the strategy I employ when I'm hosting Passover (usually 10 to 15 people strong), trying to eat at home for a week straight, or getting people together for grilling out (whether that's with tacos or steaks). While it doesn't always work—I'm inevitably grabbing something pre-made from somewhere when I've forgotten to include its ingredients on a list—it's usually a dream by the time people show up, with just one or two things needing attention during pre-dinner drinks.

Photo by Mark Weinburg

To save you from poking about the Food52 archives, and to put in my own back pocket, I scoured the site for recipes for an outdoor-friendly, Mexican-leaning menu that can be entirely made ahead of time for a weekend party, some fully prepped, and some that may need bells and whistles right before being served.

You can even plan to make enough so that there'll be leftovers for a few days, which is a godsend, whether you have kids who need school lunches or just want to feed yourself. (But finish the boozy punch with the adults over the weekend!)

The Menu

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Mexican Grandma Salsa

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47 Save Go To Recipe
Makes about 2 cups
  • 1/2 large white onion, finely diced
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 3/4 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 6 roma tomatoes
  • 1 to 2 jalapeños
  • 2 to 3 cloves garlic, unpeeled
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 handful cilantro
  • Squeeze of lime juice
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Before anyone shows up, fire up the grill a little early and get going on your vegetables for this salsa. You'll taste the smokiness all the way through, and hopefully you'll be able to squirrel some away ahead of time (to top leftover lunches) because there's no way it's making it through a party without a clean plate at the end.

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Refried White Beans

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35 Save Go To Recipe
Serves 2 to 3
  • One 15-ounce can white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 teaspoon plus 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • Salt, to season
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1 large or 2 small garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 2 dried chiles de árbol
  • 1/2 lemon
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Refried beans are a classic, but our editor Sarah gives them an update by swapping in white beans and adding some rosemary and lemon to complement the chiles de árbol. You can make them ahead of time all the way up until it's mashing time, or they will reheat just fine as leftovers, too. (Full of lots of good stuff for keeping you, or your family, going through the midday slump.)

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Cucumber and Red Onion Salad

80c8d252 05ad 4f0a 8d87 5bbdefe65aa4  astafford Alexandra Stafford
158 Save Go To Recipe
Serves 2
  • 2 cucumbers (about a pound)
  • 1 small red onion or a few shallots
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar such as white balsamic, white wine, or rice
  • Fresh herbs such as basil, dill, mint or parsley
  • Olive oil (optional)
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One of the simplest summer salads there is: Cucumber, red onion, some salt and acid. If you're making this ahead of time—you are, right?—just reserve the herbs until right before serving. Set it out for everyone to heap onto their plates, and then do as Ali does for the rest of the week:

I like this salad on its own, though it is delicious atop toasts slathered with hummus, too.

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101 Save Go To Recipe
Serves many
  • 10 garlic cloves
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons salt
  • Juice of a large lime
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 6 to 8 pound pork shoulder roast (skin on if you can find it) or fresh ham with skin on
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A real long-haul of a recipe, you'd be well off to prep this ahead of any big party, preferably on the day-of instead of overnight. But don't despair over the timing, as the prep itself is basically just "put ingredients in a pot and roast." And you will not be disappointed! Neither will your guests! (Note: While pernil is not Mexican—it has Puerto Rican roots—it hangs well with salsas, paletas, and the like. Go truly Mexican with carnitas.)

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Roasted Banana Paletas

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325 Save Go To Recipe
Makes 8 to 10 paletas
  • 3 ripe bananas
  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinammon
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Roasted. Banana. Paletas. Not much more to be said here, but just that you should make extra to last throughout the week, whether it's for after school snacks, desserts, or midnight nips from the freezer.

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Big Batch Matador

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74 Save Go To Recipe
Serves 10
  • 15 ounces Don Julio Blanco tequila
  • 7 1/2 ounces fresh pineapple juice
  • 5 ounces freshly squeezed lime juice
  • lime wheels and pineapple wedges, for garnish
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Big batch punches are the way to my heart, and this one is simple as it gets. Squeeze your citrus ahead of time and chill it with the pineapple juice, and just dump and stir with tequila when the time is right.

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Automagic Spring Menu Maker!
Automagic Spring Menu Maker!

Tags: Mexican