Making Mexican food can be easy—at least that’s what Melissa Palacios’ cooking class, Melissa’s Mexican Made Easy, promises.

She started teaching at the Westside New Leaf Market in Santa Cruz a year and a half ago, after a decade of showing friends how to make tamales. Her next class is on April 23, on tacos al pastor. Palacios shares her secrets for making Mexican easy.

GT: Where do you get your recipes from?

MELISSA PALACIOS: I’m Mexican-American, but these aren’t even my family’s recipes. They got too Americanized by the time I came around. I came up with recipes from a cooking school I went to in Mexico, in a state that I had never even heard of called Tlaxcala. They’re really easy and traditional, and what I liked about them is they’re all whole foods. We’d go to the market and get our produce. None of our sauces were out of cans. I thought this is good for Santa Cruz because everybody’s into the whole farm-to-table movement. I don’t change the recipes at all. I teach them exactly like I was taught.

What are some misconceptions about Mexican food?

Mexican food gets a bad rap. It’s really fresh. Some of it is really simple. We have a house in Cozumel, Mexico. Tacos there are the complete opposite of what tacos are if you go to a Mexican restaurant here in California. The tacos there have soft, warm tortillas, freshly made by hand, and they’re little. They have the meat in them, and usually that’s it. Some of the meats have been marinated in different sauces and then grilled. What makes the taco is the different sauces on the table, like habanero. In Cozumel, it’s an avocado sauce. You have a couple of tacos, and they’re like 80 cents each. You leave feeling good. You don’t feel all greased out. There’s no cheese or sour cream.

How much food can people expect to eat at one of your classes?

A full plate of food. I usually make three dishes. There’s usually a main dish, and I make a rice dish. I just had a tamale class, and they got two tamales and a salad. We usually make agua fresca or jamaica. We didn’t make any rice this time. They also got to take home six tamales. The other classes they don’t usually take home food unless there are leftovers. It’s definitely a good-sized lunch. 251-5640, melissasmexicanmadeeasy.com.

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