When you think of Mexican food, images of tacos and enchiladas come to mind, generously garnished with shredded cheese, lettuce, sour cream, salsa, and cilantro. But if you delve into the heart of the cuisine, you’ll find sumptuous appetizers, hearty soups, complex meat and seafood entrees, and rich desserts, all easier to prepare than ever in home kitchens as Mexican ingredients become more widely available in mainstream supermarkets.

Opulent Openers

Mexican hors d’oeuvres and appetizers are a great way to start a lunch or dinner feast while you enjoy a cold Mexican beer with a lime wedge or a frosty Margarita. Many traditional Mexican entrees come in miniature versions, so you can enjoy tiny tostadas, tacos, or chimichangas for openers and save the more complicated dishes for the main course. For lovers of hot and spicy food, bake or fry up a batch of jalapeño poppers, fresh jalapenos filled with cheese and heated until the filling is hot and melted. It’s easy to fill up on Mexican appetizers, so if you tend to overindulge and ruin your appetite for the upcoming courses, stick with tortilla chips and salsa or guacamole for openers. If you want a heartier starter to follow up with just soup or salad, opt for nachos or quesadillas, both of which can be made with chicken, beef, pork or seafood. An easy upscale hors d’oeuvres that will satisfy without being too filling is ceviche, a marinated fish dish that is delectable made with simple fish such as tilapia as well as halibut, sea bass, red snapper, or shrimp. Make a Mexican version of sliders with seasoned chicken, pork, or beef topped with a teaspoon of guacamole or chunky salsa.

Soups and Stews

One of the most satisfying and economical Mexican soups is tortilla soup, a rich chicken broth seasoned with simple vegetables and thickened with corn tortillas. Stirring in shredded roasted chicken right before serving with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of cilantro on top transforms the soup into a main dish. Slowly cook black beans until tender and season with cumin, Mexican oregano, garlic, and onions for a traditional black bean soup that can be transformed into a more traditional chili with ground beef or poultry. Tinga is a rich, traditional Mexican stew flavored with poblano chiles or chipotle chiles packed in adobe sauce made with chicken or pork and served alone or over rice. Menudo, a Mexican staple made with tripe, is a satisfying lunch or dinner entrée frequently served with warm corn or flour tort