Posts tagged tacos
Tofu is tasteless. Really. That’s why I was a little nervous that my kids might not like it. So I came up with a bit of a strategy for introducing them to the mashed up soybeans. First, it had to be firm tofu cut into little squares. I was going to make the squares up myself but I was happy to find that firm tofu comes in pre-cut squares (and they were on sale this week). Second, I needed a sauce that would soak into the tofu and add a burst of flavor. Last, I wanted to put it in something that was already familiar. Tacos.
I ran across a recipe in a recent issue of Cuisine at home that seemed to fit all my criteria. I tweaked the recipe to pass along here. The recipe starts by having you make your own flour tortillas. I was all for DIY tortillas but let me tell you for the amount of work you put in, I’d suggest buying smaller flour tortillas instead and brushing them with sesame oil before toasting. Same flavor, a lot less mess (my youngest was covered in flour head to toe). I also added in fresh basil to give the filling a needed zing (Thai basil would have been even better, but you work with what you have, right?). It’s optional, but I recommend adding some fresh herbs into the mix–cilantro or even parsley would work here too.
Prep & cook time: 30 minutes or less (unless you make your own tortillas, in which case, it could be hours)
4 green onions cut into 1-inch pieces (I cut those in half too)
1/2 cup shredded carrots (had these out, totally forgot to use it)
1/2 red pepper cut into slivers
3 cups shredded Napa cabbage
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups firm tofu cut into squares
1/4 cup basil, cut into slivers (opt. but very, very good)
Small flour tortillas (often located in the refrigerator section at the grocers)
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
3 Tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. sesame oil
1 tsp. vinegar
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (opt.)
1/8 tsp. white pepper (opt.)
- Toast the flour tortillas in a medium-hot skillet, brushing them with sesame oil before adding them to the pan. Cook until warm and slightly crisped and place in a tortilla warmer or wrap in a clean kitchen towel until the filling is ready.
- Whisk together the sauce ingredients and set aside.
- In a non-stick cook pan or a wok (preferred) bring 1 teaspoon sesame oil to medium-high heat and add the eggs. Cook through and remove from pan. Slice into thin strips.
- Add another 1 teaspoon sesame oil to the wok and add the tofu. Cook until the squares start to crisp. Turn the heat down to medium-low and add 1/2 of the sauce. Cook just until the cubes are coated and remove from the wok.
- More sesame oil. Yup, add another teaspoon to a medium-high pan and then cook your veggies in this order: red peppers, carrots go first for about 2 minutes, then add the green onions. Wait a minute. Finally add in the cabbage, basil, eggs, and tofu.
- Now you have a choice: Do you kiddos like it saucy? If so, add the rest of the sauce, if not, serve it as a side. (I went less saucy myself.)
- Mix the vegetables together for about a minute and then use as a filling for the tacos.
- Serve the tacos alongside rice. (My kids liked adding the extra sauce to their rice.)
Kids’ reactions: Clean plates all around. None of my kids even noticed the tofu. My two youngest kids picked out each and every red pepper sliver, but not a piece of tofu remained. Even Mr. Squid was a fan. I even made tofu fried rice the next day.
I found gorgeous peaches at the market today, which I thought would pair perfectly with pork in traditional Mexican tacos. With authentic tacos, it’s all about the fresh fillings. Seriously, no cheese, no unidentifiable gritty ground meat.
For an easy, tasty summertime meal I chopped up pork cutlets into bit-sized pieces sauteed them with a few spices and lime before adding thin-sliced peaches, cilantro, and homemade salsa.
Picky eater trick: For my kids, I put all the ingredients on their plates and then let them construct their tacos on their own. My youngest later dipped the extra peaches right into the salsa. I surprisingly tasty combo!
Prep time: 30 minutes
2 lbs. pork
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
- Cut the pork into bite-sized pieces.
- Bring 1 tablespoon grape seed (or canola oil) to medium-high heat in a heavy-bottomed skillet.
- Saute the pork until heated through and crisped, adding garlic and cayenne powders and ground cumin half way through cooking.
- Squeeze half of a lime over the meat before removing it from the pan.
- Cut the peach into thin slices (I didn’t bother removing the skin since the slices were so slim).
- Serve the pork with fresh peach slices, cilantro, and salsa on toasted corn tortillas.
For some of you toasting corn tortillas might seem fairly basic, but for others you might still be clipping coupons for the hard shells. Put the scissors down.
Here’s what to do instead:
Look for white corn tortillas in the refrigerated section of your neighborhood store, or try to find a more local brand at a Mexican grocers. The brands at the store don’t tend to be as fresh or pliable, but they’re still an improvement over the hard shells.
If you have a gas grill you can go ahead and light the burner–or burners to medium heat (I use all four at once). Then place the white corn tortillas right on the grate. For those with electric ranges, it’s a bit harder to get the tortillas toasted; use a heavy-bottomed skillet that’s heated to medium-high heat.
The tortillas will begin to puff slightly as they bake, flip after about 1 minute then toast on the other side.
Last step, and this is important for flexible tortillas, place them in a tortilla warmer or a kitchen towel.
Often, when I’m serving tacos I’ll place the warmer in the middle of the table and then put a variety of fixings on each person’s plate.
More ideas for Cinco de Mayo:
Your turn–are you already a toasted corn tortilla fan?
Yesterday I explained how to make your own corn tortillas at home, well today I wanted to give you an idea for a tasty, fast filling: lime-spiked shrimp.
The shrimp filling takes all of 15 minutes to make (an extra 15 if I need to thaw the raw shrimp and remove the tails). Here’s how I do it:
- Heat 1/2 tablespoon canola or grape seed oil in wok or heavy bottomed skillet to medium-high heat.
- Add 20-30 medium-sized raw shrimp to the hot oil. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin and garlic powder; you can even add 1/4 cayenne if you want more of a kick.
- Cook until the shrimp are just beginning to turn pink (about 2 minutes) and squeeze all of the juice of a fresh lime during the final minute of cooking. Add salt to taste.
- Serve in toasted, corn tortillas with fresh salsa or as a topping for tostadas.
Traditional Mexican taco shops, or tacquerias, often offer a liquidy version of guacamole along with salsas and such to put on your tacos. The thin guac is fine for tacos, but not so good for chip dipping. I wanted to come up with an in-between guacamole. Not too thin, not too chunky. Enter tomatillos, a mandarin-orange sized green berry that many people mistake for a green tomato. You can usually find fresh tomatillos in the produce section at the grocers near the chiles. Tomatillos have husks that cover the green berry, which is slightly sticky on the outside and tangy with a subtle sweetness on the inside.
Prep time: 15 minutes
2 ripe avocados
2 cloves garlic
2 large slices white onion (about 1/4 of the onion)
1/2-1 fresh serrano chile or jalapeno
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup cilantro
1/3-3/4 cup water
2 tablespoons diced, canned green chiles (optional, but really good)
- Bring 1 teaspoon olive oil to medium-high heat in a heavy bottomed pan (I used my cast iron).
- Remove the husks, rinse, and then place the tomatillos, garlic, and onion into the hot pan.
- Roast for 2-3 minutes on each side or until the tomatillo skin is beginning to blister.
- Place the tomatillos, onions, and garlic into a blender along with the vinegar, 1/3 cup water, avocados, and serrano chile (keep in mind, the more chile you use, the hotter the guac will be so you might want to start with one half, before adding the entire chile).
- Add more water to adjust consistency. Sprinkle in salt and pepper to taste.
- Blend in the cilantro (and green chiles, if using) and get your dipping chips ready!
Bonus: I made this guacamole a day ahead to serve with dinner and with the vinegar whipped in the color stayed bright.
Last weekend, Mr. Squid and I surprised the kids with a weekend away in Detroit to see the musical Wicked and to visit some of our favorite southeast Michigan foodie haunts. While Detroit’s reputation might be more tied to auto-making, or ‘the Big three,’ Michiganders would say, this town knows how to eat.
Here are my favorite foodie spots in and around Detroit.
We drove straight from Cleveland to New Yasmeen. There you’ll find meat kibbee, tabouli, fattoush, madardara, and a dozen other dishes I can’t even pronounce, but love sampling. That’s what you’ll find at this Middle Eastern restaurant in the heart of Dearborn. The city also happens to have one of the largest Middle Eastern populations of any town in the U.S. In other words, if you’re looking for authentic flavors, stock up on pitas and hummus here.
My suggestion: Chicken shawarma–grilled chicken pieces spiced with cardamon, allspice and slathered with a garlic/yogurt/tahini sauce, peppered with pickles and wrapped in a homemade pita.
What the kids liked best: Uh, the pastry counter. Seriously, they have chocolate cups filled with whipped vanilla and chocolate cream. On the savory side, my two youngest daughters downed cheese pies while my oldest polished off a meat shawarma.
There’s no website for Best China and if you blink, you’ll miss this dive that’s tucked in a mini-mall behind a gas station in Canton. The owners, who are from Shanghai, have two menus, one for English speakers, and another full of regional favorites, all listed in Chinese.
My suggestion: Sesame chicken. I know, I know, it’s not authentic Chinese cuisine, but I could seriously drink the sauce that doesn’t suffer from the sticky-sweet flavor, or worse, ketchup-based blandness you normally encounter when you order sesame chicken elsewhere. Order the pork potstickers (fried or steamed) as soon as you get in if you want them before your meal, otherwise you’re likely to get them as dessert, which is just fine with me.
What the kids liked best: Everything. But dipping their potstickers in sauce with their chopsticks is always fun.
Regular readers know I love Mexican food, especially tacquerias, or taco shops. In the Mexicantown area of Detroit there are several good places for authentic fare, but Lupitas stands apart for their tacos and endless chips and plentiful salsas that are served as appetizers. *Lupitas is only open for lunch and I must admit, I think it’s better during the week versus the weekend.
My suggestion: Tacos al pastor, which are made with pork that’s marinated, then roasted on vertical skewer and before it’s slivered off in pieces. If you’re feeling more adventurous ask for the torta ahogada, which isn’t on the menu, but is a specialty of Mexico’s Jalisco. The sandwich is usually filled with pork, beans, and cheese then it’s dipped into a chile-infused sauce. Warning: it’s hot!
What the kids liked best: Tacos lengua. My middle child who shuns peanut butter loves tacos lengua, or beef tongue tacos. Go figure.
Located in Detroit’s Corktown district, Mudgie’s inventive dishes–on one visit the soup of the day was cheeseburger–use fresh, local ingredients. For a taste a Mudgie’s check out their recipe here for brownie waffles.
My suggestion: We weren’t able to visit Mudgie’s on this visit, but I’ll admit I follow their Twitter feed just to get meal ideas. Whatever the special is, that’s my order.
What the kids liked best: Brownie waffles, of course.
Coney Island restaurants are a Michigan novelty. You just don’t get these anywhere else. Even though the restaurants are named after the chili-doused New York dog, the food here tends to veer more toward Greek flavors–along with your typical diner fare. Note: there are several different Coney Island chains, Kerby’s (spell coney with a K), but Leo’s are the best IMHO.
My suggestion: The Greek salad. And make sure to get the small (the large feeds 4+). Mr. Squid likes the Greek salad with peperoncinis, feta, olives, beets, and chickpeas so much he bought a bottle of dressing to bring home.
What the kids liked best: The coney dog
I just had to pass along more pictures from New Yasmeen. Enjoy!
Are you ready for Father’s Day? More important—are your kids? We did a dry run this week of the fiesta we’re planning for dad’s big day. (Don’t worry, I’m not usually practicing for every holiday meal a week ahead but I needed pictures for this post and, well, we had a lot of fun putting this together.)
Putting it together: Heat a skillet to medium high and place a flour tortilla in the center, top generously with Monterrey Jack or mozzarella cheese and add another flour tortilla. Flip after 3 minutes, or when crisped. Repeat with as many quesadillas as you need. Let the quesadilla cool for 3 minutes and then make shapes using a cookie cutter. Our theme for the meal is heart-shaped–1)because it’s Father’s Day and 2)because that’s the cookie cutter I had on hand. (I really need to get a few more cookie cutters!!)
Kids’ favorite part: Making the cut-outs of course. And decorating the plate with shredded lettuce and tomatoes.
Putting it together: Simple and delicious. I put a pork roast in the crockpot for the day along with a can of salsa verde. You could also throw in onion (whole, don’t even bother cutting), fresh chile peppers, along with one cup of a liquid that will give the pork a bit of flavor (chicken broth is good too). Cook on high for 5-6 hours and shred once it’s done. Add 1 teaspoon canola oil to a large skillet at medium-high heat and crisp the shredded pork. Add salt to taste and a little cayenne and cumin powder. Toast corn tortillas over a medium-high heat flame (if you don’t have a gas oven, use a skillet to toast the tortillas). Once they’re just crisped put them in a tortilla warmer or clean kitchen towel until you’re ready to use them. On each plate place two tortillas along with a heaping mound of pork, salsa, fresh cut-up tomatoes, lettuce and a dollop of sour cream (if desired). We found these pork tacos were so tasty they didn’t need much dressing up–the secret is the flavoring in the crockpot and the crisping afterwards.
Kids’ favorite part: Well, swiping little pieces of pork as it was crisping. My oldest liked being able to work with the skillet and my youngest liked having tomato topping duty (my middle daughter was busy setting the table).
Putting it together: You didn’t put away the cookie cutter, did you? Use it again to make heart-shaped pieces of flour tortillas. Spray a baking sheet with cooking oil, add your flour tortilla cut-outs, spray again and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar; this has the flavor of a light churro. Bake at 375 for 8 minutes or until just crisped. Cool slightly and serve on a plate drizzled with honey or chocolate sauce and top with fresh berries.
Kids’ favorite part: Every step–I mean, this is dessert!
If you’re looking for ideas outside the kitchen to make Father’s Day special, check out these ah-inducing stories from Motherboard moms. I looked through these as part of the Motherboard crew and I must say I enjoyed every one, especially the military family who shares the day with the families of those who’ve lost husbands and fathers. We shared our Mother’s Day meal with a friend who’d recently been widowed and it made the day so much more special to celebrate together.
Your turn–what are you doing to make the dads in your life feel special on Father’s Day?
Did you know there’s a right way to eat a taco? Yup. Here it is: hold the taco together in one place with your hands and then to tilt your head to take bites. No taco tilting!
I know, this isn’t rock science. But there are those foods that you can pick out the real eaters from the dabblers. Take thin, chewy New York City pizza slices. I remember getting an education in how to eat a NYC slice when we lived there–always fold it at the sides. (Hey even the Emily Post Institute recommends folding your pizza slice, maybe she’s a New Yorker?) I had moved there from the West where you’d never dream of folding the thick slices.
So maybe it’s no surprise that tacos have their own eating etiquette: the head tilt. This keeps all the yummy fillings intact and from falling out the other side if you try to taco tilt. When our family visited Mexico City a few years ago we bought tacos from a stand in Chapultepec Park and joined others eating our tacos at nearby picnic tables. At the end of the meal, my plate was covered in carne asada pieces (yummy bits of barbecued, seasoned steak). I looked around to see clean plates. Non-taco tilters. My messy plate was a giveaway that I was still a taco novice–well, that and my baseball cap, sneakers and backpack.
So if you want to eat your tacos like a pro, tilt your head, not your taco!
Of all the places you might expect to find authentic tacos, my guess is Gettysburg didn’t come to mind. But you can find them at Tito’s Tacos located just a block from the main streets (39 N. Washington to be exact just behind the flower store).
Last week, I spent a few days touring the historic battle site with my family. We took a break from our auto tour of the sites when we spotted the sign for Tito’s. Now I’m more than a little particular about my tacos–I like them authentic. No hard, crispy shells. No cheese. Mexican tacos are made with fresh white toasted corn tortillas (usually doubled), some kind of spiced meat, chopped white onions and cilantro and a lime wedge to squeeze on top.
I knew I was in the right place when I spotted tacos al pastor. My favorite. Al pastor tacos are made with seasoned pork that turns on a vertical broiler (or autodoner, the same type of equipment you’d use to make gyros). Sometimes there’s fresh pineapple or an onion tacked onto the top of the broiler to drip juices onto the cooking meat. Good tacos al pastor are tinged orangish red from the combination of chiles that the meat marinates in. And they’re always served with a slice of pineapple. Tito’s didn’t disappoint. They even grill the pineapple. Nice, tasty touch.