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TACO SALAD/TOSTADAS FOR THE FORGETFUL

TACO SALAD/TOSTADAS FOR THE FORGETFUL

I am certain that anyone who likes taco salad already has a favorite recipe for it, so this is not for them. This is for me. I have made this three times this summer when it was too damn hot to cook. The first time was a veggie taco salad. The second time was with some bits of steak thrown in. The third time we made tostadas.

I am sure that by next summer I will have forgotten what I did to make this, hence this post. There are tons of possible variations.

TOSTADAS ON THE GRILL

Dressing:

  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoon chili powder
  • salt and pepper

Stir together and refrigerate.

Salad:

Chopped tomato, chopped red onion, sliced black olives, 1 can corn, 1 can kidney beans or black beans, shaved cheeseP1050824

Top that with

Romaine, iceberg lettuce, shredded cabbage

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Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

On the grill:

Heat refried beans in skillet. Keep diced steak (or chicken, or pork) warm in foil packet.

Place corn tortillas on grill and lightly brush each side with oil.

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Flip tortillas as necessary and let them get crisp.

Toss salad with dressing.

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Smear crisp tortillas with refried beans. Top with a spoonful of Greek yogurt or sour cream, then with salad, bits of steak, and pour green and/or red salsa on top. Pick up to eat. Have lots of napkins available.

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For taco salad, break up some bagged tortilla chips and toss with the salad and dressing. Some avocado would not be amiss with this.

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CHICKEN-AVOCADO ENCHILADAS

The first enchiladas I ever made were from the Sunset Cook Book of Favorite Recipes. The recipe called for 2 cups of sour cream and 1 pound of shredded Cheddar cheese plus additional sour cream to pile on each serving (and this was in the days long before there was such a thing as nonfat sour cream or low-fat cheese). I made it quite often for years. It was wildly popular among my co-workers when I brought it to potlucks. Between this and the cheesecakes I used to make, I probably single-handedly contributed to the early demise of of several people.

But we’re here now in the Dark Days Of High Cholesterol, so I needed to find a way to make luscious enchiladas without so much animal fat. Someone on Facebook – I have forgotten who, so I can’t give credit – posted a recipe for chicken-avocado enchiladas that looked pretty good. I messed around with the recipe a little, then called friends to come over for dinner. None of us could stop eating it. We  cleaned the pan out. I’m telling you, this is good.

If you must, you can substitute canned green enchilada sauce, but this sauce is totally worth making. Both the sauce and filling can be made a day ahead if necessary,but do not add the avocados until ready to assemble the enchiladas.

CHICKEN-AVOCADO ENCHILADAS

SAUCE:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced or minced
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 cup salsa verde (I used La Victoria)
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 cup fat-free sour cream
  • salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a saucepan and saute the garlic lightly for a minute. Do not allow garlic to brown.

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Stir in the flour, and cook & stir over medium-low heat for 2 more minutes.

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Add the chicken stock while stirring, and keep stirring until the sauce is lump-free. Add the cumin, salt, pepper, and salsa verde, and heat until thickened (it won’t be really thick – about the consistency of canned enchilada sauce). Taste and adjust seasoning with more salt, pepper, or cumin as needed. Add the cilantro. When sauce tastes good, remove from heat and stir in the sour cream.

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  • Do not boil sauce after sour cream has been added.

TORTILLAS

  • 18 6-inch corn tortillas (I used Guerrero brand)

Heat 1/2″ oil in small frying pan. Test by dipping the edge of  a tortilla into the oil. If the oil sizzles, it’s ready. Fry each tortilla for about 5 seconds on each side. Do not try to crisp the tortillas; this step is to soften them. Turn with tongs, then remove to a plate lined with paper towels, and press the tortillas between the towels to absorb excess oil. Use as many paper towels as needed – I arrange about 3 tortillas on each towel, then top with another layer of towels.

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FILLING

  • 4 cups diced chicken (I used poached chicken from this recipe)
  • 1/2 cup diced red onion
  • 1/2 cup sliced pitted black olives
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon New Mexico chili powder
  • about 1 cup fat-free sour cream
  • 3 firm-ripe avocados, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese (I used Cheddar, but use what you like – low-fat cheese is good here) (optional)

Combine all ingredients except cheese, using as much sour cream as necessary to coat everything. Mix gently to avoid mashing the avocados.

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Spread about 1/2 cup sauce on the bottom of a large baking dish.

Fill each tortilla with equal amounts of filling – for this much filling/this many 6″ tortillas, figure around 1/3 to 1/2 cup filling, but YMMV.

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Tuck each tortilla into the baking dish, open side down. Here I decided to make a double layer of enchiladas, so when the baking dish had one full layer, I poured some sauce over the first batch and sprinkled with about 1/4 cup shredded cheese. Or just make one layer if the baking dish is large enough.

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Second layer – pour the remaining sauce over, top with about 1/4 cup cheese. If you like, top with sliced tomatoes,  roasted red bell peppers, chopped olives, sliced avocado, etc.

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Bake at 350 until hot and bubbling, about 25-30 minutes.

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Serve this with beans – I made plain boiled pinto beans served in little bowls with cilantro and chopped red onion – rice, and a green salad.

Gluten- free option for the sauce:

Saute garlic in oil, then add broth, salsa verde, and seasonings. Thicken with a cornstarch slurry – when sauce is thickened, add sour cream and proceed with recipe from there.

ZUCCHINI PANCAKES

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I first read about zucchini pancakes in Elena Zelayeta’s Secrets of Mexican Cooking, a wonderful cookbook dating back to 1968 and which is still a very useful guide to the basics of Mexican cookery. I’ve tweaked it a little here but not so much that the original author wouldn’t recognize it.  The pancakes are simple to make and everyone I’ve served them to really likes them – plus they use up some of that zucchini that’s getting out of control in home gardens.

ZUCCHINI PANCAKES

  • 1 pound zucchini or other summer squash (to equal about 2 cups grated squash)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 cup minced onion
  • salt and pepper
  • butter or oil or a combination (for frying)

Grate the squash (here I used zucchini and yellow crookneck squash) and sprinkle with salt; let drain in a colander for 30 minutes. Rinse thoroughly and squeeze dry.

Combine squash with egg, flour, baking powder, onion, salt and pepper.

Mix until you have a thick batter.

Melt butter in a wide frying pan over medium-high heat. Spoon batter into pan and cook small pancakes until browned on one side, then flip. You want to cook these thoroughly or they’ll taste of raw flour.

Cook on second side until browned.

Serve these as a vegetable or as an appetizer. Some salsa on the side would be good. You could also melt some cheese over the top before taking them out of the pan.   Or you could add some chopped hot pepper or a can of Ortega chiles and some cilantro.

To make this gluten-free – omit the flour and baking powder and proceed with recipe, frying up little zucchini omelets. EDIT: or do as Melissa commented below, and use whatever non-gluten flour you have on hand.

GREEN ENCHILADA SAUCE

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I often use canned green enchilada sauce – many of them are quite good (though the ones labeled hot are usually too one-note and too burningly, unpleasantly spicy to be able to enjoy the taste). But when I’m feeling more ambitious and have time, I make my own enchilada sauce. It isn’t difficult and you can control the heat factor and sodium content (which is often off the charts with the canned product).

When working with fresh chiles, wash your hands very, very thoroughly afterwards, and refrain from touching your eyes, mouth, etc. for some hours afterwards.

Here are two recipes I like. The first is one I developed, and which owes a lot to Anna Thomas and her Vegetarian Epicure books.

GREEN ENCHILADA SAUCE

  • 1- 1/2 pounds raw tomatillos, husked
  • 1 fresh green Jalapeno
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 1 bunch green onions (scallions) or 1/2 of a white or yellow onion
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1-2 fresh limes
  • chicken broth or vegetable broth
  • salt

Put the tomatillos, Jalapeno, onions, and garlic in a dry frying pan and dry-roast them over medium heat, turning frequently, until they have browned spots all over. Put the Jalapeno in a small bag, close it up, and let steam for 15 minutes, then peel off the skin, cut open, and discard the seeds. (See note above about washing.)

Cut up the roasted vegetables and put in a blender or food processor with 1/2 cup broth, and blitz until pureed. Add more broth as necessary to make it a sauce consistency. When sauce is pureed and the right consistency, add salt and cilantro leaves and pulse until leaves are finely chopped. Then squeeze in the juice of one lime. Taste and adjust seasonings – it might require more lime or salt.  Let sit a couple of hours to develop flavors.

  • Instead of the Jalapeno, you can substitute one 4-ounce can peeled green chiles.
  • You can add ground cumin and/or oregano, or any other spice that seems appropriate.
  • A small glug of olive oil can smooth out the sauce and help carry the flavors.
  • Other additions might include a little sherry vinegar, a pinch or two of sugar, a chopped tomato, garlic, and so on as your taste dictates.

This second recipe is from California the Beautiful Cookbook by John Phillip Carroll, a really lovely coffee table-type book with wonderful recipes and beautiful photography. The sauce is quite different from the semi-cooked salsa above – a raw green salsa cruda that would be great  with tortilla chips. The author uses this for shrimp enchiladas.

GREEN SALSA

  • 12 fresh tomatillos, chopped, about 3 cups
  • 1 red onion, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and cut into pieces
  • 1 large Anaheim (mild green) chiles,  seeded and cut into pieces
  • 1 Jalapeno, seeded and cut into pieces
  • 1/2 cup cilantro springs
  • salt

Put all ingredients except salt in a food processor and pulse just until coarsely chopped. Season with salt to taste.

FIDEO SOUP

I used to work with a woman called Nora (last name forgotten). She was Mexican, I think, and spoke both English and Spanish. We had a soup kitchen at work as a fundraiser to raise money for our annual Christmas party. Nora brought a soup so delicious I had to ask her for the recipe. This was what she scribbled on a note:

fideo recipe

At first glance this wasn’t much to go on, but it turned out to be exactly the right directions…. if you had tasted the soup, you’d know how it should turn out.

NORA’S FIDEO SOUP

  • 1 tablespoon oil
    1/2 of a 7-ounce packet of fideo (tiny vermicelli noodles, commonly sold in the Hispanic products section of supermarkets)
    1/2 a white or yellow onion, chopped
    5 or 6 cloves garlic, minced
    2 or 3 tomatoes, chopped (canned are ok)
    chicken broth
    cilantro
    salt

Heat the oil in a large pot over low-to-medium heat and add the fideo. Stir the noodles as they will brown quickly. Don’t let them burn or you’ll have to start over. Add the onions and garlic and stir for a few minutes, then add the tomatoes. Pour in 1 quart of chicken broth and bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Taste for salt and add as necessary. Add fresh chopped cilantro to taste.

You will find the fideo expand considerably after the soup cools, so it will probably be necessary to add more broth.

If the soup needs more oomph, add salsa, peeled green chiles, oregano, red pepper flakes, cumin, a can of Rotel, or whatever you think would be delicious. Careful – you can always add more, but you can’t add less, so add a little at a time and taste as you go. Spicy-hot ingredients like chilis tend to get hotter as they marry into the other ingredients.

fideo soup

While this is warming on a cold day, it isn’t so heavy that you couldn’t serve it as the first course of a formal dinner.

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