This week, I’m putting a pause on my bread baking to bring you some color, health and comfort.
Here’s how I eat at a Mexican restaurant:
• What protein am I in the mood for? Or do I want vegetarian?
• Then, what form will that come in? Enchiladas, burritos, tacos, etc.
• Next, how saucy do I feel? Smothered? None? Queso? Always queso.
• And lastly, do I really need those rice and beans, or am I just ordering a la carte?
All of this as the margarita and chips head toward empty.
Who doesn’t love tacos? I can never forget the ones we had as a family. Perhaps this is all too familiar: crunchy yellow taco shells, packet-seasoned ground beef, pre-shredded orange cheddar, shredded iceberg lettuce, jarred mild salsa. Maybe sour cream if bills were paid.
Secret: I still love these purely for the nostalgia. Zero fresh factor and zero flavor but good memories and easy for Mom.
But folks, let’s think about our beloved Mexican eats with new eyes. I’m not talking Tex-Mex. What ingredients do you love? What does your body need? Put them in and on a taco — fillings and toppings of the day.
One way to approach the week is to make a big batch of a filling, say, steak, peppers and onions. Choose each day how you will use them: on a salad for a low-carb bite, wrapped in a tortilla or sprinkled on chips for nachos.
Have a couple of varieties of homemade salsa on hand, one sweet and one spicy, to complement your mood. Consider red meat alternatives, too, such as shrimp or fish tacos. Once you have the basic seasoning down, you can go to town.
Mexican spice mix
1/2 cup chili powder
1/4 cup sweet paprika
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon ground dried chipotle chile pepper
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Mix all ingredients, store in an airtight container and use within 3 months. Yields 1 cup.
Strawberry mango salsa
3/4 cup diced strawberries
3/4 cup diced mango
1 jalapeño, seeded and minced
2 tablespoons diced red onion or pickled onion
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
2 teaspoons honey, or more to taste
Juice of 1 lime
Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.
Quick, easy tips to up your game:
• Char your flour tortillas. Put tortillas directly on the heat of a burner to char. Flip with tongs. This looks cool and brings out the flavor.
• If you love corn tortillas, be sure to double up because they tend to rip easily.
• To make a fast sauce, mix Greek yogurt, lime and cilantro or mayonnaise, adobo pepper sauce and honey.
• Add a pickled element: red onions, banana pepper or jalapenos.
• Try cheeses other than cheddar. And remember to grate from the block for freshness. Try jack, Gouda, cotija or even feta.