I've always had a bit of an inferiority complex when it comes to some of the dishes I cook, especially my Mexican food and what I call my tacos. While I crave and devour it, and watch my family eat it with gusto, there is always a little voice inside my head whispering, This isn't good enough to serve to guests and besides, I'm not Mexican even though my name is Maria, so there must be many better versions out there, blah, blah, blah. I've been to Mexico once, but was scared to eat the stuff that makes tacos really good--fresh tomato salsa, for instance. And I've spent quite a bit of time in the Southwest eating food so hot it burns all the way through--in a good way. I can still remember the deep-fried crispy dough of my first Navajo taco.
So it was with intense competitive interest that I heard a very handsome young lad tell me that a certain Mexican food truck located in New York City at Mad. Square Eats was the best taco he'd ever tasted. Within 48 hours, after a very long day at work, I was standing in line ordering what he told me to order. I even found a table to enjoy eating it.
There was that voice again. This time it said, This is it??? This is the best taco in Manhattan? Mine are much better than this. So, dear Reader, I share my humble taco recipe with you. There are an infinite number of variations, and I will mention a few. Bear with me as I describe the multiple elements. While it all seems complicated, this can be made in less than a half hour. I'm going to describe it as it's made...
- Tortillas (corn or whole wheat flour, organic please)
- Olive oil
- Ground beef, steak, chicken, pork, buffalo, or other meat
- Beans: pinto or black
- Chili powder
- Fresh Salsa
- Shredded cheese
- Sour cream (optional)
- Guacamole (optional)
- In a small saucepan, pour some olive oil in the bottom and add some cumin and chili powder. You can also add onion and garlic powder if you want. Let it foam. Then add a can of beans. This is my "Mexicali beans recipe" and is the essential ingredient in huevos rancheros, too. Put some salt and hickory smoke seasoning in as well. Let it simmer while you move on to the other things....
- In a cast-iron pan, cook up your meat (cut into small bits), and season with a bit of cumin, chili powder, salt, and anything else you might want.
- While that's cooking, shred some cheese (I like Monterey Jack, American, cheddar, or Colby), clean and cut up some organic iceberg lettuce, and get out any other toppings you want, like sour cream or roasted peppers.
- Make the salsa: Cut up some fresh tomatoes, onion, cilantro, and a dash of olive oil, lime juice, and salt. Yum!
- Make some fresh guacamole: Cut up and mash an avocado. Squeeze some lemon or lime juice on it so it doesn't turn brown. Add salt.
- In a large cast-iron pan, pour a tiny bit of olive oil and toast the tortillas on both sides so they get hot, bubbly, and a bit crispy.
Now get a plate, put a tortilla on it, and start piling it up. You can do multiple tacos with small bits inside, or you can limit your carbs and have one taco with a giant pile on it. In that case, I recommend a knife and fork.
Here is how I layer: tortilla, cheese, a bit of beans, meat, lettuce, salsa, guacamole and sour cream. Díos, this makes me hungry!
For more from Maria Rodale, go to www.mariasfarmcountrykitchen.com