Tex-Mex Archive

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

red bean and green grain taco bowl

red bean and green grain taco bowl

I swear, this wholesome-looking meal isn’t penance for anything. It’s not a budget-friendly apology for the frenetic unplanned redecorating project or atonement for the fact that I’ve basically only wanted to eat chocolate, peanut butter, bread and pasta for the last 22 weeks. It’s not compensation for the frosting that didn’t make it onto the cake and was eaten instead with a spoon, or the impulsive meringues last weekend. It’s only ever-so-quietly a warning that the next thing coming on this site is so decadent, you might wish to advance yourself some greens, grains and beans.

red beans
wheat berries, onion, garlic, poblano and the devil's herb

It is, however, something of a compromise. Just about the only vaguely nutritious thing I’ve consistently craved since our newest family member started making its presence known are things we could put on, in, or near a tortilla for dinner. I’ve made ground beef tacos, scrambled eggs on soft tortillas, chicken fajitas and charred cauliflower quesadillas and I’ve tried to branch out (look, pork chops! And hey, it’s a salad!) but I always come back to the fact that if didn’t contain avocado, pickled onions, hot sauce, and an unholy amount of ground cumin, it was always second choice.

blending green sauce

Continued after the jump »

Monday, February 2, 2015

charred cauliflower quesadillas

charred cauliflower quesadillas

Last week* I mentioned that we’d been on a big breakfast-for-dinner spree this winter, less out of a noble desire for inexpensive, balanced, wholesome meals and more because scrambling eggs at the last minute allows us to go all the way to 15 minutes before dinner to come up with an idea for it, which is meal-planning equivalent of the heavens opening up and glorifying all of my late-afternoon lethargy at last.

scallions, poblano, lime, cheese, cauliflower, "cilantro"
give it an extra chop once cooked

The other kick we’ve been on since the beginning of the year is passing off anything we can put in, on, or near a tortilla as dinner, leading to a steady rotation our go-to fajitas, beef tacos, black bean tacos and, in a mash-up of both the breakfast and tortilla benders, scrambled egg tacos. Many of you asked “how” I got my son to eat such foods as scrambled eggs and tacos, and while I’m tempted to take credit for it (“it’s the rainbow of local organic produce and definitely not the daily succession of pb&j sandwiches I ate while he was in the womb!”) it would be dishonest when it’s been more due to random outside influences. The grandmother of one of my son’s classmates brought in warm — warm! freshly cooked! how I long to be a kindergartener most days! — quesadillas for snack a few weeks ago, and it’s all he’s talked about since. Plus, since it fit into our all-tortillas-all-the-time meal plan, I set about finding a way to pass it off as dinner.

what you'll need + lazy slaw, if you please

Continued after the jump »

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

three-ingredient summertime salsa

three ingredient summertime salsa

There’s nothing worth eating in Texas that Lisa Fain can’t teach you to make better in your own kitchen, from perfect, simple carnitas, kolaches, and chicken-fried steak to breakfast tacos, frito pie and peach buttermilk ice cream, plus two cookbooks worth of wonders (drool break for the buttermilk and bacon fat flour tortillas from her latest) but my favorite recipe of hers uses only three ingredients and is addictive enough to put on everything.

what you'll need + onion I add
getting ready for the broiler

Google offers windows into at least 3.8 million iterations of “perfect homemade salsa” — I mean, the red, spicy stuff we went through two jars a week of when I was a freshman in college — but I find most of them terrifyingly complicated. Many have nearly a dozen ingredients ranging from sugar to cumin, or call for very specific brands of tomatoes, like Ro-Tel, which isn’t particularly easy to find outside of Texas or well-stocked bodegas in NYC. Fain’s recipe shrugs at all this fussing, and tells you to go to the market when tomatoes are overflowing, halve a bunch on a tray along with a couple garlic cloves and jalapenos, broil them until they’re charred and blend them until you get your desired consistency and just forget about eating salsa another way ever again.

broiled until charred

Continued after the jump »

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

three-bean chili

three-bean chili

In my fantasy recipe-writing league, I’d cover everything, a million questions you hadn’t even thought to ask yet. Every recipe would work on a stove, slowly braised in the oven, on a grill, in a slow-cooker, a pressure-cooker, on a train, in a car, or in a tree. You could make the vegetarian carnivorous, the carnivorous paleo, the gluten-full gluten-free, the sour cream could always be swapped yogurt which could always be swapped with buttermilk, or milk and lemon, or soy milk and vinegar. We’d find a way to put kale in everything. You could use flat-leaf parsley instead of cilantro (because cilantro is the devil’s herb, naturally) or none of the above, because green flecks = grounds for dinnertime dismissal. We’d make food that your picky spouse, your pasta-eating kid, and your pesky fad-dieting house guests would applaud at every meal, and all of those promises made by food writers greater than myself in tomes more epic than this blog of food bringing people together for the happiest part of everyone’s day would be made good on at last.

what you'll need
how to get things started

Of course, I’d also write about one recipe a year. Despite understanding this, sometimes I get carried away with The Dream of this kind of recipe-writing. I make Lasagna Bolognese with homemade noodles (but you can use store-bought), homemade bechamel (but you can use ricotta; just don’t tell me about it), and bolognese with milk, wine or both. We make Hot Fudge Sundae Cake for crazy people (everything, down to the cookie crumb filling, homemade) or for people with a life (everything, down to the cookie crumb filling, store-bought). We make Lazy Pizza Dough on three different schedules, whatever your orbit demands that week. And in this episode, I found as many ways as I could dream up to make a three-bean chili, so nobody would have an excuse not to make it.

cooking the dry spices, indian-style

Continued after the jump »

Thursday, March 20, 2014

sizzling chicken fajitas

chicken fajitas with the works

Fortunately, for like nutritional balance and all that boring grown-up stuff, we did not entirely subsist on double-chocolate banana bread for the last few weeks, tempting as it may have been. We’ve also been making chicken fajitas like it were the early 1990s and they were all the new rage again.

for the chicken marinade
start marinating the chicken in lime juice

I don’t mean to mock the dish. I have fond memories of going to Tex-Mex restaurants in strip-malls (New Jersey, represent!) in high school and college, the kind of places that served slushy margaritas in cactus glasses and had waiters hurrying loud, sizzling skillets of meat and vegetable fillings from swinging kitchen door to various tables. But once the dish cooled, expectations usually did as well. Mounds of extras (chopped fresh onions, tomatoes, peppers, and cilantro were the standards) turned them into passable tacos, but without the fixings, they were deceptively dull despite their dramatic entrances. I never imagined a future where hacking the dish to our satisfaction would be probably the only meal we’ve ever eaten four times in three weeks; we’re a little addicted and it’s amazing how well it works on a weekday night. [Or where I’d make my own corn tortillas for it, but that for another day, when I’ve returned to my sanity.]

rainbow peppers make things prettier

Continued after the jump »