Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Taking Food For Granted…?

Yeah, I’m guilty. There are some foods that I give very little thought to. They seem so common or ordinary that my mind never stops to give them their proper due. I’ve realized that tacos are one of those foods. On just about every major intersection you can find a taco restaurant and mobile taco stands (trucks), or taqueria, are frequently seen in parking lots around town; always busy during the lunch hour.

I remember late one night during high school when my friends and I drove through a taco restaurant. I ordered the craze of the moment for all four of us; BLT soft tacos. It was a genius idea; a soft flour tortilla wrapped around crunchy fresh lettuce, shredded cheddar cheese and crispy fried bacon pieces all smothered in a ranch dressing. We’d been eating them nearly every day since they were introduced, hoping to contribute to sales enough that the taco chain would make them a regular menu item. We’d spent the evening at a football game and dance and were really ready to dig in. Until out of the loudspeaker, the words you never expect to hear at a taco joint… “I’m sorry, but we’re out of cheese.” There is nothing like a crazed taco fan that has just been told she can’t have them. I politely… okay, sarcastically (I was a teenager, after all)pointed out that there was an Albertson’s right across the street and that I was pretty sure they’d have cheese in stock. Amazingly, this tactic did not get us BLT tacos and shortly thereafter they were discontinued. When I look back I see this incident should have been the beginning of my taco reverence, but it wasn’t going to happen for another 20 plus years.

Last month we were preparing for my daughter’s third birthday and for family to be in town for two weeks. We’d been eating some quick and easy meals for several days while getting the house and party stuff ready, including tacos, but the night before everyone was to arrive I really needed to clean out the refrigerator to make room for the food we’d be buying the next day. While tossing miscellaneous food items from the fridge I realized I still had a lot of taco fixin’s. The recipe I’m sharing with you today is the result of cleaning out the fridge, but not wanting my family to know that’s what I was feeding them. I found a can of black beans in the pantry, a container of tomato sauce where I’d only needed two tablespoons from the can for a previous recipe (it hadn’t been frozen in ice cube trays yet) and the last remaining chipotle pepper in adobo sauce. Chipotle peppers start out as jalapenos but after being dried and smoked they become less spicy and provide a rich, smoky-sweet flavor to your recipes. It doesn’t take much chipotle to jazz up the same old soup or stew and I usually open a can and store the leftovers in the fridge in a small recycled maraschino cherry jar. The resulting recipe garnered rave reviews and gave me a new appreciation for the taco. They’re quick, convenient, versatile and delicious. It’s no wonder humans have been filling tortillas with everything from eggs to fish for centuries. I hope you enjoy these delicious, protein-packed tacos as much as we did and feel free to change up the meat to cooked and shredded pork, chicken or turkey and the veggies to whatever is on hand.

Tink's Spicy Beef & Black Bean Tacos
1/2 head lettuce, shredded
2 carrots, shredded
1/4 head purple cabbage, shredded
4 green onions, sliced into 1/4 sections on the diagonal
1 lb ground beef (I use lean chuck roast that I grind up into hamburger)
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
1/2 cup white onions, diced
1 chipotle chile in adobo, diced
1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1 (15 1/2 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
6-8 tortillas (I use tomato and basil flavored but flour tortillas were fine too)
sour cream (optional)
cheese, shredded (I used pre-shredded Mexican 4-cheese blend)

1) In large bowl, toss together lettuce, carrots, green onions and cabbage. Set aside.
2) Brown beef in skillet until almost no pink remains and drain grease (if needed). 3) Add garlic, onion and chipotle chili. Cook and stir until no pink remains in beef.
4) Add tomato sauce, chili powder, cumin, salt and black beans. Stir to combine and simmer until heated through.
5) Warm the tortillas between paper towels or in tortilla warmer in the microwave for about 30 seconds.
6) Top tortillas with sour cream, salad mixture, cheese, beef and bean mixture; fold and enjoy!
Serves 4-6
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Creative Commons License
TinksTreats by Lorilyn Tenney is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License