Tacos have come a long way from the grade school lunch line. They are cheap, fun to make, provide infinite variety and they work well for both casual meals or to impress a date.
One idea is to go Tex-Mex style with crunchy shells, cooked hamburger with taco seasoning, topped with sour cream, cheese, chunky salsa and shredded lettuce.
Another way to go is Mexican taqueria style with classics like chorizo (spicy Mexican sausage), chicken (pollo) and steak. These tacos are served simple with a lime wedge, chopped onions, red or green salsa and cilantro. Diced avocado makes a nice addition.
Then there are the upscale tacos made with lobster, duck and sushi-grade tuna, which one might see at restaurants with dishes cooked by celebrity chef Rick Bayless, winner of Top Chef Master.
A cabbage-and-corn salad with a citrus dressing compliments a taco meal, or one could simply have more tacos. Each of these recipes works with crunchy corn, soft white, yellow, blue corn or wheat tortillas. You can use store-bought tortillas or you can make your own with masa harina (fine corn flour) and a tortilla press.
Make one kind of the taco filling listed below, or prepare a few for a variety. Have fun with the fillings and toppings. Fish tacos have become popular with use of all sorts of fish like salmon, and white fish like pollack, cod or halibut. Fish can be lightly coated in flour and fried or sautéed.
Pastrami tacos have also become a popular offering at taco food trucks. For a vegetarian option, substitute pinto or black beans for these recipes.
Tex-Mex beef tacos
1 pound of lean ground beef
1 packet of taco seasoning
1 white onion diced
1 can of pinto beans (optional)
1 jar of thick tomato salsa
¼ cup of sour cream
1-2 limes cut in wedges
1 cup of shredded cheddar or jack cheese
1 cup of shredded lettuce
6-8 crunchy taco shells
Heat the ground beef in a large skillet until brown. Add the spice mix and a quarter cup of water and cook until the water reduces, about 10 minutes. Add the ground beef mixture to the taco shell and top with any and all of the toppings. Squeeze some lime juice on top.
Each of these taco for this style are served with chopped cilantro, raw diced onions, salsa and a lime wedge.
Recommended: Frontera Brand green tomatillo salsa and red salsa chipotle with roasted tomatillo.
1 cup of cooked, shredded chicken
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 tomatoes, diced
Juice of one lime
½ teaspoon of chili powder
1 tablespoon of peanut oil or olive oil
10-15 taco shells
Heat the oil in a pan. Add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds. Add the chicken, chili powder and lime juice and stir. Simmer until the mixture is warm.
Serve one-to-two tablespoons of filling per soft wheat or corn tortilla and top with some onion, cilantro, lime juice and salsa.
Substitute 8-12 ounces of peeled and deveined shrimp. Then chop into a medium dice. Cook the shrimp just until they turn pink.
1 pound of ground chorizo sausage
1 medium onion, diced
1 clove of garlic
In a pan, heat the sausage on medium high until the fat starts to render out, about five minutes. Add the onion and cook for five minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another 30 seconds. Take off the heat and serve.
Steak or pork
1 pound of sirloin, top round or pork loin
1 tablespoon oil for cooking
½ cup of diced pineapple
Juice of one lime
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves of garlic minced
1 tablespoon of chipotle chili sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
Place the steak in a glass container. Combine the marinade ingredients. Spread them over the steak.
Cover the container with plastic and marinate for two hours in the refrigerator.
Remove the marinade from the meat and discard. Dice the steak into small cubes. Heat the oil in a pan, and brown the cubes.
Citrus cabbage slaw
½ small cabbage, shredded (can use both green and purple cabbage)
1 cup corn kernels
½ cup fresh-squeezed orange juice
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon of honey (optional)
Salt and black pepper to taste
Mix all of the ingredients and let sit for 30 minutes to blend the flavors.
Serve on the side with tacos.