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School is Almost Out for Some--Tacos are Great for Busy Days

By Jane Butel  May 17, 2022

Tacos are so much fun and so quick to make....just perfect for busy times.  If you want to have really special ones, start with making  homemade tortillas and I am placing our delicious white corn tortilla masa on sale at   20% off or $3.20 a pound until May 20. 

The history of the taco is somewhat muddled.   I had always heard that it started with border Mothers about 100 or more years ago.  These Mothers would get  frustrated by their children tugging at their skirts when they were making  tortillas in advance of preparing a meal.  To ease the  begging, these early Mothers would place whatever they had within reach inside a tortilla and hand  it to each child, saying  "taco"--a local dialect meaning something in the middle.  The other history is  from the silver miners who have been prevalent in Mexico for many, many years.  (Did you know that 80% of the world's silver is mined in Mexico?)   These miners would take tacos with them for lunch.

No matter how you make your tacos--whether from  warmed from freshly made tortillas or purchased ones or from crisply fried tortillas, they are all good.

The flavor mostly comes from the filling and there are many, many selections.  The most popular American taco, perhaps commercialized by the American fast food chain is the crisply fried tortillas surrounding a spiced hamburger filling.  It is  topped with shredded lettuce, onion, cheese and tomato and served with a salsa, usually tomato based.

I have many favorite tacos--from fish to pulled pork and about anything in between.  We will be making corn and flour tortillas in our next class, May 26 and from the homemade tortillas, we will be making   fish tacos with an exciting  mango salsa as well as three kinds of enchiladas, Green Chile Chicken, Red Chile Beef and vegetarian Grilled Corn and Spinach.  We still have a few openings in the class on May 26 at 5 PM.  The next class is June 2 and features creative and yummy appetizers.

(I ws unable to create a blog last week, due to a mercy trip to Boise, ID to visit my very sick brother with advanced Alzheimers.)

The recipes for today's blog are homemade corn tortillas, the ever popular hamburger filling and  Black Bean Corn Salsa.   

CORN TORTILLAS

The Mayans of ancient Mexico worshiped the god of corn and believed that man was created from corn dough, or masa, meaning that eating food made from corn was a special or even sacred experience.  These tortillas are to be served warm as bread, or fried to become the basis for tacos, tostados, or other dishes.  They can be frozen for up to six months. 

Yield:  12 (6-inch) tortillas 

2-1/2 cups masa from white, yellow or blue corn

1 teaspoon salt

About 1-1/4 cups hot water 

  1. In a medium-size bowl, combine masa and salt, and make a well in the center of the mixture. Mix in ½ cup of the water.  Continue adding water a little at a time, mixing well, until a firm dough is formed.  Finish mixing with your hands; this will give the best dough.  It should be firm and springy to the touch, not dry, crumbly, or sticky. 
  1. To test, roll a small ball of dough and flatten it between your hands. If cracks form, add more warm water; if it is too moist and sticks to your palms, add more masa.  For the best-quality tortillas, the dough should be easily handled. 
  1. Preheat a comal or well-seasoned skillet until it is very hot. Pull off one ball of dough at a time about the size of an egg.  Keep remaining dough covered with plastic wrap.  Roll each ball until round, then place it between sheets of waxed paper or plastic wrap.  Flatten in a tortilla press or with a rolling pin or the bottom of a cast-iron pan.  Trim the edges, if you wish, to get a round shape. 
  1. Place the tortillas, one at a time, on the hot ungreased surface and cook 1 or 2 minutes on each side, or until they have brown specks and become “dry” on the surface. Stack them as they cook, and wrap in a warm towel or napkin. 

Blue Corn Tortillas:

The dough for blue corn tortillas normally must be more moist.  However, if you still have trouble rolling and baking them, add ½ to 1 cup white or yellow masa and more warm water to make the dough easier to shape into tortillas.

NEW MEXICO STYLE BEEF TACOS

These are New Mexico style, featuring our fresh, pure red chiles.  The American style taco is usually topped with shredded lettuce, while in Mexico, cabbage--usually flavored or pickled is preferred.

Yield: 4 servings or 12 tacos

12 corn tortillas

Cooking oil

1 pound very lean ground beef

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 Tablespoons ground mild red chile

1 Tablespoon ground hot red chile

1 Tablespoon red wine or apple cider vinegar

¼ teaspoon dried Mexican oregano

½ teaspoon ground comino (cumin)

1 teaspoon salt

1 small onion, chopped

1 fresh tomato, coarsely chopped

2 cups shredded lettuce

1 cup grated cheddar cheese or to taste

1. Fry tortillas on both sides in ½ inch or more of hot oil. Fry each tortilla on one side until slightly crisp, but still pliable, then turn and fold in half. Allow one side to become crisp, then turn and fry the last side. You may want to fry several taco shells at a time and freeze the extras. For soft tacos,  heat on a cast iron coal or griddle until warmed with some brown flecks.

2. Lightly sauté the ground beef in a large skillet, then add the seasonings and cook and stir until well blended and the ground beef has lost its pink color. Drain off excess fat.

3. Place meat in the taco shells. Add the chopped onion, tomato, lettuce and cheese in layers. Heat briefly in a 450 F oven to melt cheese. Serve nested with extra lettuce and a side dish of salsa.

SALSA FRESCA

This refreshing sauce can be as mild or as hot as you like, depending on the chiles used.  Any leftovers of this sauce can be added to guacamole, made into salad dressing or chile con queso, and can be frozen for up to 4 months for later use in cooked dishes.

Yield:  1-1/2 to 2 cups

1 large fresh tomato, finely chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped onion, or 2 scallions with tops included
4 green chiles, parched, peeled and chopped, or 4 ounces of canned chopped green chiles (or 2 to 4 fresh jalapenos, finely minced)
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons coarsely chopped cilantro (optional)

1. Combine all ingredients; allow to marinate for at least 15 minutes.  Sauce keeps for 1 week when refrigerated.

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