Tacolicious Guajillo Short Rib Tacos

Tacolicious Tahoe.  That’s at my house these days.   These tacos and an Achiote Chicken have been my breakfast and dinner for several days.    Who could ask for anything more?

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Tacolicious is one of my favorite restaurants in the SF Bay Area– and sure, it’s easier to sit outside on Chestnut Street, sipping a beer and waiting for someone to bring me a taco, but it’s less crowded here.  I can start the barbecue (my new summer oven) put the ingredients together in a dutch oven, pop them in the barbecue, open a beer, watch a movie, or  sit outside reading and noodling in the sun.  Guajillo short ribs are ready for tacos about 3 hours later.

If you’re coming over for dinner this summer, that’s what I’m serving.

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INGREDIENTS

  • 8 guajillo chiles, stemmed and seeded
  • 3 dried chipotle chiles, stemmed and seeded
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 pounds boneless beef short ribs
  • 1 large yellow onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 1 (12-ounce) bottle Negro Modelo or other dark Mexican beer
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons dried Mexican oregano
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Corn tortillas, warmed, for serving
  • Chopped white onion, chopped fresh cilantro, salsa of choice, and lime wedges, for serving

PREPARATION

Preheat the oven to 325°F.

Working in two batches to avoid crowding, lightly toast all of the chiles in a dry, heavy skillet over medium heat for 30 seconds on each side, until fragrant but not blackened. Set them aside on a plate.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a Dutch oven or other heavy pot with a lid over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, working in batches to avoid crowding, add the meat and sear for about 3 minutes on each side, until the pieces have formed a uniformly browned crust. Add more oil to the pot as needed to prevent scorching. As the pieces are ready, set them aside on a plate.

Add the onion to the same same pot over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes, until it starts to brown. Add the garlic and cook for an additional 2 minutes.

Pour in the beer, add the toasted chiles, and turn down the heat to low. Simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes, until the chiles have softened and are pliable. Remove from the heat and let cool.

Transfer the contents of the pot to a blender and reserve the pot. Add the cumin, pepper, oregano, salt, and water to the blender and blend the mixture on high speed until smooth and the consistency of cream, adding more water if needed to thin the mixture a bit.

Return the seared meat to the pot and pour in the chile mixture. Cover, transfer to the oven, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 to 4 hours, until the meat is fork-tender.

Remove from the oven and, using tongs or a couple of forks, shred the meat in the pot. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt if needed. Serve with the tortillas, onion, cilantro, salsa, and lime.

Shredded Romaine and Cucumber Salad

with a YUMMY yogurt dressing.  My new FAVORITE salad!  I think I’ve eaten it 5 of the past 9 days.   I’m a pushover for anything with cucumber in it, and the herbs give this salad such a fresh and sparkly taste.  Super easy to make — it’s gonna be your favorite salad too!  Don’t forget the aleppo pepper!

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For the dressing

  • 2 T. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 T. good-quality Champagne or Chardonnay vinegar
  • 1-1/2 t. granulated sugar
  • 1 t. minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup plain whole-milk Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 T. extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the salad
  • 1 large head romaine
  • 1 English cucumber
  • 1 cup baby arugula
  • 3/4 cup lightly toasted walnut halves, 2 to 3 T. reserved for garnish
  • 2 T. chopped fresh dill
  • 1 T. chopped fresh mint
  • 1 T. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 t. Aleppo pepper
 Make the dressing

In a small bowl, combine the lemon juice, vinegar, sugar, and garlic. Let stand for at least 10 minutes to mellow the garlic. Whisk in the yogurt. Slowly drizzle in the oil, whisking constantly to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Make the salad

Wash and thoroughly dry the romaine leaves (the dressing won’t cling if the lettuce is wet). Slice the leaves crosswise 1/4 inch thick and transfer to a large bowl.

Peel, halve, seed, and grate the cucumber on the large holes of a box grater. Squeeze out any excess water with your hands and add to the lettuce. Crumble all but the reserved walnuts into the salad. Coarsely chop the arugula and add that to the bowl along with the dill, mint, and parsley. Keep cold until ready to serve.

Toss the salad with dressing to coat generously. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with the Aleppo pepper and reserved walnuts and serve.

From Fine Cooking

Chicken Chilaquiles

My colleague and friend, Hector, is an amazing cook.  He makes killuh salsas with complex flavors, tacos de papas, tacos de anything at all and the best chilaquiles I’ve ever had.

chilquiles

The past couple of summers he and his wife, Belen have come up to Mark and Tony’s home in Sonoma, and we’ve celebrate his hard work in the Vineman Triathlon with a few friends.  In spite running a marathon, swimming 2.4 miles, and biking 112 miles, Hector still made breakfast for all of us while sipping on a michelada.  This is where I fell in love with chilaquiles minus the eggs.

This is not his amazing El Pato sauce recipe, but instead a 20 minute meal that I can make midweek.  I make half a recipe and it’s perfect for two meals and a lunch. Taste the tomato sauce in the blender to determine how much chipotle works for you.  Mexican comfort food at its best (and easiest)!!  Super worth it, Mike!

One 28-ounce can fire roasted tomatoes, drained and 1/2 cup liquid reserved
2 chipotles in adobo
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large white onion, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
1 1/2 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth
Salt

8 ounces thick cut tortilla chips
1 1/2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken (supermarket)
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese or queso fresco

1/3 cup sour cream
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro leaves

  1. In a blender, combine the tomatoes with their reserved 1/2 cup of liquid and the chipotles; blend until almost smooth.
  2. In a very large, deep skillet, heat the oil. Add two-thirds of the onion and cook over moderately high heat until browned around the edges, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Pour in the tomato puree and simmer, stirring, until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the stock and boil the sauce over moderately high heat until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and remove from the heat.
  3. Gently stir the tortilla chips into the sauce, making sure they are well coated. Top with the remaining onion, the shredded chicken and the Parmesan cheese. Dollop the sour cream over the chilaquiles, sprinkle with the cilantro and serve immediately.

Mexilicious Rice

When I left home and had to figure out how to cook for myself, one of my staples in my limited repertoire for a “fancy” dinner was a box rice product called Herb and Butter rice — but I can’t remember the company name.  It wasn’t Knorr — or Rice-a-Roni . . . but I can see that box in my mind as clear as day.  My OTHER favorite rice from the same company was what they called “Spanish” rice.

A lot of years have passed , and I now have a favorite scratch recipe for Mexican rice.  This makes quite a lot, but it’s what I pack for my work lunch for a few days after I make it.  It’s easy to make, and as always, fresh ingredients–the best you can find — take any recipe from meh to amazing! ARRIBA!!

mexican-rice

Ingredients:

12 ounces tomatoes, very ripe and cored
1 medium white onion
3 medium jalapenos
2 cups long grain white rice
1/3 cup canola oil
4 minced garlic cloves
2 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon tomato paste (may omit if using canned tomatoes)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, minced
1 lime

Directions:

1.  Adjust rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350.
2.  Process tomato and onion in processor or blender until pureed and thoroughly smooth. Transfer mixture to measuring cup and reserve exactly 2 cups. Discard excess.
3.  Remove ribs and seeds from 2 jalapenos and discard. Mince flesh and set aside. Mince remaining jalapeno. Set aside.

4.  Place rice in a fine mesh strainer and rinse under cold running water until water runs clear- about 1 1/2 minutes. Shake rice vigorously to remove excess water.This step removes the starch from the rice so it will be dry and fluffy in the finished dish.
5.  Heat oil in heavy bottomed oven-safe 1o or 12 inch straight sided sautee pan or Dutch oven with tight fitting lid over low-medium heat about 2 minutes. Drop a few rice grains in, and if they sizzle, the pan is ready. Add rice and fry stirring until rice is light golden and translucent, about 6-8 minutes. Be careful that the oil doesn’t get too hot too fast or the oil will splatter.

6. Reduce heat to medium, add garlic and 2 minced jalapenos and cook , stirring constantly until fragrant, about 1 1/2 minutes.
7. Stir in broth, pureed mixture,tomato paste, and salt. Increase heat to medium high, and bring to a boil.

8. Cover pan and transfer pan to oven to bake until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender, 30-35 minutes. Stir well after 15 minutes.
9. Stir in cilantro, minced jalapeno to taste, and pass lime wedges separately.

The Legendary La Vic Orange Sauce

There are three La Victoria taquerias in San Jose — I’m not completely in love with their tacos as my favorite taqueria is around the corner from my house.  But this . . . .this delectable orange sauce . . .  kicks boring to the curb!!!   I have been known to put it on grilled corn, rice, grilled chicken, shrimp, pork and beef, veggie tacos, and I’ve added it to my salad dressing.  There is always a little squeeze bottle of this in my fridge.  Get off the bus, Bobby Flay.

la vic

Makes about 3 cups

Ingredients

2 Roma tomatoes, halved lengthwise
1/2 yellow onion, sliced into 1/2″ thick rounds
1 cup vegetable oil
3 cloves garlic
1/2 c. packed chiles de arbol, stemmed
1/3 c. cider vinegar
1/2 c. water
1 T. kosher salt

Directions

  • Faux Chef’s Note:  Taste as you go as you add the chiles de arbol!  The chiles we buy differ wildly in terms of freshness and taste.   Add just enough to give you the hear you like.  I’ve added 1/2 cup and loved it — and another time the same measure made the salsa like eating molten lava.

Position a rack on the top level of the oven, about 4 inches from the broiler.  Turn on the broiler, then line  baking sheet with aluminum foil.  Place the tomatoes cut side down and the onion slices on the prepared baking sheet and broil 10 to 12 minutes until veggies are soft and a bit charred.  Let cool to room temperature.

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a sauce pan over medium heat.  When the oil is hot, add the garlic and cool for about 3 minutes until browned, turning the cloves several times.  Now add the chiles, turning them a few times for 1 to 2 minutes until they just start to darken.  Take care they do not burn.

Transfer the chiles and the garlic to a blender, pour in the vinegar and water and let the mixture stand for 5 minutes until the chiles soften. Add the roasted vegetables and any juice in the pan and the salt and puree at high speed until smooth.

Turn down the blender speed to low and SLOWLY pour the rest of the vegetable oil in a small steady stream so that the sauce emulsifies.  The end result should be slightly thick.  Store in an airtight container  in the fridge for up to two weeks.

Ciao Down Fish Tacos

I didn’t know I loved fish tacos until only a few months ago.  I met some friends at Cascal, and we ordered several small plates, and after I had one of the fish tacos with a cucumber and jalapeño margarita, and that’s all she wrote —  that’s all I wanted the rest of the evening.

LOVE these– my first attempt — easy to make and paired with the Italian salsa (yeah — I know — ITALIAN-Y!! Check out the capers!) and the infamous La Vic orange sauce, they  made me feel very Mexi-Italian.  This recipe goes nearly to the top of my faves.

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PICO DE GALLO:

  • 1 1/2 pounds mixed heirloom tomatoes, not overly ripe, medium dice
  • 3 tablespoons capers, rinsed and chopped
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, stems removed, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 small red onion, diced small (about 1/2 cup)
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

FISH TACOS:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup medium ground semolina flour (super important to the recipe because it makes the batter crunchy after the fish is cooked)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 bottle lager beer
  • Canola oil, for frying (you’ll need at least 4 to 8 cups)
  • 2 pounds tilapia or cod cut into small finger size pieces (otherwise they won’t fit in the tortilla!)
  • Twelve 4-inch soft corn tortillas or smallest size available
  • 2 cups shredded lettuce, for serving
  • 1 avocado, sliced, for serving
  • Lemon wedges for serving

DIRECTIONS

For the pico de gallo: Mix together the tomatoes, capers, olive oil, lemon juice, cilantro and onions in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper.
For the fish tacos: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Whisk together the flour, semolina flour, baking powder, sea salt and some pepper in a large bowl. Slowly whisk in the beer and set aside. 

Add enough canola oil to a large cast-iron or other low-sided skillet to come halfway up the sides. Heat the oil to 350 degrees F. (Use a deep fry thermometer to be sure – or do it the grandma way and add a piece of bread to see if it fries and browns – if it does, it’s ready). 

Slice the tilapia into 1/2-inch strips or “finger”-size pieces. 

When the oil is hot, dip each piece of tilapia into the batter using tongs, allowing excess to drip off. Carefully add to the hot oil one piece at a time. Fry in batches until golden brown and the fish is cooked through, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon or skimmer and drain on a paper-towel-lined baking sheet. 

Meanwhile, warm the tortillas by wrapping them in foil and placing them in the oven for 10 minutes. To serve, place one piece of fish on a warmed tortilla. Top with shredded lettuce and an avocado slice. Serve with a lemon wedge, and pico de gallo.
From Gabriele Corcos

Couscous Salad with Tomato and Cuke

My current favorite summer salad! Be sure to use Israeli or pearled couscous — it’s the bigger and tastier version of the conventional kind.  Cool and refreshing!

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INGREDIENTS

  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup Israeli couscous (pearled couscous)
  • 6 to 8 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, to taste (I usually split the lemon juice with white wine vinegar — 3 tablespoons lemon juice and 2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar)
  • 1 cup Italian parsley, chopped
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh mint
  • ½ pound ripe tomatoes, very finely chopped
  • ¾ pound cucumbers (1 European or 4 Persian), seeded if using regular cucumbers, cut in fine dice
  • 1 bunch scallions, finely chopped, or 1/4 cup chopped chives, or thinly sliced red onion
  •  Salt to taste

Tastes great with crumbled feta cheese!

PREPARATION

  1. Heat one tablespoon of the olive oil over medium-high heat in a medium saucepan and add the couscous. Stir until the couscous begins to color and smell toasty, 4 to 5 minutes. Add 2 cups water and salt to taste and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer 15 minutes, or until the couscous is tender. Drain if any liquid remains in the pan.
  2. Transfer the couscous to a large bowl and toss with the lemon juice, parsley, mint, tomatoes, cucumbers, scallions or chives and salt to taste. Add the olive oil, toss together, taste and adjust seasonings. Serve over with lettuce leaves.

Grilled Lemongrass Pork and Rice Noodle Salad

I am in love with Asian Box, a small chain takeout restaurant in downtown Mountain View.  You HAVE to check this out:  http://www.asianbox.com/menu.

Everything on that menu (except maybe the caramel egg) is so delicious, but it took just a couple visits to find my favorite:  Lemongrass pork with chilled rice noodles, bean sprouts,crispy shallots, peanuts, herbs, veggies, lime squeeze and peanut sauce . . .  OH — and Asian Street Dust!

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But I live too far away to make this an easy stop— and parking on Castro Street in Mountain View is just this side of impossible.  So, I’ve been making my own Asian box salad (super easy), and I’ve got it nailed except for the Asian Street Dust, but I’m working on that.  It is seriously so good, I ate it three meals in a row last week.

 

Pork and Marinade

4 large garlic cloves, thickly sliced
3 large stalks of fresh lemongrass, tender inner white bulb only, sliced crosswise
2 large shallots, thickly sliced
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1.5 pounds boneless pork loin or any pork chop you like, sliced 1/4 inch thick

In a food processor, finely chop the garlic, lemongrass and shallots. Add the sugar, fish sauce, lime juice, vegetable oil and soy sauce and process to a paste. In a large shallow dish, coat the pork with the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 and up to 4 hours.

When ready to compose the salad, grill pork slices on a hot grill about 2 minutes on each side.

NUOC CHAM (dressing)  I can DRINK THIS!

  • 1⁄4 carrot, cut in long strips with a potato peeler(2-inch piece)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons  sugar
  • 1⁄2 cup  warm water
  • 1⁄4 cup Asian fish sauce (I’m a Red Boat fan)
  • 1⁄4 cup  fresh lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 red Thai chile, thinly sliced, I used a serrano (2-3 more if you like it hot)
  • 1 green onion, chopped

Okay. The dressing is tough to make.  Get a bowl.  Mix the ingredients in it. Done.

RICE-VERMICELLI SALAD

1/2 pound rice vermicelli

English or Persian cucumbers, julienned

a 3″ piece of a daikon radish, peeled and julienned

1/4 cup peanuts chopped

1/4 cup each of chopped cilantro and fresh mint

lime wedges

Place rice vermicelli in a pot of boiling water and cook for 60 to 90 seconds.  Pour into a colander and run cold water through the noodles until they are cool.

Put a handful of vermicelli in a bowl and top with slices of lemongrass pork, julienned daikon, carrot,  and Persian or English cucumber, chopped cilantro and mint, chopped peanuts and lime wedges.  Drizzle salad with nuoc cham and eat it up.  You’re gonna LOVE THIS!!

Burrata and Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells

I have been cooking . . . a lot. But work interferes with free time, and my recipes are stacking up.  Time to retire!  Eventually.

BS burrata

This is my new favorite pasta — 15 minute prep time and then put it in the oven. Delicious autumn-y, cheesy, lemony comfort food.

INGREDIENTS

1 medium butternut squash, halved lengthwise and seeded
2 teaspoons olive oil
½ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
One 12-ounce package jumbo pasta shells
1 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped and smashed
3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice (juice of ½ lemon)
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano
Two 8-ounce or four 4-ounce burrata balls

DIRECTIONS

1. Preheat the oven to 400° and line a sheet tray with parchment paper.

2. Place the squash onto the prepared sheet tray and season the flesh with the olive oil and salt. Turn them so that they’re cut-side down and roast until tender, 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool for 7 to 10 minutes, then scoop the flesh into a medium bowl and set aside. Lower the oven to 375°. Yields about 3 cups. Make ahead: The squash and can be roasted and stored in fridge for up to 2 days.

3. While the squash is roasting, boil the pasta: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the jumbo shells to the water and cook until barely al dente, 9 minutes. Drain the pasta and rinse under cold running water for 1 minute.

4. In a large bowl, combine the ricotta, ¾ cup of the Parmesan, the egg, garlic, parsley, lemon juice and zest, oregano and cooled roasted squash. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt. Fill each cooked pasta shell with 1½ tablespoons of filling and snuggle the shells into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.

5. Tear the burrata over the pasta, letting the curds and cream fall over and around the shells. Top with remaining Parmesan and bake until golden brown and bubbling, 30 minutes. Serve.

From Tasting Table

Baked Penne with Fresh Ricotta and Sausage

This is my favorite comfort food of the year.   You can make it any way that works for you, but it is only sublime with homemade ricotta which takes only 3 minutes of active time — 15 minutes of just letting it sit in a sieve to drain — and which tastes NOTHING like that cheese whiz gunk in tubs that you can buy at the grocery store.  I have made this for everyone I know.

penne

The rest of this recipe is super easy and the outcome is heavenly.  Make it!

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 pound hot or sweet Italian fennel sausage, casings removed
  • One 28-ounce can tomato puree
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground fennel
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 pound penne
  • 3 cups Creamy Ricotta
  • 1/2 pound fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 400°. In a large saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Add the garlic and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until lightly browned, about 1 minute. Add the sausage and cook, breaking up the meat, until browned, about 8 minutes. Add the tomato puree, water, sugar, bay leaf and fennel. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Simmer over low heat until thickened, about 30 minutes. Remove the garlic, mash it to a paste and stir it back into the sauce; discard the bay leaf.
  • Meanwhile, cook the penne in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Using a slotted spoon, add the cooked sausage to the pasta, then add 1 cup of the tomato sauce and toss to coat the penne. 
  • Spoon the pasta into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Pour the remaining tomato sauce over the pasta and dollop large spoonfuls of the Creamy Ricotta on top. Gently fold some of the ricotta into the pasta; don’t overmix—you should have pockets of ricotta. Scatter the mozzarella on top and sprinkle with the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Bake the pasta for about 45 minutes, or until bubbling and golden on top. Let rest for 20 minutes before serving.

From Food and Wine magazine

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