Thursday, October 4th is ‘National Taco Day’. Like many other ethnic foods, Tacos have become as American as Apple Pie, although Apple Pie actually originated in England. Just like people, there are many variations of tacos. If you want authentic tacos, try going to Olvera Street in Downtown Los Angeles where there are many Mexican Restaurants. Here in Newbury Park, we have a taco place that is as authentic as I have ever eaten here in the States. It is called ‘Taco Sanchez’ and it is situated in the old Taco Bell building by Roma’s Italian Deli right off of Borchard Road.
Pictured are Carne Asado Tacos
with Mango Salsa and Guacamole
Since Thursday is ‘National Taco Day’, it would be fun to make tacos for your family and/or your friends for dinner. Tacos are one of those dishes that can be turned into party food very easily and what is more fun than to have a Taco Bar Party. To make a Taco Bar Party or just Tacos for dinner you will need some important ingredients and you will have to decide what fillings your Tacos should have.
MEAT FILLINGS ACCOMPANIMENTS
- Carne Asada (Beef) Salsa Cruda
- Carnitas (Pork) Guacamole
- Chicken Shredded Cabbage or Lettuce
- Shrimp Diced Tomatoes
- Lobster Shredded Cheese
- Ahi Green Onions
- Tofu Sliced Radishes
Crema (Mexican version of Creme Fraiche)
Grilled Scallions (Green Onions)
To make your Tacos, it is best to prep all the items ahead of time, except maybe for the Meat Fillings which should be hot when served. Some items can be reheated, but most are best right after being origianlly cooked.
Prepare your Garnishes or Accompaniments first and refrigerate if there is going to be a lot of time between prep and serving.
salsa-cruda/ is an uncooked Tomato Salsa usually made with Tomatoes, Chilies, Garlic and Cilantro along with a little Salt and the Juice of a Lime or two.
Guacamole is a wonderful condiment made from Avocadoes, Garlic, Jalapenos (optional), Salt, Cilantro and Lime Juice. The Guacamole we were served in Guadlajara was simply mashed Avocadoes and Lime Juice, but I like it with the additional ingredients listed above. Mole refers to ‘sauce’ and the name guaca as told to me by one of my Hispanic Students just means crazy, mixed, so therefore,Guacamole is just a sauce of ‘mixed up’ Avocadoes. Hence, the mashed Avocadoes and Lime in Guadalajara. The lime wasn’t even in it – just served on the side. For the recipe go to chunky-guacamole/
Shredded Lettuce and Diced Tomaotes
The filling that I recently used was Ground Beef cooked with Garlic, diced Onions and diced Red Bell Pepper or Pimiento in Spanish. The Garlic and Onions were sauteed first and then the Beef was added. The Bell Peppers were added just at the end to avoid being overcooked.
Keep the Meat warm while frying your Taco Shells. You can also do the Taco Shells ahead and keep warm in the oven. Tacos are usually made from Corn Tortillas, but you can also use Flour Tortillas, especially if you want soft tacos. Corn Tortillas are usually fried crisp but you can also cook them so that they will be soft. When frying your Tortillas in Oil, be sure to either drain them on a rack set over a baking pan or drain on paper towels. The rack method is best in that the oil drips down. With the paper towels, the Taco Shells will be sitting on the oil that drains off of them. First fry them on each side, flat then use a wooden spoon to help fold them and leave a space for the filling to be put into.
Mexican Fruit Salad is a nice accompaniment to a Taco Meal. Use Tropical Fruit such as Papaya, Pineapple, Mango and Melons.
To complete the meal, add Mexican Rice mexican-rice/ or refried Beans.
Whichever way you make your Tacos, enjoy them or if you don’t feel like cooking, just go to your local Tacqueria!
Walk down the Mexican food isle of any grocery store and you will probably see at least a dozen different kinds of Salsa. Salsa which is a well-known Mexican condiment is just one of many types of sauces that are used by cultures around the world. Salsa, a favorite in Mexico and the South Western portion of the United States is made with Tomatoes, Garlic, Cilantro, Lime Juice, Salt, sometimes Onions and of course Chilies.
It is relatively easy to make your own Salsa and the happy result is Salsa the way you like it. Some like it hot and some like it mild and some like it in between. My favorite is Salsa Cruda and I don’t put onions in it. Salsa Cruda is made from raw vegetables: I just use diced Tomatoes, Cilantro, Garlic, Lime Juice, Salt and a small amount of Jalapeno Chilies. When the Chilies are diced and you can see the pieces, believe it or not, they won’t impart as much heat (unless of course you bite into one) as when the Chili is finely minced. One Chili finely minced has the heat equivalent of at least 2 or 3 diced Chilies.
There are cooked Salsas as well as raw ones. The cooked are usually more of a sauce in which you cannot necessarily see each individual ingredients whereas in Salsa Cruda, you know exactly what is in it. The cooked ones are usually made with chilies and tomatillos which look like little green tomatoes.
Cilantro which is a popular ingredient in Salsa is used widely throughout the world. In the Western World it is called Cilantro and in the Eastern part of the World it is called Coriander. They are both the same herb. At one time in the United States, Cilantro was also known as Chinese Parsley and it does belong to the parsley family.
In Argentina, a popular condiment is known as Chimichurri Sauce and no one in Argentina would think of serving a meal without Chimichurri on the table. Chimichurri is made with parsley, garlic, Olive Oil, Salt and Vinegar. It is not hot like salsa can be, but it certainly can be pungent because of the garlic. Every restaurant and every family has their own version of Chimichurri; there are probably as many versions of Chimichurri as there are Salsas.
Salsa is made in many forms. It usually is made with tomatoes but it can also be made with just onions and cilantro as the main ingredients; there is mango salsa, peach salsa, and pineapple salsa.
Chilies which are popularly used in salsa are Jalapenos and Serranos. Jalapenos are hot but they have more of a tang than the absolute hot heat that the Serranos have. As a rule, the smaller the chili, the hotter it is. When you are handling Chilies you need to be careful because once you get the capsaicin (the heat element in chilies) on your fingers it is very difficult to get off and you need to be careful not to touch your eyes, nose, mouth or other bodily orifices. It is best to use gloves when handling the chilies. The hottest portions of the chili are the seeds and the ribs inside.
Salsa or its equivalent is a dish with never-ending possibilities. It is delicious and can be made hot or not, depending on the taste buds of the person preparing it or who it is being prepared for. Try your hand at making your own version of salsa. Be original and don’t think you have to stick to any format. You never know what you may come up with! Maybe the next great condiment! Be sure and use the correct tools when preparing your Salsa. A small paring knife will come in handy for removing the seeds and ribs from the Chilies (the seeds and ribs are where all the heat is). A cutting board is a must for dicing your vegetables and a rubber mat or damp towel to put under the cutting board is also an important tool. The mat or damp towel will keep the board from slipping and sliding when you are dicing your vegetables and thereby avoid injury. Your garlic can either be minced with your paring knife or you can use a garlic press.
Try the recipes in our appetizer section and then after you do, create your own variations. More Cilantro, Onions if you want, more garlic, more lime juice and for the adventurous more chilies! Salsa does need some salt, but be careful! Too much can ruin your product. Enjoy creating and eating your salsa. Salsa can be served as an appetizer with chips or vegetables or it can be used as a salad dressing or a condiment for your meat dishes. Try one or two of the recipes below. The country next to the name is where it originated.
Salsa Cruda – Mexico
Mango Relish – Tropics
Chimichurri Sauce – Argentina