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!
Shellfish is one of my favorite foods and when it is available at reasonable prices I can’t pass it up. Our local warehouse store has bags of Calamari, Shrimp, Scallops and Mussels (Seafood Blend) at a reasonable price. It was a 3.5 lb. bag and I was able to get by with using only half and saving half in the freezer for another time. Of course, only three of us ate, so if the mouths you have to feed are more numerous, the whole bag would have to be used. The amount I purchased would make an ample dinner for six people.
One of my favorite things to do is to make what I call ‘clean out the refrigerator’ soup. So to make the Cioppino, I used what I had on hand which is the following: 1 Onion, 3 ribs of Celery, 3 Tomatoes, 2 Potatoes, 3 Carrots, Mushrooms, frozen Baby Peas, leftover Marinara Sauce, Tomato Paste, Balsamic Vinegar, Marsala Wine, Salt and Pepper plus fresh Basil and Oregano and some ground Thyme.. I had some lobster shells and shrimp shells in the freezer with which I made a seafood stock. And of course, there was the bag of shellfish that I had purchased.
I used a 12 cup pot in which I melted some Butter (about 4 Tbsps.); Olive Oil would be a healthier way to go and would have preferred that to the butter, but thought about it too late. In the melted Butter, I sauteed a diced Onion, sliced Celery and Carrots and the Mushrooms. When they were softened and just beginning to caramelize I add the Seafood Stock which I strained before adding. I also added the Marinara Sauce and let the whole thing simmer for about half hour. While the soup mixture was simmering I added a whole Jalapeno just to give it some umph. This was a fresh Jalapeno from a plant I have growing outside and the fruit of this particular plant is extremely hot, so I left it whole to prevent too much heat from penetrating the soup.
I then sauteed the seafood blend in some hot Olive Oil and let it cook for about three minutes or until the Mussels were fully opened and the Calamari was fully cooked. Be careful not to overocok seafood as overcooking it will toughen it.
I tasted the Vegetable Stock mixture and then added enough Salt and Pepper to season it along with the fresh Basil & Oregano. I also added about 1/4 teaspoon of ground Thyme. If you have fresh Thyme, that would be even better. It still needed some zing so I added a dash of Balsamic Vinegar and a splash of Marsala Wine. Just before serving, I placed the cooked seafood in my soup serving pot and covered it with the vegetable mixture.
I served the Ciopinno with garlic bread. This provided a hearty meal which went very well with a green salad, which by the way is not necessary as the soup is plenty to satisfy one’s appetite.
Today, I am going to skip right ahead to dinner as breakfast and lunch meals were not exciting and the day was pretty ordinary. For dinner we went to Keoki’s Tropical Paradise at Poipu Village Shopping Mall. Keoki’s interior is true to its name. It is truly a Tropical Paradise and as in most Hawaiian Restaurants, the walls are open to the surrounding outdoor area, which included Palm Trees and a Lagoon. We were seated nearest to the outdoor area which made the ambience very nice for dinner. In addition, on weekend evenings there is entertainment, Hawaiian Style; we enjoyed the music while we ate.
Since we are both light eaters we opted for the Sea & Land Pupu Platters. The Sea Platter consisted of Scallops, Shrimp and Crab Cakes and the Land Platter contained Beef Teriyaki Skewers, Egg Rolls, Pork Ribs on Mashed Potatoes with Skinny Onion Rings. The sauces and marinades were excellent and we entirely enjoyed our choices. Our beverages were Lite Beer for Ev and a Tropical Fruit Cocktail for myself.
For dessert we just had to try their famous Hula Pie. The Hula Pie is a large portion and was enough for the two of us. It was built on a chocolate cookies crust and contained Vanilla Ice Cream shot through with Coffee and was topped with Hot Fudge Sauce, Macadamia Nuts and Whipped Cream. The Hula Pie was a thoroughly satisfying ending to a delicious meal.