Thursday, March 25, 2010

What's For Dinner Tonight? Taco Night!

As a kid I loved nothing more than taco night. It was the same thing - ground beef + taco kit + cheddar cheese, and I was more than alright with that back then. My exposure to Mexican food consisted of those monthly taco nights and the occasional run to Taco Bell. As I grew up, I fell in love with Mexican food, real Mexican food. While I still love a quick taco from the local taquería, there are so many benefits to making your own at home. The best is that you get to control the quality of your ingredients. Because the ingredients of a taco are so versatile, you'll definitely find something to suit everyone's tastes.

Quick Avocado Tacos
  • 3 avocados, peeled, seeded, and smashed
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 1 small jalapeno, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 2 large tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 1 bunch cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges
  • 8 corn tortillas
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 325 F.

Lightly brush tortillas with olive oil and place in a single layer on baking sheets. Heat for 5-6 minutes or until heated through.

In a medium bowl, gently mix avocados, garlic, and onion. Spread this mixture onto heated tortillas. Top with jalapenos, tomatoes, and cilantro. Squeeze the juice of a lime wedge over each taco. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 4. Ready in: 15 minutes

We always have salsa on taco nights. There's nothing better than a hot, spicy salsa served with warm tortilla chips. Alton Brown truly has the best tomato salsa recipe, and it's super easy too. You'll never buy the jarred stuff again!
  • 6 Roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 seeded and minced jalapenos, plus 2 roasted, skinned and chopped jalapenos
  • 1 red bell pepper, fine dice
  • 1/2 red onion, fine chopped
  • 2 dry ancho chiles, seeded, cut into short strips and snipped into pieces
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • Chili powder, salt, and pepper, to taste
  • Fresh scallions, cilantro or parsley, to taste
In a bowl, combine all ingredients. Place in refrigerator for up to 12 hours for flavor infusion.

Recipe courtesy of Alton Brown, The Food Network

Serves 4-6. Ready in 12 hours

There are tons of good bagged tortilla chips out there, but nothing beats homemade. If you don't want to go though the trouble of frying your own, try baking them.

Baked Tortilla Chips
  • 12 corn tortillas
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • Juice of 1 lime
Combine oil and lime juice in small bowl. Brush both sides of each tortilla with this mixture. Cut each tortilla into 6 wedges, using a pizza cutter or sharp knife. Place chips in a single layer on large baking sheets. Sprinkle with salt. Bake about 15 minutes, or until lightly browned and crisp, rotating baking sheets halfway through.

Serves 6. Ready in: 20 minutes

Nothing's better with spicy Mexican food than a good margarita! Remember to use good tequila only. the cheap stuff just doesn't taste good, and you're in for a killer headache tomorrow.

Classic Margarita
  • 2 oz 100% agave tequila (I use Cazadores)
  • 1 oz Cointreau
  • 3/4 oz freshly squeezed key lime juice

Vigorously shake ingredients, strain into salt-rimmed margarita glasses. Garnish with a slice of lime

(I use a mixture of coarse salt and sugar for a little extra sweetness, and I like mine on the rocks.)

Serves 2. Ready in: 2 minutes

Happy eating!