22 August 2007


My good friend Charlotte recently came back from a year in Africa and her first food request when she returned to the States was that we go to Chipotle for dinner. I hadn't been in quite a while and I had a 'wow- I think this is really good. Why don't I have burritos more often?' moments. It's because I think that they are a 'bad for you' food. Though I do try not to assign that label to too many things sometime I think it just happens subconsciously. After all, burritos tend to come smothered in cheese and sour cream in serving sizes more fit to body-building champions than paper-pushers like me. I started thinking about it and decided there must be a way to make tacos at home that a) had actual flavor and b) didn't make me feel like I had to go run a mile. First stop on the quest was the Farmers' Market as usual.

There we got little basket of yellow and red peppers for $2 (major score as they are usually $4 each in the supermarket) and some thin strips of beef. Charlotte had left us with a big ripe tomato that seemed perfect for a home-made salsa and in homage to Chipotle I decided to pair it corn as well.

On dinner night I was feeling very lazy so instead of scrambling to get everything on the table piping hot I decided to cook in shifts and serve everything room temperature. First the corn and tomatoes were mixed with chili powder, smoked paprika, cumin and fresh cilantro and left to chill out in their bowl. Then I grilled the peppers along with a red onion. While the peppers were grilling I made a rub for the beef and left it to sit for a few minutes. After the veg came off I grilled the meat, which was sliced so thin it only needed about 45 seconds on each side. Finally the tortillas (they were whole wheat and really quite good) got toasted directly on the gas burner and we sat down to dinner.

I was feeling quite relaxed since I hadn't been rushing to get things done and the tacos looked so pretty with the bright yellow peppers, purple onion, red and yellow salsa and strips of beef. The peppers and corn gave the tacos quite a bit of sweetness which I balanced out with the addition of some Sriracha sauce at the table as well as some sour cream (which is actually not all that bad for you in small doses). Altogether an excellent taco night.

Tomato-Corn Salsa
1 large ripe tomato, seeded and chopped
10 oz. frozen corn kernels, cooked (or you could substitute fresh)
one handfull fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
1 tsp. each salt, chili powder, cumin and smoked paprika
1 tsp. vegetable oil (can be omitted)
Sriracha or hot sauce, to taste

Put all of the ingredients in a serving bowl and mix. Let sit for at least 30 minutes before serving. Note: The salsa can get a bit juicy so I would recommend serving it with a slotted spoon)

Taco Beef
1 T each: chili powder, smoked paprika, cumin, brown sugar, salt
1 t. black pepper
2 t. vegetable oil
1/2 - 1 lb. beef sandwich strips or flank steak

Mix the spices and the oil well. Coat the beef and let marinate for 15 minutes to 1 hour depending on the cut of beef and how much flavor you want to impart.

Heat your grill pan (or real grill if you are lucky enough to have one) to high. Rinse most of the marinade off the beef and pat dry. Grill on both sides then let the meat rest for a few minutes before slicing into thin strips.

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