Say goodbye to ground meat, hello tacos
A recent broadcast of “A Prairie Home Companion” on public radio described the menu for a fictional “Mexican Fiesta Night at Mel’s Big Boy Buffet.” It featured the “All-U-Can-Eat Taco Sandwich”: two slices of white bread plus beans, rice, guacamole, hamburger, ketchup and sour cream.
This was obviously a “taco-ish” dish exaggerated for the sake of humor. But if you look at the tacos found in fast-food outlets, cafeterias and frozen food sections of supermarkets, and substitute tortillas for white bread, many of them are not that different from the radio version. These tacos tend to be high in sodium, fat, refined sugars and additives, while low in fiber, overall nutrition -- and, one could argue, taste.
In the 1950s, tacos were virtually unknown to Americans except those living in California and the Southwest, according to “The Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink.” That changed when burgerstand owner Glen Bell of San Bernardino, Calif., decided to make his favorite Mexican snack into a fast-food item; in 1962, he opened the first Taco Bell.
“Taco Bell had to overcome vast distrust and prejudice among many American consumers against Mexican restaurants,” writes editor Andrew F. Smith. Bell did this by emphasizing the similarities of a taco to a burger (ground beef, lettuce, tomato). Today, the taco is part of many Americans’ snacking habits, school lunches and fast-food entrees.
But it may be time to rethink the taco, says Martha Stewart in her new book “Meatless.” Her taco recipes are beef-free, but chock-full of healthy vegetables, beans, cheese and plenty of flavor. (Stewart also rethinks burgers, pizza, lasagna and other dishes for fabulous meatless fare.)
Note: For the recipes below, try to find organic corn tortillas or “sprouted” corn tortillas. Both types have a slightly heftier texture, and the corn flavor really comes through. PORTOBELLO AND ZUCCHINI TACOS Yield: 8 tortillas, or 4 servings
5 portobello mushrooms, stemmed and sliced 1/2-inch thick
2 teaspoons dried oregano 2 tablespoons olive oil 1/4-cup water Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 medium zucchini, cut into 2-by-1/2-inch sticks
1 red onion, halved and sliced 1/4 inch thick
8 small (4 1/2- to 6-inch) corn tortillas ( see note above)
4 to 6 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (1 to 1 1/2 cups)
1 cup halved or quartered cherry tomatoes
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss the mushrooms with 1-teaspoon oregano, 1-tablespoon oil and the water; season with salt and pepper. On another rimmed sheet, toss the zucchini and onion with the remaining oregano and oil; season with salt and pepper.
Roast both pans of vegetables, tossing occasionally until vegetables are browned and fork-tender, 25 to 30 minutes. The zucchini may cook faster than the mushrooms, so start checking after about 18 minutes.
Using tongs, hold each tortilla directly over a gas flame, turning until heated through, about 5 seconds. Alternatively, reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees, wrap the tortillas in parch- ment, then in foil, and warm for a few minutes in the oven.
To serve: Divide the mushrooms and vegetables among the tortillas. Top each tortilla with 2 to 3 tablespoons of cheese and about 2 tablespoons of chopped tomatoes. Serve warm.
( Recipe f r om “Meatless,” from the kitchens of Martha Stewart Living; Clarkson Potter, 2013.) BEANS-AND-GREENS
TACOS Yield: 8 tortillas, or 4 servings 3 tablespoons olive oil 2 red onions, sliced into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
5 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1-pound Swiss chard, stems and ribs removed, leaves washed well and coarsely chopped
1 cup cooked or canned cannellini beans, drained and rinsed 1/2-cup vegetable stock Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 (8-inch) white corn tortillas (see note above)
2 ounces crumbled fresh goat cheese (1/3 cup) Fresh cilantro sprigs Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook onions until soft, stirring frequently, about 6 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Stir in chard, beans and stock. Cook until greens are wilted and beans are warmed through, about 4 minutes. Season with salt, pepper.
Using tongs, hold each tortilla directly over a gas flame, turning until heated through, about 5 seconds. Alternatively, wrap the tortillas in parchment, then in foil, and warm for a few minutes in 350-degree oven.
Divide the chard mixture among the tortillas. Sprinkle with cheese and cilantro and serve.
( Recipe f rom “Meatless,” from the kitchens of Martha Stewart Living; Clarkson Potter, 2013.)
Portobello and zucchini tacos