Say good­bye to ground meat, hello tacos

The Standard Journal - - Farm & Garden - By MAR­I­AL­ISA CALTA Food Writer

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.)

Photo: Andrew Pur­cell

Por­to­bello and zuc­chini tacos

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