What do you think of when you hear “tacos”? The traditional street food from Mexico that was introduced to this country in the early 1900s? Your mother’s “ground beef-hard shell-jarred salsa” taco night? Taco Bell? Or, do you think of today’s tacos — those that have been diversified, fancified, and globalized as they make their way through every culture, cuisine and country?
That’s what this month’s Creative Cooking Challenge is all about — tacos and their infinite variations.
Once I decided to go with a seafood trio, it was fun putting an international spin on it by marrying different cultures and indigenous ingredients while keeping a Mexican profile. The first was the Italo-Mex — not unlike the fried calamari you order in an Italian restaurant, right? The Americano embraced American ingredients, particularly from the South and coastal areas, and the Asian introduced some Pan-Pacific flavors.
Don’t ask me which was my favorite! It’s like asking which of your children is your favorite. I loved all 3. I came away from this challenge saying to myself that I should make tacos more often!
Fried Squid, the Italo-Mex Taco
Fried Squid with Roasted Tomato, Garlic and Green Chili Salsa. Topped with Crema and Cotija Cheese.
Salmon with Corn and Peanut Salsa. Topped with Avocado Salad Dressed with Cilantro and Green Chili Vinaigrette.
Spicy Sriracha-Sesame Shrimp, the Asian Taco
Sriracha and Sesame-Marinated Shrimp with Black Bean Salsa and Thai Chili Aioli. Topped with a Papaya and Cucumber Salsa (to cool it off).
Note to Self: White flour tortillas would have given better photographic contrast!
Note to Readers: I grilled (store bought) soft and thin corn tortillas.
The #3 has symbolism outside this taco post. It has significance in numerology, the bible, photography and home decoration so, as my mind was set in triples, I couldn’t help but think of another trio.
In the world of Spanish-language music, this is sweet-sounding, romantic, easy to listen to, easy to dance to — and, if you know the music, no doubt nostalgic. Like me, you probably have memories attached to every song. Sadly, the genre is not as popular as it was a couple of decades ago, but the classic songs tend to live on. The most famous trio was Trio Los Panchos — 2 of the members came from Mexico and the third from Puerto Rico. Here’s a sample of their music and one of my all-time favorite songs.
I’m sure the other members of CCC will wow us with more taco variations when the round-up is published by Lazaro Cooks on July 29. See you there!
A perfect meal has multiple levels of flavor and textures, bright colors and tastes, and healthy(ish) choices. It's all about enjoyment. Enjoy the process, the presentation and the just rewards...eating!
I've always been a culinary improvisor which means I get my kicks out of recipe development. In the FOODalogue kitchen each meal is an adventure and the journey is as exciting as the destination. My favorite kitchen tools are imagination and intuition. I rarely look at a recipe, not even my own!
On these pages, I suggest food pairings and techniques to be experimented with...in your own kitchen...to your own spice levels...and to your preferred portion sizes.