Taco Salad

Taco Salad

Taco salad is one of my favorite things.  Probably because I love tacos and taco salad is like having tacos on a grander scale.  Tacos are my measurement of a good Mexican restaurant.  Something sadly lacking in the Mid-West (and the upper part of the South).  For me, taco meat should be well seasoned.  And by seasoned I mean full of spices.  Bland taco meat is unforgivable.  Much like the unforgivable curses in the world of Harry Potter.

If I’m unhappy with the tacos I get, I usually say to Chaz, “I make it better.”  He’ll usually nod in agreement.  I think that’s just to placate me though.  I can get pretty opinionated about the Mexican restaurants out here.  Can you blame me?  I lived in North County, Southern California for a few years.  Authentic Mexican food is everywhere.  Visits back to see my best friend would always include Mexican food at some point.  I believe there were a few places she took me where I just sat back and rolled my eyes from sheer joy.   Or maybe I exaggerate.

I used to serve these with tortilla chips, normally made by myself.  I went through the evolution of frying them myself to baking them.  Baking is definitely faster and easier on the feet.  I don’t do tortilla chips much anymore and I didn’t make any this last time.

Since this is one of my first original creations from way back, it has been made many different ways with many different proteins.  Ground beef, ground turkey, ground chicken, chopped chicken, tofu, beans.  So, whatever your preference for your protein, it is doable.  Just note that when using chicken, turkey, beans, or tofu, you will also need to add the step of oiling your pan.   You can also do a half and half of meat and beans if you want to cut back on your meat budget for the week.

Taco Salad – serves 4 -6

1 pound ground beef (or protein of your choice)

1 onion, chopped and divided in half.

1 tablespoon, cumin

1 tablespoon, chili powder

1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

salt

1 head lettuce (I used red leaf for the picture), chopped

tomatoes, chopped

avocado, chopped

black olives, sliced (I buy the pre-sliced ones, it saves me time and from eating half the can while slicing them)

Heat a skillet over medium.  Add ground beef and brown.  If you are using other proteins as mentioned above, remember to oil your pan first.   Add salt to taste and then add half the onions.  Stir.  Add in the cumin, chili powder, and cayenne.  Stir occasionally until meat is cooked through.  Remove from heat.  To plate, cover bottom of the plate with lettuce and top with ground beef.  Sprinkle with tomatoes, onions, and black olives.  Add avocado around the edges of your salad.

If you are able to eat cheese or if you are dairy-free and use dairy-free cheeses, you can add it after your ground beef.  In my dairy days, I would used shredded colby jack.  I am not fond of the dairy-free cheese so I don’t bother with it.  I just add more avocado so I get the similar texture from the avocados.

Simplicity

 

Gluten-free pasta with Tofu & Veggies

 

Mario Batali posted a recipe for a simple pasta dish two weeks ago.  Spaghetti with Oil and Garlic.  It reminded me of my college and post-college days when I tired of marinara.  I learned how to make a rather tasty sauce full of veggies, making it high in nutritive value.  Either I made it too much or my taste buds changed because I stayed away from tomato sauce for a long time.  During those years I preferred my pasta tossed with basil, oregano, and parmesan.  One night I had 22 friends from church over in my tiny studio apartment (don’t ask how we all fit because I have no idea) and I made this simple pasta for them along with some grilled garlic bread.

After this reminder from Mario, I decided it was time for that simple dish again.  While the Tinkyada pasta was cooking, I sautéed some firm tofu, tomatoes, spinach, zucchini, and garlic.  I topped it with shredded hard Romano cheese when I plated our dinner.  It was delicious and certainly more nutritious than just herbs and cheese.  It wasn’t layered with different flavors and textures, but that isn’t the point of simple dishes.  Is it?  I savor levels of complexity in my food when I have it, but not all the time and most definitely not cooking it myself day after day.

Sometimes, simple is best.  And easiest.