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TIP OF THE DAY: Beyond Taco Tuesdays & National Taco Day

October 4th is National Taco Day, and this year it coincides with Taco Tuesday. What does that mean?

Tacos for breakfast (recipe below), tacos for lunch, tacos for dinner, tacos for dessert. But first:

 
A BRIEF TACO HISTORY

SUrprisingly, the Aztecs did not invent the taco; nor did anyone else, until the 18th century.

According to Professor Jeffrey M. Pilcher, author of Planet Taco: A Global History of Mexican Food, tacos are not an ancient food.

Rather, as he discusses in an article in Smithsonian Magazine, Mexican silver miners in the 18th century likely invented the taco as a hand-held convenience food, followed by taco carts and taquerías in the working-class neighborhoods.

As the taco spread throughout Mexico, each region added its own touches: meats, spices, salsas, garnishes.

Mexican Americans in the Southwest reinvented it. As late as the 1960s, tacos were virtually unknown outside Mexico and the American Southwest.

In 1962, businessman Glen Bell founded Taco Bell as a drive-up with a few outdoor tables. It grew into a mass-marketing powerhouse, serving an Anglo version with a hard shell at quick-service restaurants nationwide.

This hard pre-fried corn tortilla shell (photo #2) is not authentic. Like the burrito, a larger wheat flour tortilla, it was born in the U.S.A.

Yet within 50 years the United States had shipped its hard taco shells worldwide, from Australia to Mongolia—redefining the taco in the eyes of millions, if not billions.
 
And Taco Tuesday?

This American event was begun in in 1982 as a successful promotion by Taco John’s. It encouraged people to go out for tacos on Tuesday nights, and offered specials like $1 fish tacos.

   

Mole Tacos

Pre-Fried Taco Shells

[1] An upscale taco in the classic mold. This one includes braised beef and mole sauce, with cottage cheese Here’s the recipe (photo courtesy McCormick. [2] Hard fried taco shells are an American invention. They stand up on their own (photo courtesy Old El Paso)!

 
Since tacos are easy to make at home and popular with the whole family, Taco Tuesdays is also a frequent event in home kitchens.

While Taco John’s trademarked the name, the trademark is no longer enforced. Now, it’s Taco Tuesdays for everyone!
 
TACOS BEYOND THE TRIED-AND-TRUE

You may think that National Taco Day is a day to celebrate the classics; but as you do, put on your thinking cap and invasion the next great taco combination you can make.

  • Sophisticated tacos. Chefs at better restaurants are pushing their creativity to transfer icon dishes to tacos. Try these braised beef tacos in mole sauce (photo #1).
  • Put your own spin on it. Ground beef tacos became cheeseburger tacos, for example. Grilled, sliced steak is popular in northern Mexico, and our tony friend Ordway wanted to try the concept with filet mignon. We made them for his birthday, with a sauce of melted gruyère, crème fraîche and salsa verde, a Mexican-French fusion. (May we say, it was a silly excess but very appreciated by the birthday boy. We’ve since gone with braised short ribs or lamb shank—DEE-licious.)
  • Trio of tacos. Our favorite dish at our neighborhood Tex-Mex restaurant is a trio of tacos, each with a different filling. Why choose just one?
  • Specialty tacos for every occasion, like these corned beef and cabbage tacos for St. Patrick’s Day.
  • Sashimi tacos. Fish tacos are great, but sushi lovers will adore these sashimi tacos as well. The shell is made from wonton wrappers. Fillings can be anything you like. Haru restaurant in New York City serves three full-size tacos: tuna with cherry tomato salsa, salmon with avocado and striped bass with apple yuzu ceviche sauce.
  • Dessert tacos. Whether they’re in a sideways waffle cone resembling a hard taco shell, or in a waffle from your waffle maker, this is fun food. How can you resist? Here’s the recipe. Warning: It’s not the neatest ice cream sandwich to eat. It’s best served on a plate at the table.
  •  

    Breakfast Taco

    Breakfast Burrito

    Dessert Taco

    From breakfast to dessert: [3] Breakfast taco with scrambled eggs and sausage (photo courtesy Imusa, recipe below). [4] A DIY set-up from David Burke Fabrick | NYC. [5] A simple dessert taco in a waffle cone shell (photo courtesy WeHeartIt.com). Add as many toppings as you like. You can use a waffle maker to make a soft waffle shell.

     

     
    RECIPE: DIY BREAKFAST TACOS

    Unlike the American-invented breakfast burrito, essentially an egg-and-sausage wrap sandwich, this recipe is truer to Mexican preparations.

    There’s a fight between Austin and San Antonio over the origin of the breakfast taco.

    At first, it was a breakfast made at home: eggs, sausage or other pork and cheese, rolled in a warm tortilla. In Mexican kitchens, tortillas are a staple, like a loaf of bread.

    The concept then migrated to breakfast stands and restaurants, as far back as the 1950s.

    Thanks to IMUSA USA, a maker of kitchenware for global recipes—for this breakfast taco recipe. You can find more recipes on their website.
     
    Ingredients

  • 6 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 chorizo links (about 7 ounces), diced
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 cup cilantro, divided
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sharp cheddar
  • 10-12 corn flour tortillas
  • Chipotle-flavored Tabasco or other hot sauce (substitute ketchup)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MIX the sour cream, lime juice and salt in a bowl; put aside.

    2. CHAR the tortillas over a gas flame or directly on an electric burner until blackened in spots, turning with tongs. Place in a tortilla warmer or aluminum foil and set aside.

    3. ADD the olive oil to a nonstick sauté pan and bring to medium-high heat. Sweat the onions for about one minute and add the diced chorizo. Cook for 5-6 minutes until chorizo is browned.

    5. ADD half of the cilantro and all of the cooked chorizo to the beaten eggs. Blend and pour into the pan. Cook on low heat, stirring from time to time.

    6. PLACE the cooked eggs, cheddar, tomatoes and remaining cilantro in separate bowls and lay them out throughout the table with the warm tortillas. Let everyone build their own.

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Savory Pancakes

    Bacon Corn Griddle Cakes

    Carrot Pancakes

    Flavor Flours Book

    [1] Bacon and corn griddle cakes from Recipe Girl—and here’s her recipe. [2] Carrot pancakes with salted yogurt, gluten free. Here’s the recipe from Jessica Koslow at Bon Appetite (photo Michael Graydon + Nikole Herriott). [3] You don’t need to use wheat. Check out these flours (photo courtesy ).

     

    September 26th is National Pancake Day. Normally, we’d make our favorite: buttermilk pancakes topped with smoked salmon, crème fraîche and chopped dill.

    We’d love them with a topping caviar: We’ll have that daily when our ship comes in.

    But until then, we’re not highbrow: Another favorite is chocolate pancakes with chocolate chips, topped with bananas and sour cream.)

    Today’s tip is: Take a fresh look at pancakes.

    Cultures around the world eat pancakes, both sweet and savory. Some have them as a main dish, some enjoy them as street food.

    There are so many choices:
    From Danish aebleskiver to Russian blini and latkes in Europe, to Chinese scallion pancakes and Japanese okonomiya, filled with shredded cabbage and other choices from shrimp to vegetables.

    In Malaysia, apam balik—folded pancakes—are made with rice flour and stuffed with a sweet peanut filling.

    In Somalia, anjero is a fermented, crepe-like pan bread made from sorghum and corn flowers. It looks like a thin pancake and is topped with sugar or beef. In South Africa, pannekoeke look like tacos, folded over with a popular filling of cinnamon custard and streusel.

    The fold-over technique is also used in the cachapas of Colombia and Venezuela: corn pancakes folded over grated queso mano or mozarella, and grilled until melted.

    Click the links above for the recipes.

    Take a look at the different types of pancakes in our Pancake Glossary.

     
    SAVORY PANCAKE TEMPLATE: CREATE YOUR OWN

    1. SELECT a flour: buckwheat, chickpea, chestnut, coconut, corn, nut, oat, rice, sorghum, spelt, teff, wheat, whole grain, etc.

  • Explore: Here’s a terrific book on cooking and baking without wheat flour.
  • Mix the batter. Check online recipes to see if you need to alter proportions.
  •  
    2. ADD your favorite ingredients:

  • Proteins: bacon, cheese, ham, sausage (chicken, pork), roe, seafood
  • Herbs: basil, cilantro, dill, parsley, sage, thyme, etc.
  • Spices: cardamom, Chinese five spice, cinnamon/pumpkin pie spices, cumin, curry powder, garlic, ginger, pepper, etc.
  • Fruits: apples, bananas, berries, dried fruits, stone fruits, tropical fruits, etc.
  • Vegetables: cabbage, carrot, corn, onion/green onion, pumpkin, zucchini, etc.
  •  
    3. PICK your toppings:

  • Dairy: butter or compound [flavored] butter, from jalapeño to strawberry; crème fraîche, mascarpone, sour cream, yogurt
  • Sweet: honey, syrup
  • Garnish of choice: Bacon, crumbled or grated cheese, toasted nuts
  •  
    4. FRY and serve.

     
    THE HISTORY OF PANCAKES

    We love this article from National Geographic, and recommend it as a short read on the history of pancakes.

    Archaeologists have discovered grains on 30,000-year-old grinding tools, suggesting that Stone Age man might have been eating grains mixed with water and cooked on a hot rock.

    While the result not have looked like the modern crepe, hotcake, or flapjack, the idea was the same: a flat cake, made from batter and fried.

    Ancient Greeks and Romans ate pancakes topped with honey, and a Greek reference mentions toppings of cheese and sesame as well.

    These foods were not called pancakes, but the first mention of “pancake” in an English dictionary dates to the 16th century: a cake made in a pan.

    According to the Oxford English Dictionary, “Flat as a pancake” has been a catchphrase since at least 1611.

    For the rest of the pancake’s journey to modern times, head to National Geographic.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: 10-Minute Chorizo Tacos

    Chorizo Tacos Recipe

    White Corn Tortillas

    [1] Make these tortillas in 10 minutes or less. [2] Artisan white corn tortillas from Tortillas de la Tierra (both photos courtesy Good Eggs).

     

    Nothing planned for dinner?

    Guests drop by for a beer or glass of wine?

    Finicky kids?

    [Fill in] your own challenge?

    There’s a quick, crowd-pleasing solution: chorizo tacos.

    The folks at Good Eggs, who sent us this recipe, rejoice that “the ease and flavor of these simple chorizo numbers knocked our socks off.

    “Give it a try and you’ll be wondering if it can be Taco Tuesday every day.”

    It can be used at lunch and brunch, too.

    RECIPE: QUICK CHORIZO TORTILLAS

    Ingredients For 4 Tacos

  • 1 package chorizo sausage (pork or turkey)
  • 1 bunch green onions (scallions), chopped
  • 1 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 10 tortillas de la Tierra
  • Optional: whatever you have in the fridge*
  • Optional: lime wedges
  •  
    ________________
    *Avocado/guacamole, beans, crumbled/shredded cheese, plain or pickled jalapeños, radish, salsa, sour cream, tomatoes (chopped), etc.
    ________________
     
    For A Side Of Salad

  • 1 bag mixed greens or other salad ingredients
  • Olive oil
  • ½ lemon
  • Preparation

    1. REMOVE the casing from the sausages. Place the chorizo in a cast-iron pan and sauté over medium-high heat until fully cooked, 7-10 minutes.

    2. WARM the tortillas on both sides, directly over the flame on your stove. Keep the tortillas warm in a dish towel as you continue to heat the stack. Alternatively, wrap the stack in a slightly damp dish towel and microwave until warm.

    3. PLACE a scoop of chorizo on each tortilla, along with some cilantro and green onions. If serving any optional ingredients, place them on the table and let people dress their own.

    4. DRESS the salad: Toss the greens with olive oil, the juice of half a lemon, season to taste with salt and pepper.

     

    HOW TO FREEZE TORTILLAS

    Some brands of tortillas with preservatives have a long shelf life in the fridge. Others don’t.

    To freeze tortillas, stack them with parchment or wax paper separating each tortilla, and place in a freezer bag with the air squeezed out. Then you can remove them one by one, as you need them, without tearing.

    If you typically use two or four tortillas at a time, place the parchment at that interval.

    The tortillas will keep for six to eight months beyond their “best by” date.

    Parchment separation is also advisable to hedge against tearing if you’re keeping tortillas in the fridge.
     
    HOW TO THAW & WARM FROZEN TORTILLAS

    Quick Thawing Techniques

  • Stove Burners: With electric or induction burners, place the tortillas directly on the burners and flip them with tongs. For a gas burner, hold the tortilla over the flame with tongs.
  • Microwave: Wrap in a kitchen towel (if the tortillas have started to dry out, use a damp towel. Microwave for 30 seconds to 1 minute 30 seconds, depending on how many tortillas you are heating. We use a rubber tortilla warmer—easy to store and great for microwaving any food.
  • Steamer: Wrap the tortillas in a kitchen towel and steam for a few minutes. They will stay hot if kept inside the towel.
  • Stovetop: Heat the tortillas in a pan, adding in a bit of water if you want to soften them.
  • Toaster Oven or Oven: Wrap the tortillas in foil and warm them in the oven.
  •  
    Slow Thawing

  • Slow: Defrost on the counter overnight.
  • Slower: Defrost in the fridge for 24 to 48 hours.
  •  
    NOTE: The towel or foil you wrap the tortillas in continues to keep them warm after they leave the heat source. Bring the tortillas to the table in the wrap.
     
    WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE QUICK HOT MEALS?

    Let us know!

     

    Freezing Tortillas

    Heating Tortillas

    Handmade Corn Tortillas

    [3] To freeze, stack the tortillas in a freezer bag with parchment paper (photo courtesy Americas Test Kitchen Feed). [4] Heat frozen or fresh tortillas over the burner (photo courtesy Wonder How To). [5] Look for artisan tortillas: so delicious, they’re worth the higher price (photo courtesy Hot Bread Kitchen).

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Plan A Dinner With Gujeolpan

    Gujeolpan

    Gujeolpan Platter

    Gujeolpan Pancake

    [1] Classic gujeolpan in a nine-sectioned octagonal plate (photo Jamie Frater | Wikipedia). [2] A beautiful non-traditional presentation at Siwhadam restaurant in Seoul. [3] Ingredients in the pancake (photo courtesy TheBeauti4.Blogspot.com).

     

    For a first course or a main dish, pass the gujeolpan.

    The what?

    In Korea, gujeolpan (gu-JOLP-an) is the name of a sectioned serving plate that holds nine different foods: eight delicacies and a stack of crêpe-like wheat pancakes (jeon)in the center, used as wraps. The shape that purportedly resembles a flower.

    Gu is Korean for nine, jeol is selection and pan is the plate. The idea is to present foods that represent different foods artistically: different textures and colors. Foods are separated by color and ingredients, and comprise various preparations of mushrooms, seasoned vegetables (bean sprouts, carrots, leeks, radishes, etc.).

    Today, it’s a special-occasion dish, served at banquets and weddings, and available at restaurants that specialize in it.
     
    HISTORY OF GUJEOLPAN

    An elaborate presentation, gujeolpan is one of the most beautiful centerpiece Korean dishes, colorful and aesthetically appealing. It was once available only to nobility. Today you can have it at Korean restaurants that specialize in ancient foods (and where it can be quite pricey), or make a version of it at home with modern recipes.

    The octagonal plate of yore is still used to present them; although these days any shape of platter or unsectioned dish can be used. The traditional ebony covered box can be replaced with a plastic version. There are also sectioned metal boxes, and ceramic or glass plates with depressions for the food.

    Gujeolpan dates back at least to the 14th century, and has become closely associated with the Joseon kingdom that lasted from 1392 to 1897 (when the country was officially renamed the Korean Empire).

    The plate can be quite elaborate, with a carvings, gold or brass embellishments and (for the very wealthy) gem encrustations.

    But you can create your own, and have fun with it as an appetizer, first course or light dinner.

    Might we add: It’s also a better-for-you, lower-calorie dish of fun?
     
    HOW TO EAT GUJEOLPAN

    As with Peking duck and other pancake-based Asian dishes, each person takes a pancake and fills it with the ingredients of choice. The ingredients are drizzled with sauce or other condiment, then rolled and eaten.

     

    HOW TO MAKE GUJEOLPAN

    If you have an Asian market, head there first to see what’s available. Otherwise, your produce store or supermarket will be a source of inspiration.

    But you can use anything you like. It’s very easy to pickle vegetables, for example; and you need only one meat and one fish.

    Create a balance of colors: brown, green, red, white, yellow. Consider:

  • Baby spinach, steamed and dressed with a bit of sesame oil
  • Bay scallops, marinated
  • Bean sprouts
  • Jeon (see note below)
  • Meat: lamb, pork, poultry, tofu, grilled or teriyaki, julienned
  • Mushrooms, marinated (we especially like enokoi and chanterelles)
  • Raw fish, thinly-sliced or cubed (fluke, salmon, tuna)
  • Salmon roe (ikura)
  • Seafood, raw (clams) or lightly cooked (crab, shrimp, squid, etc.)
  • Shredded or julienned carrots, cucumber, daikon/radish, scallions, seasonal (e.g. asparagus, ramps, sea beans), zucchini
  • Pickled cocktail onions, garlic, green beans or haricots verts (first cut to bite size)
  •  
    Non-Traditional Items

  • Baby arugula or watercress
  • European vegetables: endive, fennel, squash, etc.
  • Mayo-bound salads: crab, egg, potato, tuna, etc. (small dice)
  • Microgreens
  • Grilled or roasted vegetables
  • Sweet gherkins
  • Tartare: beef, salmon, tuna
  • Et cetera, et cetera and so forth
  •  
    Plus

  • Condiments on the side, e.g. chili paste, herb mayonnaise, horseradish, shredded basil, etc.
  • Korean mushroom and/or mustard sauces (recipes), soy sauce with vinegar
  •  

    Gujeolpan Plate

    Guljeopan Recipe

    Gujeolpan Recipe

    [4] A modern gujeolpan plate in metal with removable sections (photo courtesy Korea.net). [5] This plate has less than nine sections, but it works (photo courtesy Jungsik | Seoul). Or, repurpose a Passover plate. [6] You can use any plate (photo courtesy MarooDining.com.au).

     
    You can serve extra dishes, and fusion dishes; for example, beets, Japanese kimchi or gourmet sauerkraut (we’re crazy about Farmhouse Culture, which makes sauerkraut in Classic Caraway, Garlic Dill, Horseradish Leek, Smoked Jalapeño and Spicy Wakame Ginger).

    You can use a substitute for the pancakes (see next section).

    The biggest challenge is knife skills: slicing the ingredients thinly. On the other hand, this is an opportunity to practice your knife skills.

    Don’t forget the chopsticks!
     
    MAKING THE PANCAKES

    Here’s a recipe for traditional gujeolpan pancakes.

    You can also substitute:

  • Crêpes
  • Mu shu pancakes (recipe)
  • Nori (toasted seaweed)
  • Wonton wrappers
  • Other flexible wrap
  •   

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Drinks For Mexican Independence Day

    Tequila & Grapefruit Juice Cocktail

    Bandera Shots

    [1] The Paloma, said to be Mexico’s favorite tequila-based cocktail (photo courtesy TasteCocktails.com). [2] The Bandera comprises shots in green, white and red, the colors of the Mexican flag (photo courtesy FoodNetwork.com). [3] A layered bandora shot with chartreuse, maraschino liqueur (clear) and grenadine (photo courtesy BarinaCraft.com).

     

    September 16th is Mexican Independence Day. It’s also National Guacamole Day. Coincidence? We think not!

    Yesterday, we explained how Mexicans celebrated with shots of Reposda tequila, aged for up to a year.

    But what if you don’t like drinking straight tequila?

    You can enjoy another tequila cocktail or a non-alcoholic Mexican drink. Here are some of the most popular:
     
    RECIPE #1: MICHELADA: MEXICO’S BEER COCKTAIL

    You can have a plain Mexican beer, of course. Bohemia, Corona, Dos Equis and others are commonly found across the country.

    But if you like a bit of heat, have a Michelada (mee-cha-LAH-dah), a traditional cerveza preparada, or beer cocktail.

    Michelada is a combination of beer, lime and hot sauce served over ice in a salt-rimmed glass. Chela is Mexican slang for a cold beer, combined with mixto, referring to the the mix of ingredients added to the beer. Eliminate the hot sauce and you’ve got a Chelada.

    Here’s the complete Michelada recipe.
     
    RECIPE #2: PALOMA COCKTAIL, TEQUILA & GRAPEFRUIT

    This cocktail couldn’t be easier: 3 parts grapefruit soda and 1 part tequila, served over ice cubes in a highball glass, garnished with a lime wedge. You can add an optional salt rim.

    And you can make it by the pitcher-ful, which we’ll be doing tonight.

    Paloma is the Spanish word for dove. In Mexico the soft drink of choice is Jarritos brand grapefruit soda (in the U.S., look for it at international markets or substitute Fresca.

    You can purchase pink grapefruit soda from the premium mixer brand Q Drinks, or combine grapefruit juice with club soda or grapefruit-flavored club soda.

     
    At better establishments, fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice is combined with club soda. Use pink grapefruit juice and you’ll have a Pink Paloma (our term for it).

    Here’s the history of the Paloma from TasteCocktails.com, which says it’s the most popular tequila-based cocktail in Mexico.
     
    RECIPE #2: BANDERA SHOTS

    In Mexico the Bandera (flag), named after the flag of Mexico, consists of three shot glasses representing the colors of the flag (photo #2).

    The first is filled with lime juice (for the green), the middle has white (silver) tequila, and the last contains sangrita (for the red), a chaser that usually contains orange and tomato juices. Here’s the recipe from Food Network.

    You can also make layered shooter with liqueurs in the national colors (photo #3). Here’s a recipe.

     

    NON-ALCOHOLIC DRINKS

    RECIPE #4: AGUA FRESCA

    In Spanish, agua fresca means fresh water.

    In culinary terms, it refers to a variety of refreshing cold drinks that are sold by street vendors and at cafés throughout Mexico and other Latin American countries (photo #4). They’re also sold bottled at stores, and are easily whipped up at home.

    Agua fresca is nonalcoholic and noncarbonated. The recipe can include a combination of fruits or veggies, flowers (like hibiscus), herbs and/or spices, cereals (barley, oats, rice), seeds (chia), even almond flour (which is used to make horchata, the next example).

    A traditional agua fresca is an infused, sweetened water, flavored with fruits and/or vegetables—often a more complex layering of flavors than lemonade and limeade.

    Our favorite combinations: watermelon (or any melon), basil cucumber and mint hibiscus. Here’s how to make them.

    As you can see from this recipe template, it’s easy to mix your favorite flavors.
     
    RECIPE #5: HORCHATA

    Agua de horchata—horchata for short—is a very popular recipe, made from ground almonds and rice spiced with cinnamon (photo #5). Other flavors such as coconut can be added.

    Here’s a recipe from Noshon.it.

    It’s not conventional, but, you could add a shot of tequila or rum.

    After all, it’s a day to celebrate!

     

    Watermelon Agua Fresca

    Mexican Soft Drink

    [4] Whip up a pitcher of watermelon aqua fresca with this recipe from Whole Foods Markets. [5] Horchata, made from ground almonds and cooked rice, may sound unusual—but it’s unusually good (photo courtesy Noshon.It).

     

      

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