Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Almost Meatless and Almost Heatless Monday - Tostadas

My son declared his four favorite foods tonight at dinner.  (Only one fast food on the list and it was In n Out which I personally don't really count as regular fast food.) And I have to say I was proud that our Monday night, almost-meatless dinner was fourth on the list.  It's easy, cheap and healthy to boot.

Having grown up in Texas, Tex-Mex and BBQ are really the only two foodie claims-to-fame. We don't have any food movements coming out of TX and there isn't a Texas regional cuisine that I'm aware of.  (Correct me if I'm wrong.)

So for me, "Mexican" food is about as home-cooking and comforting as I can get. And my kids seem to be taking on that trait as well.  Our must-eats when visiting Texas are mostly Mexican joints.

Tacos, burritos, nachos and later in my teen years, fajitas were what Mexican used to be for me.  THEN, after a trip to an all-inclusive in Mexico, everything changed. Kyle and I found ourselves in a less populated area of the resort and saw employees eating something that looked like thick fried tortillas, eggs and a green sauce.  We asked to try it and realized we were totally missing out while dining with all the other touristy breakfast buffet diners.  That WAS breakfast for the last few days we were there and it was all I could think about after returning.  I honestly couldn't tell you about any of the other meals there, but I remember that breakfast vividly.

Wanting to know more and how I could replicate that food, I did what I've always done to learn about food.  I read.

Rick Bayless' books Authentic Mexican and then Mexican Everyday started me on the journey of learning how this cuisine differs vastly from Tex-Mex.  Rather than relying heavily on dairy and fat, this cuisine actually utilizes seasonal veggies much like other regional cuisines.  Tomatoes and chiles, of course, factor in heavily for salsas, but there's also jicama--a flavor cross somewhere between a water chestnut and an apple and the texture between an apple and a raw potato, greens, potatoes, herbs, squash, onions of all varieties, lots of tropical fruits, cactus.

In studying the authentic Mexican cuisine, I have learned how to make real salsa (nothing in a jar can even come close) and how to even make a darn good Mole Negro sauce.  I've learned that tacos really only come on corn tortillas and with just a sprinkling of cilantro, onion, and lime juice.  Maybe augmented by salsa if it's handy.  Sour cream and cheese never make an appearance on enchiladas, tostadas and other dishes we would expect them. Instead Crema, a very liquidy and only slightly sour cream and more crumbly cheeses such as Cotija are what you will see. 

While all this is good, and I really LOVE the freshness of authentic Mexican, I'm really only telling you all this to let my readers know that I DO know what real Mexican food is...and tonight's dinner, it ain't!

Well, it could be I suppose if we had used the well-roasted, oil-fried salsa I had in the freezer and I had thinned the sour cream with a little half n half, and I had purchased the Cotija cheese to crumble on top.  But I didn't do any of those things.

Going with my CWYG concept, I had sour cream (and a little Greek yogurt to stretch it), I had cheddar cheese, I had lettuce and continuing on with the not-authentic theme, I had Valentino hot sauce (which to my Mex cuisine cred is a legit Mexican hot sauce, but still not a freshly roasted and fried salsa).  So tonight it was Tex-Mex.

I followed Rick Bayless' well-worn method of bean cookery.  Rinse, load them in a crock pot, add some fat of some sort...olive oil, coconut oil if you're hard-core healthy, or some other sort...remember, I'm a Southern girl at heart, so bacon fat, if in the fridge, is the fat of choice for pintos even on meatless Monday.  Chopped onion and garlic are Mr. Bayless' flavor enhancers, but I also added a bay leaf and some cumin to get the flavor party started. Add a tea kettles' worth of boiling water, set that puppy on high and let it go. 

Here's the result after 6 hours of cooking on high
Once they were soft, I removed some of the cooking liquid (could have saved for soup later, but I didn't) and mashed them slightly. 

Adding them to a large skillet, I cooked the over medium high until they cooked down to a spreadable consistency. 

Lacking pre-made tostada shells, I simply brushed corn tortillas with oil and let them bake in the oven for about 10 minutes at 425 degrees to crisp.

Spread a little of the beans then finish it off as you wish.

See the little tangle of pink strands on the tostada at the top of the post?  These pickled onions are my new favorite condiment...yesterday's lunch featured them in the middle of a grilled ham and cheese!! YUM!  Here's a great recipe to make them, the only thing I did differently was add a bay leaf and a couple of tablespoons of raw sugar.

So no real recipe today, since it's really just that easy.

Print Page Copyright 2011 Christi Flaherty, Cook What You've Got

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