Travel: Bay Area Taco Roundup

One of the things that nearly every New Yorker laments (besides the obvious, like the tourists and the un-air conditioned cars in the subway) is the lack of good Mexican food in the city. Of course, that's a generalization, and there are plenty of great places like Dos Toros and Empellon al Pastor (also Rockaway Taco, RIP, is still the best fish taco I've ever had.) But for inexpensive, consistently good tacos, California always wins. Ari and I were in Sonoma and Oakland last week for vacation, and I had tacos a total of four separate times (I know, I think I have a problem.) Here's where we ate (plus a couple of favorites from other trips):

Sonoma

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El Molino Central The standout at this seasonal taqueria was actually the pork tamale–super moist with plenty of meat, and just as good reheated the next day for breakfast with an egg on top. An excellent place to stop for lunch if you're in wine country, plus they have a nice outdoor patio.

Taqueria Los Primos Cheap, delicious, super filling. We got two carnitas tacos, two chorizo tacos and an horchata bigger than my face for a grand total of $12–plus it came with free chips and homemade salsa.

Oakland

Cactus All I'm going to say is go quickly and get the crispy chicken tacos. You'll thank me.

San Francisco

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Sweet Woodruff Not your typical taqueria, this coffee shop nonetheless had delicious breakfast tacos filled with bacon, eggs, queso fresco and pico de gallo. The iced coffee was pretty spot-on as well.

Tacolicious This relative newcomer is already a mini-chain in San Francisco and Palo Alto, and does not disappoint. I had the chorizo and potato, short rib and carnitas tacos and all were equally delicious (plus the avocado salsa made everything better.)

Would love to hear about your favorite Mexican places in the comments!

 

 

 

 

Cocktail: Margarita

IMG_2089In case there were any doubts that global warming is happening, it hit 90 degrees in New York this week. 90! After what felt like a week of beautiful spring weather, I guess it's already summer. Which is why you need this margarita in your life.IMG_2096 I made these a few weeks ago when it was still feeling rather wintery and after the first sip, said to Ari, "These should be drank on a beach." (And not in a small first-floor apartment.) While I still agree with that sentiment, margaritas taste equally good after a long day at work when you need something not too sweet that goes down easy–preferably accompanied by some guacamole.

Margarita (Makes 1, very slightly adapted from PUNCH)

1 1/2 ounces blanco tequila

3/4 ounce orange liqueur (preferably Cointreau, but I used triple sec)

3/4 ounce lime juice

Salt (to rim the glass)

Prepare a coupe, cocktail or rocks glass with a salted rim if desired (to do so: rub a lime wedge around edge of glass. Pour coarse salt onto a small plate, then twist glass rim in salt until evenly covered. Tap off excess.) Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake until chilled. Strain into prepared coupe or cocktail glass, or over ice into prepared rocks glass.

Chorizo-Potato Tacos

_MG_6528First off, thank you for indulging me and for your thoughtful comments on my last post. Still trying to figure out exactly what I want to do, but rest assured, I will let you know. _MG_6509 _MG_6525

And now why you're really here: tacos. More precisely, chorizo & potato tacos with avocado-tomatillo salsa. Comes together in half an hour, doesn't require turning on the stove, and uses those pesky green vegetables that I love but always hesitate to buy since I'm not sure what to do with them. Plus, you can't really go wrong with the combination of potatoes and spicy sausage–a perfect August dinner, if I do say so. _MG_6532_MG_6521

 

Chorizo-Potato Tacos (adapted from Martha Stewart/Rick Bayless)

3 medium red-skin boiling or Yukon gold potatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 2 cups)

Coarse salt

1 pound Mexican chorizo sausage, casing removed (make sure it's not Spanish chorizo)

1 small white onion, finely chopped

3 medium tomatillos, husked, rinsed, and coarsely chopped

2-3 tablespoons lime juice

1 clove garlic

1 jalapeno, stemmed

1 1/2 large ripe avocados, peeled and pitted

Cornmeal tortillas, for serving

In a medium saucepan, bring 1 quart of salted water to a boil. Add potatoes, and simmer until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain, and set aside.

In a large skillet over medium heat, combine chorizo and onion. Cook, stirring often, until sausage is cooked through and onion is soft, about 10 minutes. If sausage has rendered more than a light coating of fat over bottom of skillet, pour off extra. Add potatoes, and continue to cook over medium heat, stirring often, until potatoes begin to brown, about 8 minutes. As mixture cooks, mash everything together a little with back of a spoon or a spatula, scraping up any crusty bits of potato, so that it roughly holds together. Cover, and keep warm over very low heat.

Meanwhile, in a food processor fitted with the steel blade, combine tomatillos, garlic, lime juice and jalapeno. Pulse until fine. Add avocado, and pulse until combined. Season with salt.

Wrap tortillas in a warm, damp kitchen towel, put them in a microwave-safe casserole dish, and cover. Warm in the microwave for 4 minutes, remove, and let stand a few minutes. Top each tortilla with potato mixture and avocado salsa, fold in half, and serve.

Watermelon-Basil Agua Fresca

_MG_5007 _MG_5003When I studied abroad in Cuernavaca, Mexico during high school I encountered many new things. It was the first time I had ever been away from home for more than a week, and the first time I had ever spent any time in a foreign country without my family. The experience shaped my love of travel, and, of course, food. Growing up in Minnesota, it was hard to find really authentic Mexican food (although, El Burrito Mercado in St. Paul is pretty fantastic), and I hadn't been exposed to much of it before I left for Cuernavaca. Apart from the amazing tacos and mole that my host mother made, one of the things I remember the most from that trip was when I tried aguas frescas for the first time. Horchata remains my favorite, but the other aguas, made from cantaloupe, pineapple, and of course, watermelon, are always the perfect accompaniment to spicy guacamole and burritos. I have seen multiple recipes and they always looked pretty simple, but I hadn't ever tried making them until last week found me with an excess of basil and watermelon. Simple as can be, and they went perfectly with the fried fish tacos I made that night.

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Watermelon-Basil Agua Fresca (adapted from Imbibe)

4 cups seedless watermelon, cut into 2-inch cubes

1/4 cup fresh basil leaves

1 cup water

Juice of 1 lime

1 tablespoon sugar

Blend watermelon, basil and water on high for 1 minute, or until watermelon is crushed. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a pitcher, then stir in lime juice and sugar. Serve iced.

Black Bean, Corn & Egg Tostadas

_MG_4671If you are anything like me, there are nights that you simply don't want to go to the grocery store (although mine is a block and a half away, so I don't have much of an excuse). This recipe uses ingredients that I pretty much always have on hand, and can be adapted really easily to suit your tastes -- you could add in some chicken sausage, sprinkle lettuce or cotija cheese on top, make scrambled eggs instead of poached. But in any case, this is an easy, cheap option for weeknight dinners or weekend brunches -- and even if it's still a little cold here in New York (although, compared to what my family is experiencing in Minnesota, it's practically summer here), I can almost imagine sitting on a beach, maragarita in hand, devouring these tostadas._MG_4630 _MG_4674

Disclaimer: Ari told me that I had to tell you that this is very messy to eat. We tried our luck with forks but ended up just picking up the whole tostada at once. It still tastes good, in any case._MG_4670

Black Bean, Corn & Egg Tostadas (serves 2)

1 tablespoon olive or vegetable oil

1/2 small red onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon pickled jalapeños, minced

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1 can black beans, drained

1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels

4 corn tortillas

1 tablespoon white vinegar

4 eggs

1 avocado, thinly sliced

Cilantro, chopped

Salsa

Hot sauce

Heat oil over medium-high in a saucepan. When hot, add onion, garlic, jalapeños and cumin and sauté until the mixture begins to soften, 2-3 minutes. Add black beans and lower heat to simmer. Heat through, about 10 minutes. Stir in corn and season with salt and pepper. remove from heat and set aside.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In the meantime, fill a sauté pan with about 2 inches of water, add vinegar, and bring to a simmer. Carefully crack first egg directly into pan. Immediately use a spoon to fold white over yolk so that it is covered, using the spoon to hold the egg together. Cook about 1 minute, then carefully flip over and cook until white is set but yolk is still runny, 1-2 minutes. Remove egg to a small bowl with a slotted spoon. Repeat with remaining eggs.

Place tortillas on oven rack. Toast until crispy, 5-6 minutes. Place two on each plate, then top with bean & corn mixture, avocado slices, and egg. Serve immediately with cilantro, additional chopped onion, salsa, and hot sauce.

The Best Guacamole

_MG_4139Alright, that may be a bold statement. That said, I do think that this is a pretty great recipe, and it tends to disappear very quickly at parties. It's also easy to modify, if you want to throw in a handful of cherry tomatoes, or substitute fresh jalapeños for the pickled ones. Just make sure your avocados are perfectly ripe -- it makes all the difference. _MG_4165 This guacamole also goes very well with tacos or on sandwiches -- but my favorite way is the most simple, with some good corn chips and a beer, and summer doesn't feel quite so far away.

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The Best Guacamole

4 avocados, pitted and sliced into 1/2-inch pieces

1/2 small red onion, finely diced

2-3 tablespoons pickled jalapeños, chopped (or to taste)

1 clove garlic, minced

1/4 cup cilantro chopped

1 teaspoon Sriracha, or to taste

Juice of 1 lime

Salt and pepper

Scoop out avocado from peel into a medium bowl. Add onion, garlic, jalapeños, cilantro, and Sriracha, and mash with a fork until mixed together but avocado is still slightly chunky. Stir in lime juice and season well with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Fish Tacos with Avocado-Corn Salsa

In an effort to be slightly healthier, Ari and I have started making more fish. Of course, it's still battered and pan-fried, but still better than a steak, right? Or bacon? Anyways, we made these fish tacos the other night and they not only came together in half an hour, but they were also quite good. And you get your daily serving of vegetables! Everyone wins. Well, except the fish, perhaps. Fish Tacos with Avocado-Corn Salsa (serves 2)

2 filets mild white fish, such as tilapia

1/2 cup cornmeal

1 egg

Salt and pepper

For the salsa:

2 avocados, large diced

1/2 cup corn

1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

1/4 red onion, finely chopped

1 serrano pepper, small diced

1/2 lime

Salt and pepper to taste

Corn tortillas

Lettuce, chopped (optional)

Combine first 5 salsa ingredients in a medium bowl. Squeeze lime juice over, then add salt and pepper to taste. Mix well.

Place egg and cornmeal in 2 separate, shallow bowls. Season cornmeal with salt and pepper. Whisk egg slightly. Dip fish in egg, then cornmeal, coating completely. Sauté in a large frying pan until done, about two minutes per side.

After you have heated up the tortillas, place salsa, then fish (cut up) in the tortilla. Top with additional cilantro and lettuce, if desired.

That's it! Easy, right?