Saturday, June 04, 2011

Meatless Taco Salad

What is a taco salad anyway? I picture ground beef and cheese in a deep-fried corn chip type bowl. This isn't that. Feel free to come up with a better name if you can.

I made my own corn tortillas, and shallow pan fried them, but that's a bit of a hassle if you don't do that sort of thing regularly. I'll post the recipe, and instructions but don't feel bad if your first few fall apart-consider it part of the learning process-they will still taste good. Store-bought works too, you know.

This is one of the few things I make where corn oil really seems to make a difference. You can of course use anything you like. The vegetables and tinned bean combination was just what I had, but as always use what is lurking in your crisper bins. I don't see why this couldn't have roasted potatoes, or red onion, or summer squash. I'm serving huge salads each night because I'm overrun with greens from the garden, but a bit of shredded lettuce would do too.

For the corn tortillas:

2 cups Masa Harina flour (not corn meal, or corn starch (also called, "cornflour" but a finely milled flour made from corn. If you have a Mexican grocer you can buy it already mixed, which helps when you're first learning to handle it). I use MaSeCa brand.
1-2 cups warm water
1/4 teaspoon salt

Mix salt and masa together. Slowly stir in water, mixing with your hand until you have a soft, spongy dough. You don't want it too dry or it will crack, but too wet won't roll out. You can take a ball of dough and try flattening it on a board. If it cracks badly at the edges, it is too dry and you should add more water a tablespoon at a time.

Wrap dough in cling film and let rest 15 minutes.

Roll into a log and divide into 8 pieces. Roll each into a ball. Keep covered until you are ready to roll each out.

Preheat a pan that can get very hot when dry (cast iron is good-don't use teflon for this). Roll out tortillas into a circle about 1/2 inch thick. Edges will be shaggy, that's OK. Lift carefully with a thin spatula, and transfer to frying pan. Cook about 2 minutes on each side or until it has browned spots and a cooked appearance. Cool on a plate. When all are made, you can fry them in about 1/4 inch of corn oil, then drain them on brown paper. Do this last as you'll want to assemble and serve the salad right away.

For the salad/filling/toppings:

Salad greens, washed, dried and chilled (I had escarole, pea shoots, red leaf, green leaf, bibb, frisee, rocket, spinach and I can't remember what else).

Sliced black olives
Sour cream
Diced cucumber
Diced tomato
Shredded Cheddar

2 tins pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 green bell pepper, diced
4 bunches scallions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups fresh corn (I had ears to use, but frozen or even tinned is just fine)
1/2 cup chopped parsley
2 large carrots, finely diced
1 tablespoon ground cumin
4 tablespoons corn oil
Chillies to taste (I had dried ancho and used about 2 teaspoons)

Heat a large frying pan over medium heat. Add oil, then spices, then everything else. Cook until carrots and corn begin to soften. Remove from heat. Assemble still warm over lettuces, and fried tortillas. Top with fresh toppings, cheese, and sour cream. Makes enough for 2 greedy boys, or four reasonably hungry people.

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