That’s right, friends. Usually, we try to make it Taco Tuesday, but some weeks, we end up having Taco Twednesday or Thaco Thursday. Faco Friday sounds a little gruff for kicking off the weekend. : )
So, Thaco Thursday doesn’t only mean tacos. Really, it just hosts some sort of Latin inspired dish on our menu that evening. Tonight, it’s spicy beef quesadillas with black beans, avocado, asparagus, and tomatoes topped with homemade tomatillo salsa and served with a side of Spanish rice. Yum, right? Right. And simple too.
I don’t know exactly when it happened, but one day, I quit the taco seasoning packets. I decided that they contained way too much salt and that I could totally make up a combination of Mexican seasonings without breaking a sweat. I just mix cumin, chili powder, chipotle, paprika, granulated garlic and onion, and salt and pepper. We use that combo as a dry rub on steak, a catalyst for any number of bean dishes, and to ramp up a seven layer Mexican dip. I usually make about 1/2 a Cup of it at a time, so I can dip in when I need it, rather than making it every time I crave or plan for Mexican food.
First things first. I had to get the rice going. It’s important to always read your recipes all the way through and decide how you will execute the cooking process. You need to begin with the tasks that take the longest to complete. There’s nothing like getting halfway through a recipe and realizing you were supposed to take butter out to soften or let your rice cook for an hour when you’ve got everything else almost finished. It just makes one flustered. And flustered is so not fun.
Finishing every dish at the exact same time is incredibly difficult, but planning ahead really does help. I like to prep all of my ingredients before I start cooking, because it keeps me organized and focused in the kitchen. I have lots of small bowls and ramekins that I use daily to hold my diced veggies, dressings, and chopped herbs, toasted nuts, etc. until I am ready to begin constructing my meal.
I know the pressing need to get food in the pan immediately is real, but I can generally avoid burned food, uneven cooking, cold side dishes, and other road blocks to deliciousness by laying the groundwork. It would be nice if we all lived on Food Network and had a team of helpers to chop and measure all of the ingredients for us…until then, we will have to embrace the challenge! I said all that to say, I got my rice going first. Haha.
Next, I browned the meat in a large pan, I sprinkled the spices over the beef, added a bit of water, and allowed the liquid to cook out and the flavor to move into the meat. Sound familiar? Then, I removed the beef to a bowl so I could get my black beans going. Red onion, garlic, a really cool looking Anaheim pepper that we roasted, a jalapeno, beans, cilantro, and lime juice went into the pot and got all soft, tender, and aromatic. I finished off the filling for our quesadillas by adding some tomatoes I had leftover from yesterday’s tomato sauce extravaganza and reintroducing the meat to the mix. Once all of those ingredients became a sum that was even better than its parts, I turned off the heat.
Meanwhile, I roasted my tomatillos, little green “tomatoes” that are actually from the gooseberry family, in a 400 degree oven. These little guys are powerfully tangy, and getting a good roast on them helps to bring out some of their sweeter side. Then, into the fantastical food processor they went, along with garlic, red onion, cilantro, lime, cumin, agave nectar (my new favorite sweetener), and a bit of olive oil. The olive oil helps to mellow that tang and bring it all together. After whirring all of those ingredients, it was starting to look like salsa. I took a taste to see where I stood and … Ta dah! Tomatillo Salsa. So easy.
Next, it was time to build again. Are you sensing a theme here? Creating layers of flavor throughout a dish makes for a robust eating experience. We used Vegetillas- they are low fat, low sodium, and made from all natural ingredients. They come in spinach, carrot, and chili flavors, and it makes me feel good to eat vegetables any way I can get ‘em! Today’s featured cheese selection: Queso Fresco! It’s kind of like a mild version of feta cheese in that it is crumbly and white, but Queso Fresco is not nearly as salty. Then, we carefully layered the meat and beans, avocado, asparagus, and alright- a bit more cheese.
We cooked our quesadillas a few minutes on both sides (flipping verrrry carefully), until the tortillas were toasty golden brown and the cheese and filling were hot and melty. We topped these savory treats with the tangy salsa verde I made and a dallop of low fat sour cream and served them next to our special Spanish rice.
Muy delicioso!!! An explosion of goodness for my mouth! It’s hard to believe how much zing 4 little tomatillos can impart to a meal. Ah, the wonders of food. I love them.
I hope you’ll try a Thaco Thursday in your home soon and play with the flavors, textures, fillings, and vehicles for delivering a fiesta to your tastebuds!!!!!!!!! Ole!