Cookbook Review: Taqueria 

Taqueria is an homage to the best of Mexican cuisine. Across four chapters (Flavour Fiestas; Salsas, Salads & Vegetables, Taqueria and Margaritas & More), it is a crash course in cooking the food of Latin America right. Its emphasis is on taking the building blocks and showing people that, with quality ingredients, attitude and a little application, they can create an authentic, standout feast.

In total, it includes more than 80 recipes, ranging from corn, prawn and bacon tortillas to homemade chorizo and sweet potato quesadillas. As well, the salsas, salads & vegetables chapter recognizes the ever-growing appreciation for plant-based dishes with a 20-plus recipe line-up of envelope-pushing vegetarian dishes (as well as a nod to the near universal love of guacamole in its myriad iterations).

The package is loud, punchy and a little bit retro with bold colours that will especially speak to people who have visited, or are familiar, with Taqueria’s of street-side Mexico.

Taqueria: New Style-Fun and Friendly Mexican, is available at Amazon.com and Amazon.ca.


Roasted Salmon Tacos Baja-Med Style with Fragrant Cucumber Salsa

Serves 6

Baja–med is a delicious fusion of Mexican and Mediterranean cookery found in the border town of Tijuana and elsewhere in Mexico’s Baja California. These tacos are fresh, colourful and abundant, like the region. Cooking the salmon in two pieces is a simple technique that will ensure the fish will be moist, luscious and evenly cooked.

 

12 homemade masa flour tortillas (recipe below) or store-bought tortillas

Tamarind chilli mole (recipe below)

 

SALMON

1 x 400 g (14 oz) pin-boned Atlantic salmon fillet, skin on

olive oil, for frying

2 garlic cloves, finely sliced

1 large salad onion, sliced

½ small dried chipotle chilli, finely sliced

1 yellow bullhorn chilli, sliced into rounds

200 g (7 oz) mixed red and yellow cherry tomatoes, halved

75 g (2¾ oz) kalamata olives, halved

75 ml (2½ fl oz) sherry vinegar

juice of 1 orange

75 ml (2½ fl oz) agave syrup

1 bunch basil leaves, shredded

 

CUCUMBER SALSA

2 peeled Lebanese (short) cucumbers, finely diced

½ bunch dill

½ teaspoon caraway seeds, toasted

½ teaspoon sugar

½ teaspoon salt

juice of 2 limes

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

 

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F).

To prepare the salmon, using a sharp knife, cut the salmon fillet along the seam of flesh that separates the belly from the loin. Cut into two pieces, separating the belly from the loin.

Heat a splash of olive oil in a large, non-stick frying pan over high heat. Season the salmon pieces with salt, then place them in the hot pan, skin side down, and cook for 2 minutes, pressing the pieces down with your hands to ensure they cook flat. Cook for a further 1 minute, then transfer to the oven, skin side down, and cook for 2 minutes.

Remove the salmon from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack, then cut into 2.5 cm (1 in) thick slices using a sharp knife.

Add another splash of olive oil to the pan together with the garlic, onion, chipotle, bullhorn chilli, tomatoes and olives and cook over low heat for 5 minutes, until softened. Add the vinegar and orange juice, bring to a simmer and cook until the liquid has almost evaporated, then add the agave syrup and simmer until reduced to a thick, sticky coating.

Transfer the vegetable mixture to a small bowl, add the basil leaves and season to taste. Set aside to cool.

Heat a medium non-stick pan over high heat. Lightly spray with oil and briefly fry the tortillas to warm them. Stack the tortillas, wrap in a warm damp tea towel (dish towel) and set aside to keep warm.

To make the salsa, combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well.

To serve, divide the tortillas among serving plates. Spoon over a little tamarind chilli mole, if using, and top with the salmon slices, vegetable mix and a pile of the salsa. Serve immediately with more tamarind chilli mole on the side for dipping.

 

TORTILLA DOUGH

300 g (10½ oz/3 cups) fine white masa harina flour

1 teaspoon sea salt

450 ml (15 fl oz) water

2 teaspoons vegetable oil

Tortillas are a staple on the Mexican table. The dough is simple to make, using white masa harina flour and water, with a little salt and oil. Tortillas can be grilled for use as tacos or as an accompaniment to any meal. In addition they can be fried and used as tostadas or quesadillas or baked or fried and used as masa corn (tortilla) chips. A tortilla press is useful here, but not essential.

Combine the flour and salt using an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook.

Mixing at medium speed, gradually pour in the water and oil to make a dough. Work the dough until it comes away clean from the side of the bowl.

Form a ball and press to flatten – when the dough is the right consistency it should not split at the sides. Add a little more water if necessary.

Shape the dough into 24 or 12 even-sized balls, depending on whether you are making small tortillas for tacos, or larger ones for quesadillas or tostadas.

Using a tortilla press, flatten the balls between 2 sheets of baking paper, creating thin discs. Alternatively, roll out between the baking paper using a rolling pin – but your discs will not be so perfectly round.

Heat a cast-iron or non-stick frying pan over medium–high heat. Cook the tortillas for 1 minute on each side, until they are light golden.

* Tip

Tortillas can be prepared in advance and frozen. Simply par-cook and layer the tortillas between pieces of plastic wrap or baking paper. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and freeze for up to 1 month.

 

TAMARIND CHILLI MOLE

Makes 500 Ml (17 Fl Oz/2 Cups)

This is my go-to barbecue meat salsa. It also gives a great flavour boost to slow-cooked meats, while a little stirred through mayonnaise or sour cream will help lift and enliven anything from tacos to fried seafood.

 

150 ml (5 fl oz) merlot vinegar

100 g (3½ fl oz) tamarind pulp

400 ml (13½ fl oz) orange juice, plus zest of 1 orange

300 ml (10 fl oz) agave syrup, plus extra to taste

4 jalapeños

2 red habanero chillies, halved and de-seeded

8 garlic cloves

6 ripe organic tomatoes

50 ml (1¾ fl oz) olive oil

100 ml (3½ fl oz) boiling water

juice of 1 lime

pinch of ground cumin

sea salt to taste

 

 

Preheat an overhead grill (broiler) to high heat.

Combine the vinegar and tamarind in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Add the orange juice and zest, return to the boil and simmer gently for 10 minutes until thickened and reduced. Add the agave, return to the boil and reduce down further until the mixture is glossy.

Meanwhile, place the chillies, garlic and tomatoes on a grill tray and grill (broil) for 20 minutes until softened and caramelised.

Transfer to a food processor or blender and pulse briefly, gradually adding the olive oil and boiling water as you go, to make a smooth sauce.

Season with the lime juice, cumin and salt to taste and store in sterilised jars for up to 1 month.

Recipe reprinted with permission from Hardie Grant Books.

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