Saturday, October 2, 2010

Swiss Chard Tacos with Caramelized Onion, Fresh Cheese and Red Chile

Joe and I have just come across an awesome cookbook:  Mexican Everyday by Rick Bayless.  He demonstrates how Mexican food does not have to be limited to things slathered in cheese lying alongside dull rice and beans (that's not even very authentic).  It can actually be very fresh, delicious, and even healthy.  His advice is similar to Mark Bittman and others, advocating small portions in general, especially of meat, and loading up on the veggies.  That's my kind of cooking!

This recipe is a prime example that Mexican cooking can be healthy.  True Mexican tacos do not necessarily have to consist of the seemingly standard fillings like ground beef, cheese, lettuce and tomato.  While living in various parts of Mexico he's eaten tacos filled with a yummy mix of braised greens and onions, so he developed this recipe based on those.  Use good chicken or vegetable broth for best flavor.  I added sliced orange bell pepper because I had one on hand that I wanted to use up.

Swiss Chard (or Spinach) Tacos with Caramelized Onion, Fresh Cheese and Red Chile
adapted from Rick Bayless - Mexican Everyday
serves 4

A 12-ounce bunch Swiss chard (or collard, mustard, or beet greens), thick lower stems cut off
OR 10 ounces cleaned spinach (about 10 cups)
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil, olive oil, fresh pork lard or bacon drippings
1 large white or red onion, sliced 1/4 inch thick
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped or crushed through a garlic press
About 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup chicken broth, vegetable broth, or water
12 corn tortillas
1 cup (4 ounces) crumbled Mexican queso fresco or other fresh cheese such as feta or goat cheese, for serving
About 3/4 cup bottled smoky chipotle salsa, for serving

Slice the chard crosswise into 1/2 inch slices (if using spinach, small leaves may be left whole).  Heat the oil in a 12 inch skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and cook, stirring often, for about 4-5 minutes or until the onion is golden brown.  Add the garlic and red pepper flakes.  Stir for a few seconds until fragrant, then add the broth or water, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and the greens.  Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook until the greens just about tender.  Spinach only takes a couple of minutes, while chard will take about 5 minutes.  Collard greens will take a little longer, about 7-8 minutes.  

When the greens are tender, remove cover and turn the heat up to medium-high.  Cook until the mixture is nearly dry, stirring often.  Taste and season with salt if needed.  

We usually warm flour tortillas in a dry cast iron skillet over high heat.  This method does not work so well with corn tortillas.  They are best when they are warmed by steaming, whether in the microwave or in an actual steamer.

This is how Bayless recommends warming corn tortillas:

In the microwave: Drizzle 3 tablespoons of water onto a clean kitchen towel, then wrap the tortillas with it.  Put this packet into a microwavable plastic bag and fold the top over but don't seal it.  Microwave at 50% power for 4 minutes.  Let stand 2-3 minutes before serving.  

In a vegetable steamer (the kind without the little post sticking up the in middle): Fill a pot with about 1/2 inch of water and set up the basket in the pot.  Wrap up to 12 corn tortillas in a clean kitchen towel, and set inside the steamer basket.  Cover, and turn the heat up to high.  Once you can see steam, wait one minute, then turn off the heat.  Let the tortillas sit in the steam for 10 minutes before removing them from the basket.  

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