Creating the perfect food: Tacos

If forced to name a single perfect food, I would probably choose the taco... but not just any taco.

When it comes to tacos, I'm somewhere between a traditionalist and a purist. I prefer classic tacos, the kind you find at taco trucks and taco carts in both the U.S. and in Mexico. The best consist of soft-as-velvet corn tortillas filled with a bit of succulent meat or fish and topped with minced onion, cilantro and a splash of hot sauce or salsa, with a lime wedge alongside. This is the traditional part.

The purist part comes in my own kitchen, when I sometimes deviate from tradition but still keep things simple, with an emphasis on pure flavors. Exactly what this means varies with the season, of course, but currently I'm enjoying zucchini tacos, with chopped grilled zucchini spiked with garlic, cumin, lemon and cilantro. Soon, I'll be filling white corn tortillas with diced nopales, fresh corn and grilled poblanos.

Sometimes I add avocado, but that's about it. Anything else — grilled scallions, beans, rice, Mexican-style cole slaw — go alongside, not inside.

For taco recipes and other recipes with tortillas from the Seasonal Pantry and Pairing archives, visit Eat This Now at pantry.blogs.pressdemocrat.com.

These tacos traditionally consist of grilled meat topped with onion, cilantro and either hot sauce or a bit of salsa. In taquerias, a wedge of lime and a couple of radishes are typically served alongside, the lime to squeeze on the taco, the radish to refresh your palate. To use meats other than skirt steak, including my favorite, lengua (tongue), consult the variations that follow the main recipe.

Tacos al Carbon

Makes 8 tacos

1 pound beef skirt steak, cut in 4 pieces

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