April 21, 2011

A Stroke of Green

I'm such a sucker for greens.  And Mexican food.  I could eat either or both every single day.  I think Rick Bayless is the bee's knees and his recipes make me swoon.  These tacos are his.

They're a cinch to pull together. Just some sauteing of onions and a quick braise of greens and dinner's just about on the table.  I made these with swiss chard, but if you've got a preference for another dark leafy green, or have a braising mix around, go ahead and use it.  Then you whirl together a quick salsa and the work is pretty much done.

I don't want to scare you off with the healthy claim because there's plenty else going on with the mild and salty queso fresco and the smoky heat of the salsa to keep your taste buds engaged, but let's face it, the star of this dish is the greens.  And greens are good.

It's a little Johnny-come-lately, but there are a few more days of Lent to go and if you're one of the many to have given up meat, consider these tacos for your next meal.  Otherwise, on the flip side of things, you could consider this a little Cico de Mayo preview.  A yin to the festivities typical meat heavy yang.  A vegetarian crowd-pleaser.  An all around yummy taco. 

And hey!  Earth Day is tomorrow!  Vegetables are always more Earth-friendly than meat.  PETA told me so ;-)

Braised Greens Tacos
Adapted from Rick Bayless

Consider this recipe as a template.  Use whatever leafy green is your favorite - kale, collard greens, chard - or even a mixture if you desire.  For the braising liquid I used a little dry vermouth and water, but you could use broth instead, it's just whatever you have around.  No queso fresco?  Use feta or a fresh goat cheese.  I'm partial to the queso fresco, myself.  The salsa you make here is real simple, but if that's a step you want to skip, you can can of course use store bought.  Just make sure it's something smoky and deep, those flavors pair so well here. 

6 small tacos

12 ounce bunch Swiss chard, washed and roughly chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil 
1 large white or red onion, sliced 1/4 inch thick 
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped 
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes 
1/4 cup dry vermouth
1/4 cup water
6 corn tortillas
1 cup crumbled queso fresco
A large handful cherry tomatoes 
1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium high, add the onion and cook until golden but still a bit crunchy, 4-5 minutes.  Add the garlic and chili flakes to the onion and cook for an additional minute, then add the broth or water, a large pinch of salt, and the greens. Reduce heat to low and braise, covered, for about 5 minutes or until the greens are nearing tender, but not quite finished.

Meanwhile, put the cherry tomatoes into a dry skillet over medium-high heat until blistered, transfer to a small food processor with the chipotle pepper and a large pinch of salt, and blend until smooth.

Remove the cover from the greens and cook off the moisture until it is nearly dry. Season with salt if necessary.

Heat tortillas in a cast iron skillet flipping frequently and just until warmed, or if you have a gas stove, just quickly over the burner.  You can also wrap the stack of tortillas in a moistened paper towel and zap it in the microwave for 30 seconds or so.  Fill each taco with a tongful of the greens, a spoonful of salsa, and the queso fresco.

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