Part two of my quest to figure out what to feed the groomsmen, I decided to make grilled skirt steak in addition to the grilled chicken. As I mentioned earlier this week, at Evan’s request I am not making a lot of different foods like dips, salsas or desserts, so the sandwiches need to be the star of the meal. After all, they are the only food offered besides chips and beer.
Because the grilled chicken is marinated in a classic garlic and herb marinade, I decided to use Mojo de Ajo to flavor the grilled skirt steak. This way both the grilled selections have a similar garlic flavor, but in their own unique way. The grilled chicken has a garlic herb profile with an Italian American flavor and the grilled skirt steak has a Mexican cuisine flavor profile from the simmered garlic, chilies and Mexican oregano. Both grilled foods are different, but they complement each other because they share similar ingredients and the same cooking method.
My hope is the grilled skirt steak sandwich with mojo de ajo will give the groomsmen a taste of something unexpected as well as delicious. Mojo de Ajo has a prominent garlic flavor but it is not strong and lingering. I feel like I contradicted myself by saying it is prominent but not strong, yet it is true. By not strong I mean the garlic behaves and like a polite guest knows when it is time to home. This is not the type of garlic that you taste all night long when your want to go to sleep. Roasted garlic is the most significant flavor, but because of the orange juice, tomatoes and arbol chilies it comes across sweeter with a kick. Grilled skirt steak in mojo de ajo is both has a familiar taste yet, it is new at the same time.
Grilled Skirt Steak
Skirt steak takes no time to grill, either on an outdoor grill or on the stove in a grill pan. My skirt steak finished cooking in 4-5 minutes on a grill pan for medium rare. However, they were thin pieces of meat. Depending on the thickness of your skirt steak and how much you want your steak to cook, it could take a minute less or a couple of minutes longer. If you have never cooked skirt steak before, start with the recommended time in the recipe and test it to see how done it is. Skirt steak tastes better when it is rare to medium rare and because my pieces were very thin, probably should cook them for less time. Additionally, it is important to rest the steaks for 10 minutes before you slice them. This way the juices will soak into your steak and not flow all over your cutting board.
Mix it up
Now, I am using grilled skirt steak to make sandwiches, but this steak makes an easy weeknight dinner as well. Last night we ate it for dinner with a green salad and devoured it. We liked it so much, we could not stop picking at it. Both of us repeatedly commented, “I’ll just have one more sliver please.” Eventually, we had to remove the grilled skirt steak from the table before we ate the whole thing.
Grilled skirt steak with mojo de ajo makes the perfect steak taco. Actually this is how I first became acquainted with the garlic sauce in the cookbook Taco.
Make fajitas with grilled skirt steak with mojo de ajo and poblano rajas, which is sautéed strips of poblano chilies and white onions. Get the recipe from my poblano chili cream sauce. This creamy poblano sauce will also taste great with grilled skirt steak.
Make a grilled skirt steak salad with arugula, avocado, oranges and baby radishes. Drizzle some of the mojo de ajo on the steak and dress with a citrus vinaigrette. My favorite is a combination of orange juice and lemon juice with a little honey, a touch of Dijon mustard, black pepper, extra virgin olive oil, and finished with fresh herbs like mint or basil..
Grilled Skirt Steak with Mojo de Ajo
Add some mojo de ajo in the mayonnaise for your sandwiches for extra flavor.
- 1 ½ lb skirt steak
- Kosher Salt
- 1/3 cup oil from Mojo de Ajo get recipe from the link in the summary
- Garnish with the garlic and minced tomato from the Mojo de Ajo
Place the skirt steak in a baking dish just large enough to hold the skirt steak in an even layer. Sprinkle the skirt steak with Kosher Salt on both sides, about ½ teaspoon total, possibly a pinch more.
Separate the oil from the solids of the Mojo de Ajo and pour about 1/3 cup over the skirt steak. Turn the steaks over and rub them with the oil to get and even coating. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and let the skirt steaks rest for 30 minutes at room temperature.
Prepare your grill. Oil the grill once the coals are in place.
Place the skirts steaks on a 45° angle over the grill and sear for 2 minutes. Rotate the steaks towards the opposite 45° angle and grill for one minute. Turn the skirt steaks over and repeat on the other side. If you have a thicker piece of skirt steak try 4 minutes side. The steaks could be done anywhere from 5-8 minutes depending on how thick they are.
Remove the skirt steaks from the grill and let it rest for 15 minutes on a cutting board.
Slice across the grain in thin slices and serve garnished with the minced garlic and tomatoes from the Mojo de Ajo.
© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
There is nothing sexy about how I came up with this recipe for black bean tacos with kabocha squash. In truth the real impetus came from the fact I had some cooked black beans in the freezer and kabocha squash that was a couple of weeks old sitting on the counter. I had to use them or lose them. However mundane the origin of an idea, the process of creating a meal requires some inspiration and creativity and that is sexy.
Often, my inspiration for the food I cook comes from the people I feed. Between all my friends and family, I will take into consideration everyone’s diet preference. This is why you will find on my blog a selection of meals to serve, omnivores, pescatarians, vegetarians, vegans, low-glycemic, gluten-free, and dairy-free recipes. In these times, all cooks should have a few recipes that will feed their diverse community.
While creating this recipe for black bean tacos it was important to me that this recipe be suitable for vegetarian and vegan diets. Therefore, any dairy is supplemental and added separately as a topping for individual tacos. That meant all ingredients in the beans and squash must be plant-based.
Distinctive flavor of Black Bean Tacos
This recipe started with frozen cooked black beans I made several months ago. Freshly cooked beans taste a lot better than canned beans, and they have a lot less salt. So, now and then I will plan and cook some fresh beans. However, I always have a selection of no-salt canned beans in my pantry. They are just too convenient and ideal for a spontaneous meal.
If you do want to cook with dried beans, add epazote and garlic to the pot when you cook them. Just like beans cooked with a ham hock, epazote and beans are a perfect pair. The flavor is so distinctive it is hard to describe. It is herbal and similar to Mexican oregano with some medicinal characteristics. The flavor is unique and thus there is no good substitute for epazote. However, once you taste beans cooked in epazote you will always want to eat them prepared this way. I use dried epazote, as fresh epazote is hard to come by in the east coast. You can find it online or at a Mexican market.
To make the black bean filling for my tacos, I sautéed some onions and minced garlic until soft and added some crumbled dried epazote and Kosher salt. Then I added the cooked black beans. Because I love beans cooked with smoked pork, the epazote helps me forget about the lack of pork and smoky flavor whenever I cook vegan beans. I’ll think to myself, “Oh these beans are soo good.” Not, “you know what these beans need, some bacon.”
The next thing I did to give the black beans a creamy texture. I puréed about a third of the sautéed beans and onions to a somewhat smooth consistency, then added the purée back to the skillet with the beans. This emulsion made the beans into a spread preventing any loose beans from slipping out of the tacos. They are similar to refried beans but with more texture.
Spicy Winter Squash for Black Bean Tacos
The squash will take the longest to cook so I begin preparing the squash and cook everything else while they roast. I used kabocha squash, but butternut squash or pumpkin are good substitutes. Any winter squash is fine. The squash is where I punched up the flavor with lots of spices and ground chili pepper. Cayenne, cumin, ground coriander, ground garlic and Mexican oregano make up the spice mix. Whenever I roast vegetables and want a garlic note, I often use ground garlic because fresh minced fresh garlic will burn in a 400°F (200°C) oven. Nothing beats fresh garlic, but burnt garlic is very bitter.
Both the beans and the winter squash pair well with chili peppers, but I did not want to overdo it with the heat. Every meal needs a solid foundation to build from and the black beans are the structure from which the taco filling is built. If there is too much competition from the spices and chilies you can’t taste the food. Here, the bean filling and the winter squash do not compete for attention. The spicy winter squash nicely compliments the filling with its natural sweetness and spices. This flavor combination of chili heat with something sweet never ceases to amaze me.
Toppings for Black Bean Tacos
As I mentioned in my post about Fish Tacos, a taco is not a taco if avocados are not in them. I realize there are plenty of traditional tacos, like carnitas without avocado, but I look for any excuse to eat avocados and tacos is one of them. In all seriousness they fit with these tacos. Yet, with all these soft and creamy fillings something fresh to bite into is needed. Cucumber, iceberg lettuce and sliced radish are all great toppings with these tacos and a great way to get more vegetables in your meal. Or, serve them on the side in a salad with a citrus vinaigrette.
If you and your dinner companions eat dairy, I highly recommend using cotija cheese or feta cheese. The briny and salty flavors punch up the earthy flavors of the beans and winter squash. It adds a much-needed bit of acid to make every thing stand out. I could not find cotija, so I used feta cheese and loved it.
If you do not eat dairy, add pickled vegetables like onions or jalapenos to get that salty-briny punch.
The other toppings I believe make this black bean taco so special are peanuts and toasted hulled pumpkin seeds. They give some needed crunch to bite into between all the soft layers of beans and roasted squash and the nuttiness just fits right in.
I started with a purpose use up the beans and kabocha squash but as I progressed my primary focus was to create a meal for vegetarian and vegan diets. Even though my children do not live at home any more, they still inspire me to create meals I believe they would enjoy. Now I have even more inspiration from my growing family with the addition of daughters-in-law. While making these tacos it gave me great pleasure knowing my daughter-in-law and brother-in-law would particularly appreciate these black bean tacos. You don’t have to be a vegetarian or vegan to enjoy this dinner. These tacos are very fulfilling with great of depth of flavor built in. You will not miss the meat.
I do not have a vegan dessert of my own to recommend but try this vegan chocolate cake recipe from Food 52. For all other purposes, Yogurt Panna Cotta with Spiced Figs would pair nicely with these tacos and they can be made ahead. Or if you want a Mexican themed meal serve with Classic Margaritas and Double Coconut Pie.
Black Bean Tacos with Spicy Winter Squash
- 1 1 lb 12 oz / 788 g winter squash like butternut or kabocha
- ½ tsp dried oregano
- ½ tsp ground cumin
- ¼ tsp ground coriander
- ¼ tsp cayenne
- ¼ tsp garlic powder
- ¾ Kosher salt
- 2 TB extra virgin olive oil
- 2 TB extra virgin olive oil
- 6 oz 102 g white onion, minced (about half an onion)
- 2 large cloves of garlic peeled, green germ removed and minced
- 1/2 - 1 tsp dried epazote crumbled
- 1 lb 500 g drained and rinsed cooked black beans, or 2 -15 oz can of black beans drained and rinsed. Reserve some of the bean liquid.
- Kosher salt to taste
Assemble the Tacos
- 8 corn tortillas
- Roasted winter squash
- Black bean spread
- 1 avocado sliced thin
- Cotija Cheese or Feta cheese
- Creme fraiche optional
- Small handful of cilantro minced
- ¼ cup roasted salted peanuts
- 2 TB hulled pumpkin seeds
- Salsa verde
Roast the winter squash
Preheat the oven to 400°F / 200°C
Peel the winter squash and slice into wedges, thicker than 1 inch (2.5 cm) thick.
Place the winter squash in a large bowl and set aside.
In a small bowl mix together Mexican oregano, cumin, coriander, cayenne, garlic powder and Kosher salt until evenly combined.
Drizzle olive oil and spice mix over the prepared squash. Toss the wedges with your clean hands until they are completely coated with olive oil and spice mix.
Place the seasoned squash on a baking sheet and arrange the wedges on their side. Bake in the oven and set the timer for 20 minutes.
Check the squash and turn them over on the other side. Continue to bake until the centers are soft. Depending on the thickness of the squash wedges, determines how how long they need to roast. Mine took a total of 40 minutes, but they were very thick wedges.
Turn down the oven to 350°F / 175°C and remove the squash. Loosely cover and keep warm. If you have a warming oven, keep the squash warm in there.
While the squash is roasting in the oven, cook the black beans. In a medium skillet, turn the heat to medium and heat the extra virgin olive oil. Add the minced onion and cook until soft but not browned. Stir occasionally so the onions do not burn or brown, about 6 - 10 minutes. Halfway through cooking the onions, add the minced garlic and epazote, and stir into the onions.
Once the onions are done, add the cooked black beans and stir to mix, then cook until heated all the way through.
Taste and correct seasoning with more Kosher salt, or epazote if needed.
Turn off the heat and remove about a third of the cooked beans and place in a small bowl, or food processor. Add about 1 -2 tablespoons of reserved bean liquid and mush the beans with a fork, or purée with an immersion blender or food processor until smooth. Add the puréed beans back into the skillet with the black beans and onions. Stir to combine. Turn off the heat and loosely cover to keep warm.
If you need to reheat the beans turn on the heat to medium and add a little extra virgin olive oil. Warm the beans until your desired temperature.
Warm your tortillas in a 350°F (175°C) oven. Stack 4 tortillas and wrap in foil. Repeat with the remaining tortillas. Place the tortillas in the oven and bake until warm for15 minutes. If possible, time it so tortillas and black beans are done at the same time. See blog story for a link about other ways to warm up tortillas.
Assemble the tacos
Place a heaping tablespoon of the beans on a tortilla and spread it into a circle in the center of the tortilla. Place a couple of wedges of the winter squash on the beans. Add one slice of avocado. Garnish with some crumbled feta or cotija cheese, a dollop of creme fraiche, salsa verde, minced cilantro, peanuts and pumpkin seeds.
You will probably have more beans than you need. You can save the beans and make them into black bean spread or dip as an appetizer. Or serve with rice and roasted or sautéed vegetables for a complete vegetarian meal. Or as a side dish with grilled meats.
© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
If there ever is a meal that makes everyone around the dinner table happy, it’s tacos. I don’t believe this just pertains to families with young children, adults love tacos too. Say, “Come and get it. Tacos for dinner”, friends young and old will pick up their step and chassé over to the dinner table. Yippee-yi-yay, it’s taco night. Grab your partner and do-si-do, it’s taco time.
One of my favorite types of tacos are fish tacos. I love the light and fresh flavor of fish paired with a spicy salsa, avocado, fresh lime juice and cilantro. Soft and sweet corn tortillas make the meal even brighter. One bite of these fish tacos reveals the composed flavors of delicate fish, tangy crunchy slaw, and sweet and spicy salsa. It is a very refreshing and flavor packed meal.
Most importantly, I believe a taco isn’t a taco unless avocados are part of the meal. Either in a salsa, guacamole, or an added slice for a topping, my tacos must include an avocado. For these fish tacos, I wanted the avocado paired with fruit for a sweet contrast to the smooth avocado. Honestly, I designed the whole fish taco recipe around the mango avocado salsa.
Avocados are my desert island food. I miss avocados when a day goes by without eating one. I also love avocados combined with sweet and spicy ingredients. Both mangoes and avocados have soft and creamy textures, but the mangoes add a nice burst of sweetness that pairs well with avocados. In this salsa, the sweetness of the mangoes and creaminess of avocados offsets the heat from the chili peppers. Each ingredient creates a balance, nothing is either too sweet or too spicy. Just how I like it.
More easy fish dinner recipes:
I designed this fish taco recipe so all three parts compliment each other and create one perfect taco. The cabbage slaw is made with fresh herb and buttermilk dressing for a little tang and brighter flavor. Corn tortillas are on the small side, so either serve the slaw in the taco, or on the side as a salad. Either way, it tastes great with the fish and the salsa. I added jalapeño pepper to the slaw, but kept it mild by removing the white pith and seeds. I believe it is always good to have one part of the meal without a lot of heat and spiciness. All the recipes are on the mild side of spicy, and are easily adaptable to your desired heat tolerance.
What is great about all these recipes is you can easily make them for a great dinner of fish tacos, or serve them separately for a plated dinner. You can also make each item separately and pair with other recipes. The fish is a quick and easy weeknight dinner. Mango avocado salsa makes a great dip for chips, and the cole slaw is a perfect side salad with grilled fish or meats. You have three recipes in one, and multiple options for many dinners ahead.
Seared Fish Tacos with Mango Avocado Salsa
Buttermilk yogurt dressing for the Citrus Slaw
- 3 tsp cider vinegar
- 3 tsp lemon juice
- 1 clove garlic grated or crushed
- 1-2 TB minced cilantro
- 1-2 TB minced dill
- 1 garlic clove minced
- 1/4 tsp Kosher salt
- 1/3 cup buttermilk
- 2-3 TBS Greek yogurt
Citrus Buttermilk Slaw*
- 1/4 head of purple cabbage thinly sliced or shredded
- 1/4 head of green cabbage thinly sliced or shredded
- 1 large 4 oz carrot julienne or grated
- 2 ears of fresh corn sliced of the cob
- 4 small scallions minced light green and white parts
- 1-2 jalapeno peppers** minced
- Buttermilk Yogurt dressing to taste
- 2 TB fresh lime juice
- Zest from half a lime
- Pinch of cayenne pepper optional
Fish for Tacos
- 1 1/2 pounds fresh fish like tilapia
- Sprinkle of Kosher Salt
- 1/2 tsp sweet paprika
- 1/4 tsp of cayenne pepper
- 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil Kosher Salt
Mango Avocado Salsa
- One mango peeled and chopped
- 1 avocado chopped
- Juice of 1 Lime divided
- 1/4 tsp pinch of Flaky sea salt
- 1 TB Extra virgin olive oil divided
- 2 TB minced red onion
- 2 jalapeno peppers** minced
- 8 grape tomatoes quartered
- 10 sprigs cilantro minced
- Zest of half a lime
- 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
- Pinch of Kosher Salt if needed
Assemble the tacos
- 8 Corn tortillas
- Seared Fish
- Buttermilk Citrus Slaw
- Mango Avocado Salsa
- Lime wedges
- Side of crema Mexicana or creme fraiche (optional)
- Side of Salsa Verde optional
Citrus Slaw with Buttermilk and Yogurt Dressing
Make the Buttermilk dressing
Whisk together the cider vinegar, lemon juice, Kosher salt, lemon zest, garlic, and fresh herbs. Slowly whisk in the buttermilk until incorporated then whisk in the yogurt. Taste the dressing and add more salt or lemon juice if needed. Cover and set aside until the slaw is ready to finish.
Make the Slaw
Thinly slice or shred the red and green cabbage and place in a large mixing bowl. Grate the carrot with a box grater and add to the cabbage. Add the fresh corn kernels, minced scallions and minced jalapenos. Mix together then add the buttermilk dressing. Add about half the dressing at first, mix together, then add more dressing if needed. Add the lime zest and juice and give it a final stir. Taste and adjust any seasoning if needed. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Make the fish.
Sprinkle kosher salt, cayenne and sweet paprika over each side of the fish. Before you turn the fish over to season the other side, rub about 1 tsp of extra virgin olive oil over the seasoned fish. Turn over the fish and repeat on the other side. Let rest for about 15 minutes.
Pre-heat a skillet or non-stick electric griddle to 350F. Spread about 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil or canola oil across the pan. Place the fish on the skillet or griddle and sear for 2-4 minutes per side. The thicker pieces will need longer then the thin ones. Time it to turn the fish over only once. The fish is done when the meat is opaque and will separate when you press down on the top of the fish. Keep the fish warm in a 200F oven.
Make the Mango Avocado Salsa
Peel and chop the mango into 1/2-inch pieces. Place in a medium bowl and drizzle with 1 teaspoon olive oil. Peel and chop the avocado into 1/2-inch pieces. Add the avocado to a small bowl and squirt about 2 teaspoons of lime juice over the avocados and a very small pinch of flaky sea salt. Toss to coat. Add the avocados to the mangoes along with the remaining ingredients. Gently stir to combine. Taste and add salt or other seasoning if needed. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside until ready to serve.
Prepare the Tacos
Warm up the tortillas, either by heating them in a skillet over medium heat for about a minute per side. Keep the heated tortillas on a covered plate in a warm oven, or an insulated tortilla warmer.
To assemble the tacos decide if you are using the Citrus Slaw as a side dish or as a part of the taco.
If using the slaw for the taco, place the slaw down on the tortilla then add the fish, divided into manageable size pieces for each taco. Add the mango avocado salsa on top of the fish and serve with crema Mexicana or creme fraiche, and/or citrus slaw on the side.
* If you are serving the Citrus Buttermilk Slaw as a side salad, you may want to add more shredded cabbage. I originally made this recipe using a 1/2 of cabbage each of the purple and green cabbages. I found I had a lot of slaw, enough for at least 8 servings for salad. I pared the recipe down for tacos, where a small amount of slaw is required.
** The heat source in chili peppers is found in the white pith inside the peppers. This is where the seeds are attached. The seeds hold heat as well, but not as much as the pith. You control the level of heat from chilies by slicing out the pith. Wear latex gloves when working with chili peppers, or wash your hands thoroughly after holding them. The oils from the peppers get on your hands and if you touch your eyes it will burn.
© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
I submitted this cookbook review for the Food52 2016 Piglet, which is a tournament for cookbooks. Although my review was not selected, I sill enjoyed the process and The Piglet. I love cookbooks and have to restrain myself from buying everyone I read. Thank goodness for the public library system.
Tacos, Recipes and Provocations by Alex Stupak and Jordana Rothman
Immediately, Tacos, Recipes and Provocations by Alex Stupak and Jordana Rothman caught my attention. Alex’s opening declaration of love for the “Old El Paso” taco of his youth is not a typical opening line. It is a statement that I, and probably most readers, could relate to. However, what becomes clear about this familiarity is how quickly it ends. Alex Stupak has taken the road less traveled using tacos and Mexican cuisine as his road map. Tacos carries the reader along Alex Stupak’s culinary journey and how he uses the taco as an instrument to create new and noteworthy food, while respecting its Mexican traditions.
Even though Tacos is co-authored, it reads as one compelling and authoritative voice. To read Tacos for its own sake, is a good read; to cook from it is a novel experience. Sometimes, it is OK to rant and Alex delivers a few provocations scattered throughout the book. These declarations help personalize his story and defend his attitude, passion, and motivation to change his career path and open his Empellón restaurants. It is very evident Mexican food and tacos grabbed his curiosity. Ultimately, learning about it pushed Stupak into action.
Alex Stupak states in his introduction, “In Spanish Empellón means to push”. Within the pages of his book he reveals the results of his pushing to get to the “…good stuff on the other side”.
“Talking about tacos give us a chance to talk about cultural exchange, about idea appropriations and about the way we value – or undervalue – ethnic cuisines. That’s really what’s happening in these pages: We’re using the taco as a Trojan Horse. And it is time to open the gates.”
A primary purpose of Tacos is to get people inspired and make fresh tortillas. Alex firmly believes tortillas are an essential ingredient of a taco and should be respected as such. Ultimately, a taco is only as good as the tortilla it is made with. He hopes the detailed directions in his book will motivate the reader to cast aside any reluctance and make fresh tortillas. Because, serving any taco with grocery store tortillas would be like eating savory taco filling wrapped in a paper napkin – a tasteless and pasty, disintegrating mess.
The tortilla instructions are precise with photographs illustrating each step . The recipe does not shy away from false hopes and mentions that mastering homemade tortillas will take practice. I have made the corn tortillas on three occasions and flour tortillas once. The corn tortilla flavor is slightly sweet with a warm and distinctive corn taste that wakes you up. The challenging part of making tortillas is to get the thickness just right so it cooks through and is not too heavy. Once you have mastered the traditional corn tortilla there are recipes for tortillas with additives like, saffron, beets, and chorizo. If the chorizo tortilla is anything like the green chorizo gravy, they will be addictive. Alex Stupak has succeeded in converting me to serve my tacos with a fresh homemade tortilla.
© 2016 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.