September 4, 2019

Dear friends,
Very few recipes earn a spot in my regular rotation. Baked tacos are one of them.

I like this recipe because the tacos taste great and the filling can be whatever is in the fridge. Feta cheese? Fine. Green peppers? Throw ‘em in.

Last week I had those plus corn on the cob, so I made a roasted vegetable salsa to go with a steak I planned to pan-grill. I made the salsa in the morning, quickly cooked the steak at dinner time, and married them on a flour tortilla in the oven for 10 minutes.

I love the way flour tortillas crisp and warm in the oven, yet remain pliable enough to fold over the filling. The window of opportunity is brief, though. If you don’t fold as soon as the tortilla comes from the oven, it will be too late.

I think flour tortillas, in particular, taste best when thoroughly cooked. They taste raw to me when they’re merely warmed in a skillet or a microwave. Heating them on a cookie sheet for 10 minutes makes a world of difference in flavor.

Consider my roasted vegetable salsa recipe merely a suggestion. Roast and add whatever vegetables you like to the mix, including cubed summer squash, charred onions and mushrooms.

BAKED STEAK TACOS WITH ROASTED VEGETABLE SALSA

For the salsa:
8 bell and medium-hot peppers mixed, or enough to fill a baking sheet when halved
12 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 ear corn
1/8 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. oregano
Coarse sea salt to taste
2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
Juice of 1/2 lime
1/4 cup chopped cilantro (optional)

Wash and halve the peppers lengthwise. Remove and discard the ribs, stems and seeds. Place peppers in a single layer on a lightly oiled baking sheet.

Cut tomatoes in halves and place cut-sides up on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for about 30 to 40 minutes for the peppers and 1 hour for the tomatoes. The tomatoes should be slumped but still juicy.

Shuck corn, spray with olive oil spray and toast over a gas burner, turning with tongs, until singed in spots. Or singe on a grill. It does not have to be fully cooked.

Cut corn from cob and place in a medium bowl. Cut peppers into 3/4-inch pieces and add to the bowl along with the tomatoes. Stir in cumin, oregano and salt. Stir in olive oil, lime juice and cilantro if using. Cover and refrigerate if making in advance.

For the tacos:
1 lb. boneless top sirloin steak, trimmed of fat
Salt, pepper
6 large flour tortillas
3/4 cup crumbled feta or shredded cheese (Cheddar, Monterey Jack, provolone…)

Season steak on both sides with plenty of salt and pepper. Heat a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Coat skillet with olive oil spray or a film of vegetable oil. Sear steak in hot skillet until brown on one side. Turn and reduce heat to medium. Continue to cook to the desired degree of doneness. The time will vary depending on the thickness of the steak, but shouldn’t take longer than 5 minutes total.

Let steak rest for 10 minutes if possible. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with olive oil spray or lightly film with vegetable oil. Cut rested steak across the grain into 1/4-inch-thick slices.

Place two flour tortillas on the baking sheet. Arrange some of the steak and some of the salsa off-center on each of the tortillas. Sprinkle about 2 tablespoons of the cheese over the filling.

Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes or until the edges start to crisp and brown. Remove from oven and with tongs, immediately fold the tortillas over the filling. Transfer to plates. Continue with remaining tortillas and fillings. Makes 6 large tacos.

GUT CHECK
What I cooked/assembled last week:
Egg, chorizo and green pepper scramble with salsa on whole-wheat toast; baked steak tacos with roasted vegetable salsa; stuffed baked poblano peppers with sour cream and salsa; muskmelon and prosciutto.

What I ate in/from restaurants:
Chicken shawarma wrap at Continental Cuisine in Fairlawn; tuna tataki, octopus sashimi, tamago (omelet), salmon roe and a tuna roll at Sushi Katsu in Akron; combo dinner (marinated grilled beef, chicken and kefta, kibbee, rice pilaf, baba ganoush, hummus, tabbouli and pita bread) from Mediterranean Market and Grill in Cuyahoga Falls; a corn dog and sugar-free lemonade at the Great Geauga County Fair in Burton.

THE MAILBAG
From Luis M.:
Re: your paella — Last February a Spanish restaurant, Don Quijote, opened in the Belden Village area. My wife and I tried their paella repeatedly and found it to be outstanding — much better-tasting than the ones in the Cleveland area.

For tapas try the shrimp in garlic sauce, “gambas al ajillo”

Dear Luis:
Thanks for the recommendation. I thought you had misspelled “Quixote,” but in fact the restaurant is “Don Quijote.” It is at 4695 Dressler Rd. N.W. Those who are interested can check out the website at donquijotecanton.com. The menu is enticing. The kitchen uses authentic Spanish ingredients such as serrano ham and manchego cheese, and offers typical Spanish dishes such as grilled sardines, grilled octopus and caramel flan.

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