Fresh Tex-Mex
by Julie Badger Jensen

Southwestern cooking can be bold and flavorful, yet healthy as well. There is an excitement about this “hot” cuisine. Mexican cooking is one of the world’s oldest traditions, intertwining foods of the Aztecs with the ingredients and cooking methods introduced by the Spanish conquistadors over 400 years ago. Combine with this home-style Texas cooking and you’ll discover the superb and unique Tex-Mex cuisine.

The real heart and soul of these wonderful foods is healthy . . . but has been changed over the years. To get back to these original dishes, replace some of the calorie-loaded and greasy ingredients with fresh fruit salsas, citrus marinades and savory chutneys. Herbs can add a bit of fire and spice.

The honest freshness of vegetables, fruits, and herbs are satisfying and delicious. This is what summer eating is all about . . . ripe, succulent tomatoes and papayas, crisp peppers and lettuce accented with the zing of cilantro or chili peppers. If you haven’t served jicama, give it a try . . . the crispness and subtle flavor are a wonderful contrast to other southwest foods.

Try serving veggies to accompany Mexican dips instead of tortilla chips. Broil seafood such as salmon or halibut and top with salsa rather than tartar sauce. Doesn’t eating healthy feel good? The supermarkets are filled with a myriad of fresh produce and a rainbow of peppers and herbs . . . if you don’t grow your own.

Try some of the following recipes and discover more of your own. Watch the smiling faces as they gather AROUND THE TABLE.

CHICKEN BURRITOS

WITH MANGO SALSA

Fabulous! Ole

4 Tbs. fresh lime juice

2 Tbs. fresh orange juice

4 sprigs cilantro

4 sprigs tarragon

1 / 2 tsp. coarsely chopped dried chile or 1 / 2 tsp. chili powder

1 / 2 tsp. cayenne pepper, optional

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 lb. chicken tenders

4 eight-inch flour tortillas

Shredded lettuce

2 1 / 2 cups Mango Salsa (recipe follows)

Combine juices, cilantro, tarragon, dried chile or chili powder, cayenne, and 1 / 2 tsp. salt and pepper in a bowl. Add chicken, cover, and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours.

Heat grill, broiler or stovetop pan to medium heat. Sprinkle chicken with 1 / 2 tsp. salt and 3 / 4 tsp. pepper. Cook about 5 minutes per side, or until cooked through. Cover; set aside in a warm place.

Lightly brown each tortilla on griddle using a small amount of olive oil, butter or oil spray.

Fill each tortilla with chicken, lettuce and salsa. Serves 4.

MANGO SALSA

Also great with grilled fish or chicken

2 ripe mangoes, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/4-inch dice

1 fresh red pepper (medium size), chopped

2 Tbs. coarsely chopped cilantro

2 Tbs. fresh lime juice

1 / 2 tsp. salt

1 / 4 tsp. pepper

1 Tbs. minced green onion

1 / 2 medium onion, chopped and sauted in small amount olive oil or butter until

lightly browned

Toss all ingredients together gently; serve with Chicken Burritos.

Note: 2 large peaches may be substituted for mangos.

BEEF ENCHILADAS

Great main dish

1 lb. lean ground beef

1 medium onion, grated

2 medium potatoes, grated

1 can (4 oz.) chopped green chiles

1 can (15 oz.) chili

1 dozen soft shell tortillas

2 cups cheddar or Monterey jack cheese, grated

1 / 4 cup green onion

Garnishes

tomatoes, chopped

lettuce, shredded

sour cream

Spray two 9×14″ baking dish with cooking spray. Brown ground beef. Add onions and potatoes and cook until tender. Add green chilies and chili. Stir together. Fill each tortilla with mixture. Roll up and place in baking dishes (six per dish). Top with cheese and green onions. Bake at 325 degrees for about 30 minutes. Garnish with shredded lettuce and tomatoes, and sour cream as desired.

TACO STACK

Serve yourself

Great for a crowd

1 pkg. taco seasoning (1.5 oz.)

3 / 4 cup water

1 lb. ground beef

1 / 2 cup corn

1 / 2 cup black beans

tortilla chips

Toppings

lettuce

tomatoes

cheese

green onions

sour cream

Brown and crumble ground beef. Stir in taco seasoning and water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add corn and beans. Place in serving dish. Let guests serve themselves by layering chips, meat mixture, and desired amounts of lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, green onions, and sour cream.

SHRIMP AND MELON PLATTER

Summer seafood delight

1 lb. fresh or frozen shelled shrimp

1 / 4 cup sliced green onions

1 Tbs. finely chopped chili peppers

1 Tbs. vegetable oil

1-2 Tbs. snipped cilantro

1/8 tsp. salt

1 dash of freshly ground black pepper

1 cantaloupe, honeydew or Persian melon, peeled,

seeded and cut into 12 1-inch thick wedges

1 medium carambola (starfruit)

Lettuce leaves

1 / 2 cup lime juice

2 Tbs. honey

Cook the shrimp in a large saucepan with boiling water only about one minutes, or until they turn pink. Drain and rinse with cool water to halt the cooking process. Drain, cover and refrigerate.

When shrimp are chilled, add the green onion, chili peppers, vegetable oil, cilantro, salt and pepper. Cover again and chill at least two hours.

To serve, line each dinner plate with lettuce leaves. Overlap three of the melon slices. Heap one-fourth pound shrimp on melon slices. Garnish each serving with 1 or 2 slices of the star-shaped carambola.

For dressing, combine the lime juice with the honey. Drizzle over the shrimp and melon. Serves 4 as a main dish.

FIESTA DIP

They’ll be coming back for more

1 (8-oz). pkg. cream cheese, softened

1 cup salsa

1 (15-oz) can chili with no beans

Combine softened cream cheese, salsa and chili in a saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently until hot. Serve warm with tortilla chips. (Also great over taco salads or as a topping for tacos.)

TACO BEEF SOUP

A favorite for all ages

1 lb. ground beef

1 / 2 cup chopped onions

3 cups water

2 (26-oz) cans stewed tomatoes, undrained

2 (16-oz) cans kidney beans, undrained

1 (16-oz) can tomato sauce

1 envelope (1.5 oz.) taco seasoning mix

Toppings

cheddar cheese, grated

tomatoes, chopped

green onions, chopped

corn chips

sour cream

avocado, chopped

In a large saucepan cook ground beef and onions until meat is browned, drain off excess fat. Add the water, stewed tomatoes, kidney beans, tomato sauce and taco seasoning. Simmer the soup, covered for 15 minutes. Pass cheese, tomatoes, green onions, corn chips, sour cream and avocado for each person to top their individual serving. Serves 6.

MEXICAN QUICHE

You’ll be doing the Mexican

hat dance over this one

1 / 4 cup butter, melted

5 eggs

1 / 4 cup flour

1 / 2 tsp. baking powder

1 cup cottage cheese

1 / 4 cup chopped onion, sauted until lightly browned

1 cup Jack cheese, shredded

1 small can diced green chilies (7 oz.)

Beat eggs lightly in large bowl. Add flour and baking powder; blend. Add melted butter, chilies, cottage cheese, onion and Jack cheese, and mix just until blended. Pour mixture into a 9×9-inch baking dish or pie pan and bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and continue baking about 30 minutes. Cut into small squares or wedges and serve hot.

HOW TO ROAST

BELL PEPPERS

Used in many recipes

1. Preheat the broiler.

2. Slice the peppers in half lengthwise. Core them, and remove the seeds and ribs.

3. Lay the pieces skin side up on a flat broiling pan, and place the pan 3 to 4 inches below the heat. Broil the peppers until the skins are charred (they should be black). Then place the peppers in a plastic bag, seal it with a twist tie, and set aside. Let the peppers steam in the bag for 15 minutes.

4. Remove the peppers from the bag and slip off the charred skins.

5. Place the peppers in a storage jar, add olive oil to just cover, and store, covered, in the refrigerator. The peppers will keep for 1 week.

STRAWBERRY TROPICAL SMOOTHIE

Festive, fantastic freeze

2 cups sugar

3 cups hot tap water

3 oz. undiluted frozen orange concentrate

3 oz. undiluted frozen lemonade

3 cups pineapple juice

1 qt. strawberries, blended

1 12-oz. can lemon-lime carbonated soda

fresh strawberries or mint for garnishing

Stir together sugar and hot tap water. Add other ingredients and mix thoroughly. Freeze in plastic container. Thaw at room temperature for about 1 hour. At serving time add lemon-lime soda as desired. Garnish glass with fresh strawberry, mint or colorful toothpick umbrellas.

 


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