Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese. ~ CK Chesterton

Howdy Yall! It's time to lick your lips and drool as we discuss yummy vittles and Texas testaments to taste!

I hope you enjoy your time with us. Please be sure to drop by and leave a message or a hello. We want to know how to better serve you!

~Blue Zebra

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Oh Tostada Of Mine, How You Tempt Me

Oh tostada of mine, I love you so, you towering pillow of TexMex joy. Your piles of deliciously fresh ingredients layer perfectly. Each separate, but giving up a little of yourselves to the next. A testimony to team work, striated excellence, crunches on my fork with each delicate bite. Could you be any more sublime, tostada of mine?

By now you may be tired of hearing my “growing up” stories. If so, please drop me a note and I promise I will take your objections seriously! But growing up, Mom must have spent many hours dreaming in her head about ingenious ways to include TexMex meals into our weekly menus so that it felt like we ate what we called
“Mexican Food” at least twice a week. So much was her love that we had meals of tacos one night, tostadas another and occasionally she would break down and make enchiladas.

We all loved TexMex, even our dachsunds! Green gobs of guacamole frequently left a taste here or there for one of them to enjoy. I seem to remember eating beans a lot as well; as borracho beans but also as refried beans and even remember chili rellenos a time or two. Chili was of course a staple and you know my feelings about that! We had nachos, then a very sophisticated and unique dish, and her very favorite, tamales at every turn. And when she could scrape up a couple of pennies we would eat at Monterrey House or Loma Linda on the southwest side of a very young suburban Houston. Back then you could get the deluxe meal at Monterrey House for $3.00. It included a chili con queso, taco, tostada, guacamole, cheese enchilada in chili sauce, tamale, rice, beans and a piece of Mexican candy for dessert.

I don’t have to think too hard to include TexMex in our weekly menu and indeed, there are many weeks we eat it two or three times! I’m blatant about it. Lucky for me B enjoys it just as much as I do. One of my favorite things to make are homemade tostadas. You can make them full fat with mounds of ground beef and fried corn tortillas, or choose to make a slightly lighter version as I have here, made with ground turkey, oven baked corn tortillas and light sour cream (you could even use yogurt if you really wanted to go low fat.) Although low fat and TexMex sounds an awful lot like an oxymoron, don’t you think?

Anyway, please enjoy these tostadas of mine, these lovely towering pillows of TexMex joy!

TexMex Tostadas
By Blue Zebra
Yield 8 tostadas


For ground meat mixture:
1 lb ground turkey (ground beef may be substituted)
1 onion, chopped coarsely
4 cloves garlic, chopped finely
1 jalapeno, fresh, stemmed and chopped finely with seeds
1/4 cup cilantro, stems and leaves, chopped coarsely
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
2 tsp ancho chile powder*
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 cup water

For tostadas:
8 corn tortillas (ready made tostada shells may be substituted)
1 - 1/2 cup refried beans, heated and spiced correctly
4 cups shredded lettuce (I use Romaine)
2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 cup Longhorn cheese, shredded
1/2 cup sour cream (light sour cream may be used)
1 large avocado, ripe, seeded, and cubed (guacamole may be substituted)
Olive oil spray for tostadas
1/2 cup salsa
salt and pepper to taste


For ground meat mixture:
Crumble ground meat into large sauté pan and combine with all ingredients except water. Cook over high heat, stirring every now and again to allow all the meat to brown and the onions to cook. When meat is browned and onions are translucent, add water and reduce heat to medium low. Allow to cook at a slow simmer for 20 minutes or until water is absorbed. Adjust seasonings as necessary.

For tostada shells:
If using ready made tostada shells, follow package instructions to heat the shells. If making your own shells from corn tortillas you can choose to either fry them in a shallow sauté pan using a small amount of vegetable oil or lard, or you can mist the tortillas on one side and place them directly on the rack of your oven. Cook at 400 degrees until the top side starts to get golden. Flip them and mist lightly with a bit more oil then let them complete the toasting process. Remove and allow tocool a bit. The tostada shells will continue to crisp as they cool.

For tostadas:
Place tostada shell on plate. If using beans, spread a small layer of beans on shell. Top with a spoon of meat mixture. Add lettuce, tomato, onion, cheese, guacamole, salsa and top with a dollop of sour cream or yogurt.
Eat immediately! Yummmm! Then write your own salute to the TexMex Tower of Treats, the tostada! Arrrrrrribbbbbaaaaa!!!

Blue Zebra Cooking Tip:

Homemade Chile Powder
So let's pretend you hate prepared chile powder as badly as I do, ok? If so, then go out and choose what flavor of chile you prefer. Do you want a pure powder of ancho chile? How about a blend of Ancho and Pasilla? All you need to do is grab a handful of your favorite dried chiles and a cast iron pan and go to work!

Heat a cast iron skillet to medium high to high heat. Place your hand about two inches above the bottom of the pan and if you can let it stay there to the count of nine, your pan is hot enough. Be careful not to actually touch the bottom of the pan! Add your dried chiles (I wash mine and let them dry the night before). Let the pods toast in the pan, this is called dry roasting. Flip the pods after a minute or two. You will start to smell them toast. If necessary, adjust heat in pan so they toast and don't burn.

Be sure to turn your vent on over your stove! One toasted, remove stems and empty out all the seeds from inside the dried chili pods. Place chilis in blender or tear them into pieces and place in your spice/coffee grinder. Grind to a fine powder.

Place powder in air tight jar or canister. Use in place of commercial chile powders in all your favorite recipes. Just know that you will need to adjust for salt in your recipes since your chile powder is pure and has no additives or salt added, unlike commercial blends.



katiez said...

Now that's not even fair! Not only can I not get the ingredients to make my own chili powder, I have to bring what I use back from the states to have it at all! Fortunately, it comes in little jars. BTW - which commercial brand is least offensive to you?
I also smuggle in cans of green chilies. We do have an 'Old El Paso' section in the International Foods department of our supermarket....which means I can get tortillas and some god-awful package mixes. But I'm happy with the tortillas - I can make the rest...

Blue Zebra said...

{{Katiez}} truth be told here, except for chili making, I don't use a lot of chile powder! I don't actually like the flavor that much. Depending on my mood, I either add it to this meat mix or not. Most people expect that "taco taste" in taco or tostada meat though. I prefer it to simply taste of garlic, onion, cilantro a little cumin and a tiny hint of coriander!

I can't recommend a store brand. :( Although there are some new ones out that are smoked etc from some of the pros out there. I usually just take a handful of what I have on hand and use them. They are usually a mix of ancho, passillo, guajillo, arbol (hot so watch it), and sometimes a dried jalapeno here or there.

As for the other stuff, green chiles (canned) work just fine. When I run out of fresh Hatch chiles I use the canned Hatch chiles. I make everything else from scratch usually. It's easy, especially if you do it ahead as with tortillas. I usually buy storebought soft corn tortillas because they are a pain to make. Homemade flour tortillas are just the bomb!

Wish I could send you what you need! The freight is killer though isn't it?

Sandi @the WhistleStop Cafe said...

That is my weakness. A little Tex-Mex with some kick to it and a margarita.
MmMMMmm =D

neil said...

Never had one of these, but when I do, it will be full fat for me. Okay, now I have a question. What exactly is the difference between TexMex & Mexican cooking. I have this sneaking feeling that a lot of what I like and think of as Mexican is actually TexMex.

Sweet Cottage Dreams said...

Thank you for stopping by for a visit today! Nice to meet you via our blogging! OMG! Your blog looks deeee-lish!!! I will have to go back and read about your cooking and recipes! Right now I am making "green" soup..lentil and pea. My boys dubbed it green soup as children. I serve it with homemade cornbread...a real belly warmer! Have a great evening!!


Blue Zebra said...

Sandi, I adore TexMex as you can tell and a margarita or two are never wrong...right? :D

Neil I haven't googled the diff between Mexican and TexMex but my thoughts are that it's kinda like the diff between Chinese food and American Chinese food. It's adapted to better suit the American cultural palette. So imagine that you would see a smaller use of offal, bolder spicing usually, greater use of heat thru chiles. Much more garlic, etc. But again, Mexico is such a huge country that it depends on which region you're talkin about, right? It's a cuisine/s so worth exploring!!!! Enjoy!

Blue Zebra said...

Becky thank YOU for stopping by and for your lovely compliment! Maybe we can become new friends!?! I can't wait to revisit your site and read more, either. I am going to add you to my favorites list, too!!



Sue said...

I love your growing up stories BZ. I guess I always yearn to hear more of those type stories because my own life was so depleated of them.

I have made my own chile powder for several years but I just take my dried chiles and grind them without roasting. I will have to try to roast to see the difference next time.

I love tex mex just about better than any cusine. I will try your recipe.

Thanks for both the stories and recipes.

Blue Zebra said...

{{Sue}} wish you were here right now so I could give ya big ole Texas hug! I'm so glad you are my friend and that I get to read about life in your neck of the woods too! I love your blog! :D

On your chile powder, how do you get it to powder without toasting? Do you use the food processor or a coffee grinder? Does it have a raw taste? I am going to have try it your way!

lynn said...

Making your own chile powder? That's awesome! I'd never even thought of it. Your tostada looks like a plateful of heaven!

gabrielle said...

I love your delicious, poetic descriptions, Blue Zebra!

As a new tostada aficionada, I can hardly wait to make my own for my Cinco de Mayo dinner this week, but I do have one question: what's the traditional way of actually EATING a tostada? Does one fork most of the top goodies, then pick up the tortilla bottom and finish it off in hand? I read somewhere that some just grab it with both hands, like a bull, and hang on till its gone... :)

Anonymous said...

For authentic Mexican Food you might explore the cookbooks written by Rick Bayless of Frontera Grill in Chicago. He is a james Beard Award winning Chef who specializes in regional Mexican Cooking. He also has a prograp on PBS TV about Mexican Cooking. Paul