Category Archives: Tex Mex

Homemade Vegetarian Flour Tortillas

Homemade Vegetarian Flour Tortillas

Homemade Vegetarian Flour Tortillas

I love to cook whenever I am back visiting family in India. Generally speaking, the produce available there is much better than to what I have access to in the US. The vegetables just burst with flavor mostly because most produce comes from non-GMO small farmers. But this is changing as more factory farming takes hold. If the end result is going to be insipid vegetables like we are used to here in the US, then I am not looking forward to it. But I digress.

The kind of food I end up making in India for my family are things they are not used to – Vegetarian Chili, Pizza and Tex Mex, to give a few examples. Given that neither the ingredients nor the equipment is quite the same as the US, one has to improvise. That is part of the fun. We call it Jugaad (see an example here for making Pizza on a stovetop). Given the explosion of IT Services and BPO work and the kind of employees they attract, canned ingredients of most everything I make are now available in grocery stores where my family lives (Old El Paso anyone?) – at a price. However, at my heart I am a cheap Desi and I can’t bear to pay the kind of extortionist prices these ingredients go for. So more often than not, I go back to basics and make things from scratch.

On the last trip, we decided on Tex Mex and I decided to make a Taco Bar from scratch. We had Refried Beans (using Rajma Beans instead of Pinto Beans), Salsa (made from fresh ingredients, not canned tomatoes), Lemon-Cilantro Rice and Tortillas. I had made everything from scratch before except for Tortillas but I was surprised at how easy it was to make them. Since Tortillas are traditionally made with lard, I found a recipe on web that was vegetarian (click here). They turned out really well – waaay better than anything store bought. One thing to know is that the dough will get sticky. Don’t worry too much about it as you can use more flour when rolling the dough out.

INGREDIENTS (for about 8 Tortillas)

2 cups All Purpose flour (I used Maida in India)

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 tsp Baking Powder

Some warm water

STEPS

1. Mix all the dry ingredients and add the oil.

2. Gradually start adding water and kneading the dough till it is nice and soft and slightly sticky.

3. Cover with cling wrap and let rest for an hour.

4. Break the dough into balls about 1-2 inches in diameter.

5. Using lots of flour to cover them so they don’t get sticky, roll them out into discs about 7-8 inches in diameter and about 1/8″-1/4″ in thickness.

6. Heat a dry griddle and skillet and cook Tortillas on both sides till they just start to develop some spots. DO NOT OVERCOOK or they will get hard.

TIP: Watch some videos on Youtube to get a sense of what it takes to roll and cook a Tortilla if you haven’t made a flatbread like Chapati before.

7. Store, covered in a tea cloth or in a sealed container.

8. Enjoy.

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Why buy canned? – the case for homemade Refried Beans

Homemade Refried Beans

Homemade Refried Beans

There’s no escaping Tex-Mex if you live in Southwestern US. While there is plenty of mediocre Tex-Mex on offer (think “On The Border” and “Blue Goose”), genius does exist, you just have to look for it. One of the bedrocks of Tex-Mex are refried beans – Pinto Beans slow cooked with spices. The only problem for vegetarians is that often these are cooked in lard, a big problem especially if your mission in life is to try and keep the lard on the pig rather than off it.

The solution is to look for places that use vegetable shortening or oil for cooking refried beans or to make them yourself. The recipe below works very well. I don’t claim that it is authentic. It is not. But it tastes very good and works well with Tex Mex food. You can use these beans in Tacos, Enchiladas or just as a side.

Apologies once again for the approximate measures. I usually wing this one. Hard to go wrong.

INGREDIENTS (Enough for 12-14 Tacos)

1 1/2 cups dry Pinto Beans

1 Tbsp Olive Oil

1/2 chopped red onion

2-3 cloves of garlic – minced

1 can of Rotel – Tomatoes and Green Chilis

1-2 Tbsp Fajita Seasoning

Salt to taste

1 Tbsp ground roasted cumin

Juice of 1/2 lime (add more if you like)

STEPS

1. Soak the beans overnight in water (cover them completely and then some).

2. Pressure cook the beans with a Bay Leaf and set aside. If you don’t have a Pressure Cooker, no worries, we will use the soaked beans later.

3. Heat the oil in a stockpot and add the chopped onion and garlic.

4. Saute till translucent and add the can of Rotel.

5. Add the cooked (or uncooked beans) and turn to medium heat.

6. Add the seasoning, cumin powder and salt to taste(you can go easy on the salt if you are using uncooked beans at this point).

7. Turn to low heat and cook till the beans are soft (if you are using precooked beans, cook till the beans are mashable). You may need to add water periodically.

8. Mash the beans in the stockpot using a masher.

9. Adjust the salt. Add the lime juice. You are done.

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Grilled Vegetable Enchiladas

Grilled Vegetable Enchiladas

Grilled Vegetable Enchiladas

Veggie Enchiladas are a mainstay in our household. Here is the recipe. However, since we bought a grill in the summer, being Cheap Desis (financially frugal people of Southeast Asian origin) that we are, we have been trying to use them for whatever we can to maximize the grill’s value. Pizza, check. Veggie Burger, check. Grilled Veggies, check. So, the last time we had plans to eat Enchiladas, I decided to make the stuffing using the grill.

Couldn’t have been easier, I used an assortment of peppers – red, orange, green, and some zucchini and chopped it all up into bite-sized pieces. Tossed it with some minced garlic and olive oil. Grilled it all. When it was cool, mixed in some shredded cheddar cheese (you can use as much, or as little you want), and seasoned it with the excellent “Slap Ya Mama” seasoning. You can use salt and pepper as well.

I  then filled up a batch of microwaved corn tortilla (to make them more pliable) with the stuffing, topped it all with the reliable Old El Paso Enchilada sauce and shredded Cheddar cheese. Baked it all at 400F and finished with a broil. That’s it. For more detailed instructions on how to make Enchiladas – look here.

Turned out to be the best batch of enchiladas I have made. The filling made the difference, it was fresh and flavorful. Did not feel overdone or over-engineered. With family in town for the holidays, this may be a good recipe to feed large groups. ¡Buen apetito!

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A Vegetarian Tortilla Soup Recipe

Veggie Tortilla Soup

Veggie Tortilla Soup

On a recent date night, the wife and I went to Fearing’s, the much acclaimed restaurant in Dallas. It was an excellent choice. More than anything else, we were impressed with the service and by the fact that they had a full-on vegetarian menu. Other restaurants can learn a lot from the attention to detail and the attentive service (always there when you want it, but never cloying) from Fearing’s. The atmosphere was great too. Relaxed, casual, not stuffy at all.

For appetizers we ordered a Mexican-style Street Taco (for my wife) and Tortilla Soup (for me). I liked the taco was better than the soup. The soup had great flavor but was a tad oversalted for my taste. For the main course, we ordered a Vegetable Cous Cous dish (for my wife), and a Mexican platter (for me). Again, I preferred the Cous Cous (did I hear somebody mention something about grass being greener on the other side?). The Mexican platter was good but a little greasy since a couple of items were deep-fried (fried avocados and Taquitos). It did have great flavor though and the slaw and corn that came with it was awesome.

Anyway, I have been meaning to make Tortilla Soup for a long time and this inspired me. So I took ideas from a number of different recipes and the flavors from Fearing’s and came up with the recipe below. It was very good. A little spicy though. Next time, I might go easy on the Chipotle Chiles and avoid the Hatch Chiles altogether.

INGREDIENTS (enough for 3 good sized servings)

1 Tbsp Olive Oil

4 Cloves garlic – minced

1 Medium red onion – diced

1 Can diced tomatoes

2 Cups vegetable stock

2 Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce

1/2 Hatch chili (Optional)

Salt

Pepper

1/2 tsp Roasted Cumin

2 Corn husks – you will need to shave the kernels off (you can also use a cup of frozen corn kernels)

STEPS

1. Heat the oil.

2. Saute garlic and onion till translucent.

3. Add the tomatoes and stock and cook on medium heat for 10 minutes.

4. Add the chilis. NOTE: If you are unsure about the heat of the dish add one chile at a time and repeat step 5 as often as needed.

5. Blend using a hand blender. Taste. If more chili is needed, add and reblend.

6. Add the Salt and Pepper to taste, and the cumin. Adjust seasoning to taste.

7. Add the corn and bring to a boil, and then reduce heat and simmer till corn is cooked.

8. Add more water/stock if the soup it too thick. The soup should be slightly thicker than a good tomato soup.

9. Serve with a dollop of sour cream, some sliced avocado and some crumbled tortilla chips. Enjoy with some Cheese Quesadillas for a full meal.

 

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Soyrizo: a very good idea, Breakfast Tacos

Soyrizo Breakfast Tacos

We love Breakfast Tacos. There have known to be frequent sightings at breakfast time in the foodydoody household. A while back I had posted a recipe for making them (click here). We used to usually make some hash browns, drop some eggs and scramble them, and then eat them rolled up in a flour tortilla with cheese, salsa and pico di gallo.

But something changed recently. I discovered Soyrizo. It is a vegetarian take on Chorizo, a highly spiced Spanish/Mexican sausage and it is delicious. In fact, some people swear that Soyrizo tastes better than the real thing. Unfortunately I have no point of reference to confirm that. The best part is that it takes Breakfast Tacos to a completely new level. Very easy to use, just heat some oil and fry the Soyrizo for a little bit. Then mix it in with the Hash Brown/Egg mixture and you are done. Fold the mixture in a warm flour tortilla and eat with the usual fixins’.

Yum! Yum! Yum! Yum! Tum! Delicioso!

 

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A Texas Twister – Spaghetti with a Southwestern twist

Southwestern Spaghetti with Pinto Beans, Corn and Pecan

Summer is here and with it comes fresh, beautiful, corn. At Central Market the other day (mostly browsing) some cobs caught my eye and seemed to say “Come hither.” So I went thither and bought three not quite knowing what I will do with them. Corn chowder was contemplated but discarded owing to the 100F Texas temperatures. Gazpacho was briefly considered but I wasn’t quite in the mood for it. Then an internet search produced a recipe for spaghetti with black beans and corn. Spaghetti with distinctly Southwestern ingredients? Why not, I said to myself as I proceed to concoct the dish below. Turned out pretty well, even if I say so myself. The kids loved it, the missus thought it was a little bland.

Much as I liked it, this is a recipe in the works and needs more work. What I would do differently next time is a) try it without the pecans and b) finish the spaghetti in the pasta sauce rather than heaping the sauce over the pasta (learned this trick yesterday at a cooking class at Central Market) – the pasta soaks up the sauce much better cooked this way, and c) add some chopped jalapenos to add some kick.
INGREDIENTS (for 4 large servings)

  • 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 medium onion – diced
  • 1 large carrot – peeled and diced
  • 1 can of no-salt diced tomato
  • 5-6 basil leaves
  • 1 sprig of fresh rosemary (about 2 inches long)
  • 2 sage leaves
  • 1/2 cup toasted pecans
  • 1 can pinto beans – washed and rinsed.
  • The kernels from two ears of fresh sweet corn on the cob
  • Salt and pepper
  • Spaghetti cooked al dente according to instructions

STEPS

1. Heat the oil.

2. Saute onions and carrots till onions are transparent.

3. Add the tomato, basil, rosemary and sage.

4. Cook till the carrots are soft – about 10 minutes.

5. Cool and puree with the toasted pecans.

6. Heat the sauce and add the pinto beans.

7. Add pepper and salt to taste.

8. Cook the sauce on low heat for 10 minutes. Add water if the sauce is too thick. You want a Tomato Basil sauce consistency.

9. Cook pasta separately. Keep it a little raw and finish it in the sauce.

10. Top with Parmesan (or Queso Fresca) and serve warm.

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A pleasurable way of increasing your vegetable consumption – Veggie Enchiladas

Enchiladas ready to be put in the oven

Many years back I moved to the US from India via the UK. The first restaurant I ever went to in the US was a Tex-Mex place called Chuy’s and it was love at first bite. The heat and tang of Tex-Mex is the perfect combination for foodies who love a little bite in their food. If you haven’t already been to Chuy’s, please do yourself a favor next time you are in Texas and indulge your palate. Over the years, having been to many other Tex-Mex establishments, my love for Chuy’s has continued to grow along with a desire to learn to cook this wonderful cuisine of my adopted homeland.

So when I came across a Market Enchilada recipe by Stephen Pyles, my curiosity was piqued. Not only did it look great but it also used a lot of fresh vegetables and seemed to be a tasty, healthy alternative to the standard Tex-Mex fare. I made this recipe for many years but wanted to change the flavor profile a little as well as simplify it for everyday cooking. So like most recipes, I played around with it. It didn’t take long to settle on the recipe below. It has my picky daughter’s stamp of approval on it, so I can say with some confidence that it is a kid-friendly recipe. If you want your kids to eat more veggies, you may want to give it a try.

INGREDIENTS (for 8-9 enchiladas)

1 small sweet potato – peeled and diced into bite-sized pieces

1 Tbsp cooking oil (canola or grapeseed or something else with a high smoke point – we will need to heat the oil on high heat)

1/2 red onion – chopped fine

1/2 tsp minced garlic

1 red bell pepper – diced into bite-sized pieces

1 green bell pepper – diced into bite-sized pieces

1 yellow squash

NOTE: You can pretty much use all kinds of squash and peppers in this recipe. Your imagination is your only limitation.

Salt

Pepper

1 tsp ground cumin

2 Tbsp Ancho Chile paste (see note below on how to make this)

1 cup shredded Mexican cheese mix

1 can enchilada sauce of your choice (I know this is a copout since I am not making it from scratch but it makes life much simpler)

Corn tortillas

STEPS

1. Bring water to a boil in a stockpot.

2. Add the sweet potato and cook for 5-6 minutes till cooked but not mushy.

3. Drain the water and set the potatoes aside.

4. Heat the cooking oil in a skillet. You will want to use a cooking oil that has a high smoke point because essentially you are stir frying on high heat.

5. Saute onion and garlic till the onions turn translucent.

6. Add the bell peppers, squash and cooked sweet potatoes.

7. Add salt and pepper to taste.

8. Add cumin powder.

9. Cook on high heat till veggies are starting to char.

10. Add Ancho chile paste.

11. Take off the heat and mix with 1 cup of shredded cheese.

12. Sprinkle some water on the corn enchiladas and nuke them for about 45 seconds to soften them.

13. Scoop a generous amount of the mixture in a tortilla and fold the sides down to make an enchilada.

14. Start lining the enchiladas up in a greased baking pan.

15. Generously top with the enchilada sauce.

16. Sprinkle some shredded cheese down the middle.

17. Bake in an oven at 400F till the cheese is bubbling. If you like, you can finish off by broiling the enchiladas very briefly (till the cheese barely starts to brown).

18. Take the baking pan out, let the enchiladas settle for 5 minutes and serve.

ANCHO CHILE PASTE

Ancho chiles are dried Poblano chiles and originate in Mexico. They are usually not too hot but add a very nice flavor to the dish. You can find them in most Mexican grocery stores. I have even seen them in regular grocery stores here in Texas, where I live. This is what they look like.

Ancho Chile

To make an Ancho chile paste, here is what you do.

1. Take a chile and roast it in the oven or toaster oven. You may want to be careful as it starts smoking very fast.

2. Crack open the chile and deseed it and discard the stalk.

3. Soak in water to cover the chile for 30 minutes or more. It is essentially dehydrated at this point.

4. Grind the water and soaked chile to a paste.

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