Answer? Your kitchen!
No, really. If you can buy cilantro, avacado, cumin, tortillas, and other essential Tex-Mex ingredients, you’re good to go. Even if your kitchen is barely large enough for two people to stand in at the same time and has an oven roughly the size of your childhood Easy Bake Oven (just kidding…kinda), you can produce the tastes of the Great Ol’ State of Texas right in your own Manhattan apartment.
Here are two simple and satisfying (and fairly healthy?) recipes I made this past week to cure our homesickness for…a type of food.
Cilantro-Lime Chicken Tacos
- 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 1/4 cup of fresh cilantro, chopped
- juice of one lime
- 12-oz. of salsa (or 3/4 of a 16-oz. jar, for the math-challenged)
- 1/2 1.25-oz. package reduced-sodium taco seasoning
- 2 jalapeno peppers, seeds and membranes removed, finely chopped
- shredded pepperjack cheese, to taste
- 8 flour tortillas
This is the salsa I used. I purchased “hot” salsa because this is our store brand, and the store chain is based in New York City. I know. I know. “NEW YORK CITY?!?!” *cue 90s Pace Picante sauce commercial* You should stew me for this, for this purchasing of salsa made in New York City. But it was a whole $2 less than the salsa brand made in El Paso, Texas. And $2 in NYC money is significant savings.
In its defense, Fairway makes yummy: bagels, baguettes, olives, olive oil, hummus, and kosher desserts. This probably should have been my sign, as not one of those foods is anything like salsa. In New York’s defense, there are few lunches as simple and wonderful as an everything bagel with lox spread. It almost makes up for the salsa.
Anywho, let me tell you some more about this salsa. It is not “hot.” It is not “unbelievably good.” It is not “chip’s best friend.” It is made of mainly tomatoes and lies. But it does work well in this particular recipe due to its rather saucy (read: liquid) nature. And I made it hot by adding those jalapenos, so there. Anyway.
- Combine salsa, lime juice, cilantro, taco seasoning, and jalapenos in a small bowl.
- Place chicken breasts at the bottom of a crockpot (I have a cute, little 2-quart one for my cute, little kitchen). Then cover with salsa mixture.
- Cook on low in slow-cooker for 6 hours. Spend the next 6 hours dipping chips in the leftover salsa, remarking how bad it is, then dipping chips in said salsa again, just to see if it got any better over time. (It didn’t.)
- When the chicken is fully cooked, remove and place on a plate, shredding with two forks. This should be very easy and weirdly fun. Then place the shredded chicken back into the crockpot of sauce, and stir around.
- Meanwhile, wrap the tortillas in foil and heat in the oven at a low temperature. Shred some cheese, too, while you’re at it.
- Assemble your tacos! Spoon the cilantro-lime chicken onto a tortilla, sprinkle on some cheese, roll-up burrito style, and enjoy! De nada. (That’s Spanish for, “Aren’t you glad New York salsa tastes better after you mix it up with a bunch of other things?”)
Sorry, no picture of the final product. It was too good to wait to take a photo.
Roasted Red Pepper and Black Bean Soup
- 1 T olive oil
- 1 Spanish onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 T chili powder
- 1 tsp. cumin
- 2 (15 oz) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 (15 oz) can diced tomatoes
- 1 cup chicken stock/broth
- 3 roasted red peppers, chopped*
- 2 roasted poblano chiles, chopped*
- 1/2 tsp. oregano
- 1 cup corn (I used thawed frozen)
- juice of 1 lime
- salt and pepper, to taste
- optional toppings: sliced avacado, fresh chopped cilantro, shredded pepperjack cheese, sour cream, crushed tortilla chips
*To roast peppers, chop in half and remove seeds, stems, and membranes. Place on a cooking sheet or baking dish, cut-side down (see below). Broil in oven for 10-20 minutes, until the skins have blackened.** Place the peppers in a large, SEALED freezer bag for 20 minutes, until cool enough to handle. The skins should then be able to easily peel off, and the peppers are ready for chopping and cooking.
**Your smoke detector will probably HATE you for this, despite the fact that there is no smoke, no burning, and definitely no fire. She will yell loudly, “FIRE FIRE FIRE FIRE!” And you will stand on your fold-out stool, hopelessly flailing about at the smoke detector because you are 5’2″ and still too short, and of course your husband isn’t home yet and of course the heavy tax accounting books you used to use as that final boost of height are at his office now. Or maybe these things only happen to me.
1. Heat oil in the pan.
2. Add onions and saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Then add garlic, cumin, and chili powder, and saute until fragrant, about a minute.
3. Add the beans, tomatoes, corn, peppers (red and poblano, both), chicken stock/broth, and oregano, and simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. Remove approximately half of the soup and pour into a food processor or blender, and “chop” it up a few quick times to give it a more pureed texture, while still leaving a good portion of the soup hearty and chunky. Or use an immersion blender. I hear that works, too, and is much easier.
5. Serve steaming hot, with toppings of choice (or none at all).
This soup, while meat-free and quite healthy, is surprisingly hearty and filling. We ate it three days in a row and then wished we could eat it some more. Roasting the peppers really adds a nice smokey flavor (ha, smoke detector, you’re getting the last laugh now!). It’s also quite delicious scooped up on tortilla chips, which makes it less healthy but even more filling.
For the perfect remedy for a chilly Northeastern evening, eat this soup, then curl up with a blanket and good book, and coax your cat into curling about your feet and warming them. You’ll completely forget that it is colder than freezing outside. Or that you’re in a place that is known for making really bad salsa. I promise.