CE #2: Taco Tuesday (or Everyday)

In the dental world, CE stands for ‘Continuing Education,’ courses that you pay to take to keep yo’ skillz fresh; here, though, CE will stand for ‘Cheap Eats,’ meal recipes that are both affordable and delectable.

Pineapple-Black Bean Tacos

w/ Quick Pickled Radishes & Cilantro-Lime Brown Rice

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Ticky tacky taco, sis-boom-baco!  Don’t really know where that came from, but that was the chorus that would ring through the kitchen whenever my mom would make tacos when I was a kid (which was actually a bit longer ago than I am prepared to admit).  My family likes to rhyme things.

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Tacos were probably the most-frequently-requested birthday dinner of my youth.  I loved piling my tortilla with as much STUFF as possible and cramming my mammoth creation into my mouth, letting all the taco juices dripped down my wrist onto my plate (or, lap, as it were).  After all, what kid (or adult) likes neat and mess-free foods?
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Tacos are the perfect way to combine different textures and flavors to suit almost any palate or lifestyle.  Vegetarian, pescatarian, meatatarian, traditional Mexican, surprising Asian fusion, or whatever — you can literally put anything in a taco.

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These tacos in particular were inspired by a meat-heavy Spring Break at home (translation:  bacon for Tom with every breakfast) and a desire for a lighter, springier stretch of dinners.

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As a kid, I was an exclusively-flour-tortilla kind of girl.  The sight alone of a corn tortilla or, God forbid, a HARD taco shell, caused instant dry-heaving.  I have since come to terms with corn tortillas (mostly because I realized I was heating them up incorrectly), but I still can’t stomach those stale-tasting, straight-out-the-box, crunchy shells — I’ll chalk it up to highly-refined taste buds (P.S.  I’m eating Pringles as I type this post).

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Though I still hands-down prefer flour tortillas for more traditional tacos, I really like the way a flame-grilled corn tortilla works with these pineapple black bean babies — they just taste lighter and happier (plus, they’re smaller so you can have more of them, because that’s how that works).

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The filling is super easy to make, and the ingredients cost mere cents (hence, a Cheap Eat!!).  The Quick Pickled Radishes, also laughably inexpensive to make, develop a shocking amount of flavor over the course of a mere hour, but, like most other fermented foods, they continue to develop and get even tastier over the next few days in your fridge.  The rice, too, relies on simple, cheap ingredients for full-bodied flavor.

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The two main flavor powerhouses that pop up throughout this meal are fresh limes (zest and juice) and fresh cilantro.  Now, I typically HATE cilantro, but when it’s paired with lime, for some mysterious reason, I love it.  I had heard that it’s one of those genetic things — like tongue rolling — that determines if you like cilantro or not, but, for whatever reason, fresh limes help me overcome my congenital cilantro detestation.  Also, a big bunch of fresh cilantro is only $1.89 at my local grocery store, and one large bunch is all you need for all three parts of this recipe!  However, if you truly cannot get past cilantro, you could just as successfully use fresh dill in the quick-pickled radishes, and substitute chopped celery leaves (yes, celery leaves) for the cilantro in the black beans and the rice.  Fresh herbs, whichever ones you choose, are essential for the success of this dish though, so don’t skip entirely!
Happy Tuesday!

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Quick Pickled Radishes

~8 large radishes, cleaned & thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, smashed
Pinch red pepper flakes
¼ teaspoon whole mustard seed
Small bunch cilantro, roughly chopped
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
¼ cup water
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
½ teaspoon salt
Tightly pack the radish slices, garlic, red pepper flakes, mustard seed, and cilantro into the bottom of a clean, wide-mouthed jar.   In a small saucepan, combine the vinegar, water, sugar, and salt.  Cover and bring to a boil, then immediately pour into the jar, ensuring contents of jar are fully submerged.  Screw on lid, and allow to cool to room temperature.  Radishes are ready to serve once cooled, and may be stored in the fridge (with lid screwed tightly) for a few days.

Cilantro-Lime Brown Rice Pilaf

1 cup brown rice, rinsed
1 clove garlic, smashed & minced
¼ cup thinly sliced onion
1 tablespoon unsalted butter or olive oil
1 medium bunch cilantro, roughly chopped
¼ teaspoon turmeric
Salt & pepper (watch the salt if your broth is super salty)
2 cups vegetable broth
Dash of hot sauce, if desired (I used Trader Joe’s Green Dragon Sauce)
Zest & juice of 1 lime, used separately
Place drained rice into a medium-sized, heavy-bottomed saucepan, and layer garlic, onion, butter/oil, cilantro, turmeric, salt and pepper over the rice.  Pour vegetable broth over the rice, and top with the lime zest.  Cover pot, and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low, and let simmer ~40 minutes, until liquid has been absorbed.  Squeeze lime juice over cooked rice, fluff with a fork, and let sit with lid cocked for 5 minutes before serving.

Pineapple-Black Bean Tacos

2 tablespoons olive oil
Pinch red pepper flakes
1 large onion, sliced into ¼“ slivers
1 teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
Salt & pepper
1 can pineapple chunks, packed in 100% pineapple juice
1 can black beans, drained BUT NOT RINSED
1 medium bunch cilantro, roughly chopped
Zest & juice of 1 lime, used separately
In a large skillet, heat oil and red pepper flakes over medium heat for 1 minute.  Add onion and spices, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onions become translucent and limp.  Add garlic, and saute for 30 seconds.  Deglaze pan with pineapple juice drained from the can of pineapple chunks, scraping the bottom of the skillet with a wooden spoon to liberate any stuck-on bits, incorporating them into the juice.  Turn heat to medium high, allow to boil, then let juice simmer until reduced by half, ~5-7 minutes.  Add beans, cilantro, lime zest, and pineapple chunks to the skillet, stir, and allow to simmer for an additional 5 minutes.  Add lime juice, and serve.

Assembly:

Stone-ground corn tortilla
Plain Greek yogurt (or Mexican crema)
Shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese (or Mexican cotija cheese)
If you have a gas stove, use a pair of heat-safe tongs to char tortillas on both sides, over low flame (~20 seconds for the first side, flip, then ~5 seconds for the second side) – alternatively, just warm the tortillas per the instructions on the bag.
Place ~2 tablespoons of the rice and ~2 tablespoons of the pineapple-black bean mixture on each tortilla.  Top with a dollop of yogurt, a few pickled radish slices, and a sprinkling of cheese.  Serve with extra pilaf (and perhaps a light cerveza) on the side!
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