No. 56 & 57: Tacos de Carne Asada w/ Pico de Gallo

Mr. McCormick subsists mainly on pb&j, homemade pizza and peppers with hummus when I'm gone. Don't feel bad, he loves those things. He could eat them every single day.

But I start feeling a little guilty at the thought of him making peanut butter sandwiches for dinner. So I usually leave him some handy leftovers and treats before I take off.

I asked him what he'd love for a last meal before I take a week-long cooking hiatus. He requested this combination of recipes from the Epicurious Crowd Pleasers magazine.

Real Mexican food

When I met Mr. McC., I did not like Mexican food at all. It was heavy, drenched in cheese sauce, too spicy.

But at that point in my life, all I had experienced of real Mexican flavors was bad chain restaurants and Pace Picante salsa in a can. I had no idea that food south of the border could be fresh, flavorful, and even healthy.

And then I started dating a boy from Arizona. On my first visit to Phoenix, he took me to a hole in the wall joint in Little Guadalupe. And there, with my first fresh, homemade tamale, a whole world was opened up to me.

Ten years later, I absolutely love cumin, cayenne, jalapenos, serranos, poblanos, tomatillos, chili powder, paprika, red pepper flakes and more.

And in turn, Mr. McCormick loves brussels sprouts, asparagus, the occasional egg dish and wine. It was a win-win.

Pico de Gallo

I've made plenty of pico, but liked the simplicity of this version. And you can recycle it one thousand different ways: a topping for soups, a dip or even an omelet filling.

Ingredients

5-6 plum tomatoes, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped Spanish onion
2 tablespoons chopped red onion
1 serrano or jalapeno pepper, chopped*
4 tablespoos chopped cilantro
Juice of 1 lime
Pinch of sugar
Salt to taste

*One large jalapeno had plenty of heat for us

To make

Mix ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside. Refrigerate if keeping for more than an hour.

Pico

Tacos de Carne Asada

For me it's always hard to choose between good tacos or chile verde on a menu. These sounded like something I would order in a heartbeat.

Ingredients

Serves 6
1/4 cup chili powder
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pound flank or skirt steak*
6 4-inch corn or whole wheat tortillas
1 cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 avocado, cut into 6 slices
Lime wedges for garnish

*Thinly sliced sirloin was on sale, so that is what we used

To make

Make a paste with the chili powder and oil. Rub onto the meat. Grill steak or cook in a lightly oiled grill pan until medium-rare, about 2-3 minutes per side.

Steak

Let rest for a few minutes and then slice diagonally.

Heat torillas in the microwave, about 20 seconds. Spread beans on top of each, then add steak, pico de gallo, onion, cilantro and avocado slices. Serve with lime wedges.

Recipe note: For a citrus boost, lightly grill halved limes cut side down and squeeze them over tacos. The juice will have developed a carmelized flavor.

The results

This will immediately be going into our favorites category on the index. These tacos were so fresh and fulfilling, and the flavors went together perfectly.

Final

We loved this pico and made it a couple hours ahead of time. The ratio of tomatoes to onions, lime, cilantro and a bit of sugar is terrific. We could have just eaten this by the spoonful or with some chips as an appetizer.

The thin chili powder rubbed steaks cooked in a flash and had a delicious crust. Grilling the limes really did give them a carmelized citrus flavor. Amazing tip.

All in all, I wouldn't skip a single element from the chili rub to the avocado ... except maybe additional red onions. The pico has plenty.

So if you love great Mexican food and need dinner quickly, make this. The hardest part will be the chopping tomatoes. Really. That's it.

Check out a full index of recipes here
Send me your thoughts, comments and ideas at theresolvedcook@gmail.com