Lamb and Tepary Bean Tacos with Chard

Easter dinner at our house this year strayed from the traditional pork roast or baked ham. The weather was so beautiful in Chicago Easter weekend, it was hard to motivate ourselves to do anything but sit on the balcony and read while the sound of the waves crashing against the shore washed our worries away. All the daydreaming left me a little short on grand Easter menu plans. I did have some tiny cooked tepary beans from Rancho Gordo and leftover ground lamb in the fridge to give me a start. The rest was improvisation, with the idea of tacos from Rancho Gordo’s cookbook.

This meal is a little more exotic than the average taco – and definitely healthier. If you’ve never seen tepary beans, they are teeny-tiny little things – adorably small, and I love them because they don’t really need soaking and cook up in about 45 minutes. Their petite size makes them a perfect taco filling.

The dinner came together in about 20 minutes – anyone who complains that cooking is too much work or takes too much time can stuff it. We all know that getting takeout can take longer than 20 minutes…and this meal is far better for you than greasy pizza or Chinese. While this certainly wasn’t the most lavish table we’ve sat down at on Easter Sunday, it was hearty, spicy and had us both going back for second and third tacos. We’ve been enjoying the leftovers for lunches this week, served over brown rice.

Tepary Bean Tacos with Lamb & Chard
Serves 6

2 slices bacon, chopped
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2/3 lb ground lamb
1 T ground cumin
chipotle puree to taste
2 1/2 cups cooked tepary beans
1 cup fresh hot chile salsa
1 bunch chard, ribs removed and stems chopped and separated from leaves (chop leaves into bite sized pieces)
cilantro to garnish
corn tortillas or tostadas to serve

  1. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Crumble the ground lamb into the pan, and brown until cooked through. Scoop the cooked meat out of the pan with a slotted spoon, leaving any fat behind. Pour off the fat from the pan, and return the pan to the heat. Add the chopped bacon and cook until the bacon is browned, but not crisp. Add the onion and chopped chard stems to the pan and saute for 5 minutes, until the onions and stems begin to soften. Add the cumin, garlic, 1 T chipotle puree and a good pinch or two of salt and stir.
  2. Next, add the drained tepary beans, cooked lamb and chopped chard leaves to the pan. Stir often until heated through. When the chard leaves have wilted, add 1 cup of salsa to the pan and mix together. Cook until everything is heated through – about 1 more minute. Place the pan on the table to serve family style, with warm corn tortillas or tostada chips. If you feel like going all out – make your own tortillas. Garnish the tacos with cilantro, and extra salsa or hot sauce.
233 cal per cup taco filling, 100 cal from fat, 11g fat, 20mg cholesterol, 760mg sodium, 260mg potassium, 26g carb, 7g fiber, 2g sugars, 11g protein

Skirt Steak Tacos with Chipotle Marinade

My parents gave me a very wonderful hand-me-down gift while we were in Michigan for Christmas – my mom’s old meat grinder attachment for the Kitchen Aid Mixer. Dad had gotten Mom a new one, since her old one has a couple cracks in it near the grinder face, but was otherwise still working just fine. I was happy to take the grinder home with me, but really didn’t think that my life had been lacking without a meat grinder in it.

Boy, was I wrong. I love this attachment. I went to the market first thing the next morning after we returned to Chicago, and bought a couple flaps of my favorite cut of beef – skirt steak. People overlook the humble skirt – it’s a cheap cut, and a real pain to remove all of the silver skin and fat. But pounded a bit and marinated for a few hours before a quick sear on the grill – skirt delivers the beefiest flavor to be found on the cow, and it’s our go-to cut for entertaining.

Since it is definitely not grilling season in Chicago, grabbing a couple nice pieces of skirt was the perfect opportunity to put my new grinder to the test. After removing the silver skin and most of the fat, I put the meat through the grinder on the largest grinding plate, and the resulting meat was a perfect chopped meat consistency that was perfect for the tacos. I like my tacos highly spiced, so I made a good chipotle marinade studded with garlic and brightened with a little vinegar and sherry. The finished tacos were definitely my favorite so far for wintertime (non-grilled) tacos.

Skirt Steak Tacos with Chipotle Marinade
Serves 6

2lbs skirt steak, untrimmed
1/3 cup chipotle puree
1 tsp ground cumin
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 red onion, finely minced
2 T Worcestershire sauce
2 T cooking sherry
2 T apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp salt

Garnishes: minced white onion, lime wedges and cilantro

  1. Lay the skirt steak (cold from the fridge) flat on a plastic cutting board and trim off most of the fat and all of the silver skin. I left a little fat on, to help give the tacos some flavor – the fat is easy to drain off later, once the meat is cooked. After you’ve trimmed the steak, cut it into large cubes so that it will fit through your meat grinder tube.
  2. Attach your meat grinder attachment to the Kitchen Aid mixer, and install the largest grinding plate. Turn on the mixer, and place a large bowl under the grinder. Feed the meat into the grinder, using the wooden plunger to push the meat down the tube. The grinder will do the rest of the work for you.
  3. Once all of the meat is ground, make the marinade. Combine the chipotle puree, cumin, garlic, onion, cider vinegar and Worcestershire sauce in a bowl. Stir to combine everything. Taste – it should be pretty salty to season all of the meat, and if you think it needs it – add up to 1/2 tsp salt.
  4. Pour the marinade over the meat, and get in there with your hands and mix it all up well. Stash the meat in the fridge, covered, for a couple hours until you’re ready for dinner.
  5. I made homemade tortillas for this feast, so if you’re going to make them yourself, make them before you cook the meat, and then just wrap them in a slightly damp kitchen towel, and put them on a plate in an oven on the lowest setting while you deal with the meat.
  6. Heat a couple of large non-stick skillets over medium-high heat. Sprinkle enough meat into each pan to cover the bottom in one layer – no crowding, so that you’ll be able to brown it. Let the meat cook for a minute, then stir, and cook for one more minute. Scoop the cooked steak out of the pan into a clean casserole with a slotted spoon, and pour off any remaining fat left in the pans. Stash the cooked meat into the oven (on low), in the covered casserole. Return the pans to the heat and cook another batch of steak, repeating the same procedure until all of the meat is cooked.

Serve the tacos with warm tortillas, lime wedges, cilantro, and minced white onion for garnish.

Spicy Butternut Squash Tacos with Caramelized Onions

On Saturday, we had a girls’ night at our place, so I was in the kitchen all afternoon stirring and cooking for the feast ahead. When this group of women get together I know two things: there will be much laughter, and we will eat VERY well. Both were true on Saturday, and by the end of the evening I was stuffed and feeling the food coma. I woke up this morning still feeling full and a little lethargic from all the food the night before.

We have to get a little creative cooking for this gang of feisty feminists – we’ve got me with my gluten-free lifestyle, and Kris who’s vegetarian. But is is a problem? – absolutely not! Even if the contestants on Top Chef seem completely stunned to have to cook a gluten-free or vegetarian meal, it’s certainly not a problem for our crew. I lose a little respect for chefs who show up to a competition without a stunning vegetarian or allergy-free menu in their back pocket – it’s not that hard!

For this gluten and meat free gathering, I focused on using up the three butternut squash that were hulking in the fridge. I wanted to go beyond the typical varieties of squash soup, and something heartier, and a little spicy. I decided to make some refried beans, and then roast the squash for tacos with homeade tortillas.

The tacos went over very well – there were groans of pleasure, and every single tortilla and bite of squash miraculously disappeared. The balance of the spicy chipotles with the sweet squash was perfect. I topped the tacos with Mexican cotija cheese, which is a bit like parmesan – a dry, hard cheese with a nice nuttiness and quite salty. In addition to the cheese, we topped the tacos with cilantro and oven caramelized onions. And I enjoyed the tacos so much, I did a re-run tonight, as I still had more squash in the fridge, and some leftover beans. If you love butternut squash, give this a try for a different way to utilize the bounty of autumn.

Butternut Squash Tacos
Serves 2

1 butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed, and cubed
1 T olive oil
2 T chipotle en adobo puree
1/2 tsp salt

oven roasted caramelized onions
grated cotija cheese (use feta if you can’t get cotija where you live)

Serve with homeade tortillas (or store-bought) and beans.

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spray a sheet pan with olive oil.
  2. Place the cubed squash in a large bowl, add the olive oil, chipotle puree and salt and toss to coat. Pour the squash onto the oiled sheet pan and spread the squash in one layer. Roast for 30 minutes, stir, and roast for 30 more minutes until the squash begins to caramelize.
  3. Serve the roasted squash with warm tortillas, cotija cheese, caramelized onions and cilantro.
  4. Caramelized Onions: To make the caramelized onions, slice two onions and toss with a tablespoon of olive oil and 1/4 tsp salt. Spread onions on an oiled sheet pan, and roast at 350 degrees for an hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Remove from the oven when a the onions begin to get a little bit crisp, and the onions taste sweet. Because the onions need to roast at a lower temperature, make these before you roast the squash.

Homeade tortillas: 55 cal/each 4″ tortilla
Roasted Squash: 114 cal per 3/4 cup serving