Monday, September 7, 2009

Easy Weeknight Entertaining - Build Your own Tacos

Two weeks ago the hubby invited over one of his coworkers and his family over for dinner. My brother happened to be in town on business so we invited him over too. Making a weeknight dinner for guests can be very stressful if you don't plan properly. Our guests were scheduled to arrive about 45 minutes after we normally get home from work. I knew we needed a quick cooking meal that would please a number of different tastes (the group included a 7-year old).

One of our favorite meals is tacos - there are so many variations and it's great for leftovers. I decided to go with a build-your-own taco bar so everyone could make them exactly how they liked them. I picked up some hard and soft taco shells (it's all about choice!), ground turkey, and an assortment of taco fixings. I won't bore you with store-bought details. I'll just focus on the homemade fixings: tomatillo guacamole and black beans with corn and tomatoes.

Tomatillo Guacamole

This is a condiment that I make a lot - it's quick, easy, and always gets rave reviews! For this version I used a combination of farmers' market finds and grocery store produce (no avocados at the markets here). One of my favorite farmers' market finds from last year is ground cherries (a.k.a. strawberry tomatoes). They look like baby tomatillos and have a sweet almost pineapple-y taste. I decided to add these in to the guacamole along with the tomatillos, serrano chili, lime juice, onion, and avocado. I used raw tomatillos, this would also very good with roasted tomatillos. This was more than enough for dinner and a few more meals. It keeps longer than a regular guacamole because of the lime juice and other ingredients. Make sure to press plastic wrap directly on top of the guacamole and then seal it in an airtight container (i.e. gladware, tupperware)

*Note: I usually add fresh cilantro when making this at home. After an informal poll of friends, I've learned that not everyone could eat cilantro on everything like me. Not knowing if our guests would love it or think it tasted like soap, I decided to leave it out.

4-5 raw tomatillos, husks removed and washed
A handful of ground cherries, husks removed and washed
Serrano chili (to taste)
Juice of 1 lime
1/4 of a white onion

Cut the tomatillos into quarters
If you have a large enough food processor, put all of the ingredients in and pulse until just smooth (if not, work in batches)
Season with salt and pepper

Black Beans and Corn

This tasted much better than the photo I took! I picked up some locally grown sweet corn and really wanted to use it for dinner. To make a hearty side dish, I pulled together canned black beans, the fresh corn, some canned diced tomatoes, garlic and spices. This was delicious served warm and even more delicious cold for lunch the next day and as a quesadilla filling for the next night's dinner.

2 cans black beans, drained
1 can petite diced tomatoes (no salt added) with about half the liquid drained off
3 fresh ears of corn, kernels cut off from the cob
1 large clove of garlic, minced
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
Cumin and chili powder

Heat oil over medium heat in a stockpot
Add in garlic and saute until soft (don't burn!)
Add corn and cook for about 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently
Add in beans and tomatoes and bring to a bubble
Reduce heat to low, stir in cumin and chili powder
Let simmer until time to serve

Other Taco Bar Ingredients
Hard taco shells
Small flour tortillas
Shredded Mexican cheese blend
Salsa (store bought tomato salsa)
Black olives
Yellow rice (Goya)
Sour cream

Happy eating!

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