Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Pizza Taco: A Surprising Success

The spicy-marinariness of the Papalote salsa gave me an idea. On my first taste, I casually mentioned that it would be good on a pizza, if diluted a little so it wasn't so spicy. With 2/3 of a jar left in my fridge and more than half of a very large grilled chicken breast marinated in the stuff and shredded, I thought I might as well give that off-hand idea a go.

You know what? It worked! And the salsa added a warm heat, rather than being too spicy as I'd expected. Classic taco ingredients, just layered with the salsa underneath instead of on the top. It's truly a taco borrowing from the world of pizza, not merely a pizza with taco flavors - which lets me count it in my 500 Taco Summer total. I'm excited to explore the possibilities contained within this new method. Maybe this disappointing salsa has some potential after all. This meal was seriously tasty.

Pizza Taco

Corn tortilla
Papalote salsa, or other salsa
Shredded mozzarella
Desired toppings: I used the chicken from my Disappointment Tacos and sliced black olives.
Olive oil PAM spray

Reheat chicken. Spoon a small dollop of salsa on top of the tortilla and spread around.

Top with cheese and other toppings. Generously spray skillet with PAM. Preheat on high. Reduce heat to medium high and griddle pizza taco until cheese has thoroughly melted and bottom of tortilla has browned and crisped.

Eat sliced like a pizza or folded like a taco.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

From Disappointment to Tacos

Papalote has made us sad. Very sad, indeed. In more ways than one. Once a beloved California-style taqueria - unique in its fresh, healthy ingredients and mélange of vegetable and vegetarian options - is it time to accept that Papalote has soured? Sold out even?

The disappointment began with a switch in tortilla chips. An innocuous change, it may seem, but when an establishment that was once the home of your favorite chips and salsa - creamy, spicy tomatoey goodness alongside bubbly, yellow chips - instead serves you cheap hard, flat chips like out of a Costco bag that would come up to my waist, you know the ones, the ones often found in junior high cafeteria nachos, well, it's a disappointment. I can buy better tortilla chips at Walgreens. And I'm not the only one who's noticed.

But there was hope. After some sort of Food Network victory over Bobby Flay, Papalote began selling jars of their rightfully famous salsa. So we figured we'd keep a jar on hand at home to eat with the chips of our choice. Sigh. If only.

Concerns that this plan would fail began in the car after picking up a jar. A quick peek at the ingredients list and I knew something was wrong. Papalote salsa gets its creamy consistency and unique flavor from a traditional ingredient - pureed pumpkin seeds. The ingredients on the jar listed no such thing, but instead listed canola oil. Uh oh. The first taste at home validated our concerns. The salsa tasted like a spicy marinara (a very spicy marinara), completely devoid of the flavor we knew and loved. Crap. I should have tasted the product before I ordered and shipped jars as gifts. My enthusiasm had overwhelmed any caution.

So the chips are crap. The jars of salsa are crap. And did I mention last time we got food there a couple weeks ago I developed a case of food poisoning that lasted a week? I don't know when I'll be able to eat veggie fajitas or soyrizo again.

But I did find a use for that jar of spicy marinara. I am in the midst of a 500 Taco Summer. A friend began a group of people planning to eat 500 tacos between summer solstice and autumn equinox. I'll never make it to 500 - I enjoy too many other foods to devote so much of my intake to tacos. But I will eat as many as I can; I'm already to 20. So I put a portion of that jar to good use at lunch today and turned a bitter disappointment into delicious tacos.

Disappointment Tacos

Papalote salsa
Chicken breast
PAM olive oil spray
Corn tortillas
Jack cheese (slices or shredded)
Desired toppings: your favorite salsa, guacamole, cilantro, lime, sour cream, etc.

Marinate chicken breasts in the disappointing Papalote salsa for half an hour.

Grill marinated chicken on your George Foreman at 350 for 9-10 minutes, or on an outdoor grill.

Shred chicken.

Spray skillet generously with PAM and preheat to high. Reduce to medium high and griddle tortillas topped with cheese until cheese has melted thoroughly and tortillas have browned and crisped on bottom side.

Top cheesy tortillas with chicken and any additional toppings you desire. Congratulations! You have now turned a disappointing jar of spicy marinara bleh into easy, tasty tacos.

Pictured with Casa Chicas medium roasted salsa and mild guacamole. Yes, CASA CHICAS salsa on my Papalote marinated chicken tacos. Sad, but way tastier.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Not So Successful

For lunch, I attempted to turn some leftover brown rice pilaf into my usually foolproof curried brown rice salad (also here). On the first taste I could tell it was going to be one of those days in the kitchen. Sigh. The dressing came out sharp, acrid even - all wrong! I added more coconut milk - and even mayo - to mellow, more curry, more ginger, and more garlic to mask. I even tried agave nectar and then soy sauce, hoping sweet or salty would cancel out that awful flavor. Lesson learned: white wine vinegar does NOT substitute for rice wine vinegar in a pinch. Again, I sigh.

So the rice salad went in the fridge on the off chance some resting would mellow the harsh vinegar, and I turned my lunchtime attentions to something simple that couldn't be ruined by even one of those days. Or so I thought. I mean, what could go wrong with pretzel crisps, apple slices, and a slice of cheese?

Looked great, and should have tasted great, in theory. But it turns out light havarti substitutes for regular havarti about as well as white wine vinegar substitutes for rice wine vinegar. It was like eating pretzels topped with plastic. Uck.

On days like these, I really think it might just be better not to eat at all. Or at least to order in.