Friday, May 24, 2013

Shrimp Tacos

A taco is a traditional Mexican dish consisting of a corn or flour tortilla wrapped around a filling. Tacos are usually filled with a combination of meat, chicken, seafood, cheese and vegetables and served with various salsas and condiments. The word taco means ‘plug’ and is thought to have been coined by Mexican silver miners due to its resemblance to an explosive consisting of gunpowder wrapped in paper.

I grew up in Canada eating store-bought hard shell corn tacos. We used to buy perfectly formed Old El Paso plastic-wrapped shells. We would fill these with ground beef topped with thinly sliced iceberg lettuce, chopped tomatoes, grated cheddar cheese, and a little bit of salsa.

It has been years since I had one of these childhood treats, so Cinco de Mayo was a great opportunity to rediscover and re-imagine the taco.  This unconventional version has the perfect combination of spicy, sweet, and salty flavors.

Serves 4


3 tablespoons mayonnaise (reduced or whole fat)
2 limes
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 jalapeno pepper, finely diced (optional)
1 bunch of cilantro, leaves only, roughly chopped
3/4 pound cooked and peeled shrimp (sliced in half) or other seafood such as crabmeat, lobster, or salmon
12-ounce package coleslaw mix (including green cabbage, red cabbage, and carrots)
1 mango, peeled, cut into thin strips
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced (optional)
salt (to taste)
12 small tortillas or hard taco shells
Red Rooster chili sauce for serving (optional)


1. In a small bowl, make dressing by mixing mayonnaise, juice of 1 lime, 1 tablespoon water, sugar, jalapeno pepper, and 1/3 cilantro leaves.
2. Toss shrimp or seafood with 2 tablespoons of dressing until just coated. Set aside.
3. Combine remaining cilantro, coleslaw, mango, red onion, remaining dressing, and salt in a large bowl.  Mix until thoroughly combined.
4. If making soft tacos, warm tortillas in skillet. To serve, spread tortilla or hard taco with chili sauce and fill with seafood and coleslaw mixture. Serve with lime wedges.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Quick Sopaipillas

Sopaipillas are a traditional dessert I discovered while living in the American Southwest.  I first tried them at the El Rialto Restaurant in Las Vegas, New Mexico, a few miles from where I lived.

These treats are sometimes referred to as little pillows, since they are puffed and hollow in the center.  The word means ‘little bread soaked in oil.’  This is a quick version made from tortillas; the original is made from fresh dough.

Fried dough is a treat in many culturesincluding donuts in America, puri in India, mandazi in East Africa, and churros in Mexico.  Fried dough is sometimes dusted, dipped, or filled; other times it is served in its unadorned golden splendor.

For me, the hardest thing about frying is making sure the oil is at the correct temperature.  If you don’t have a thermometer, test the oil by dropping in a small amount of dough.  It should produce vigorous bubbles and reach a golden brown color in 60 seconds.  If it browns too quickly or slowly, adjust the temperature accordingly.

4 8-inch wheat tortillas
vegetable oil (preferably canola or corn), for frying
powdered sugar or cocoa (optional)
honey, for serving (optional)

1.     Heat 1/2 to 1-inch oil in a deep and small pot on medium-high heat.  Let the oil heat for 5-10 minutes before testing it.  The oil should be 350F.
2.     Cut tortillas into wedges or strips.
3.     Fry tortillas pieces in batches for 1 to 2 minutes on each side, flipping once.  Drain on a plate lined with paper towels. 
4.     Dust with powered sugar or cocoa.
5.     Drizzle or dip into honey to serve.