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Trendy Taco Night

Spice Up Dinner with Original Fillings

Coming up with creative ideas for a family meal can be a daunting task, especially with picky eaters in the house. Yes, you can go to the store, buy some ground beef, sour cream, and a taco kit with everything you need (seasoning, sauce, and shells) right in the box. But let’s make it healthier, and definitely tastier, with some original fillings. Pull out the lazy Susan you got as a wedding gift, put it in the middle of the dining table, and load it up with all kinds of taco fillings. Try avocado slices, plain Greek-style yogurt (instead of sour cream), lime wedges, and grilled chicken or shrimp. Just start with some crunchy or soft taco shells and get creative. Looking for more options for a successful taco night? Read on…

Crispy Fish Bites

Cut 24 ounces boneless cod into 2-inch pieces. Preheat a fryer or a deep pot filled halfway with vegetable oil to 375° F. Mix a package of tempura batter mix, but only use half the required amount of water. Use beer for the remaining half. Add the beer until the batter becomes almost like a heavy cream consistency. Add 1 tsp salt and 1 tsp garlic powder to another package of tempura, coat cod pieces with the dry mix, and dip into prepared batter. Deep-fry for about 3 minutes, or until golden brown and cooked through.

Grilled Skirt Steak

Heat grill pan (this has shallow sides and a ridged cooking surface) over high heat. Brush 1½ lbs skirt steak with oil, and season with salt and pepper on both sides.Grill on one side until golden brown and slightly charred, about 3 to 4 minutes.Turn the steak over and cook to mediumrare doneness, about 3 to 4 minutes longer.Let stand 5 minutes, then slice against the grain into ¼-inch thick slices.

Black Bean Salsa

Toss 2 cups cherry tomatoes cut in half, 2 scallions thinly sliced, one 14-oz can black beans, drained and rinsed, ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves, ½ chopped green pepper, ½ chopped red or yellow pepper, and 2 tbsp lime juice (from about one lime) in a medium bowl. Add salt to taste and set aside to let the flavors develop.

Smoky Mushroom & Corn Filling

Roast 1 poblano chili and 1 red bell pepper. Peel off charred skin and cut into ½-inch pieces. In a bowl, toss 1 cup fresh corn with 1 tsp olive oil and a pinch of salt.Spread the corn in a hot sauté pan and let it blacken slightly, without stirring, for 30 seconds. Remove the roasted corn from the pan. In the same pan, heat 2 teaspoons olive oil. Add half a diced onion, pepper mix, and cook, stirring often, until the onion is soft and beginning to brown. Remove from the pan. Reduce heat, add ½ tbsp olive oil. Add garlic and fresh sliced mushrooms. Cook until the mushrooms are cooked through, about 3 minutes. Return the corn and peppers to the pan and stir to reheat.

Spicy Broccoli Slaw

Combine 3 tbsp mayonnaise, 1 to 1½ tsp Asian chile sauce (optional), juice of one lime, and ½ tsp sugar in a bowl. Add ¼ cup finely chopped cilantro. Combine a 14-ounce package broccoli slaw mix, half of a small red onion, thinly sliced, and ¼ cup roughly chopped cilantro. Toss slaw mix and dressing. Season with salt.

Christine Wansleben, chef and owner of Mise En Place Cooking School, lives in the West End, where she cooks up a storm with her husband and their twins.
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