Saturday, October 12, 2013

Taco tips and Spanish flavors

Taco tips
In Southeast Texas its pretty much always taco time, but others celebrated Oct. 4 as National Taco Day and Ortega hosted a National Taco Day Twitter with ideas. I just tried some Ortega shells and salsa of the mildest nature and used Ortega seasoning to flavor black beans and white cheese for the filling. I didn’t miss the meat on this variation. They suggest a fish taco with cabbage and tangerine slaw, which sounds like a dish easily ordered on the streets of Austin. Here’s one more idea:

 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons  Ortega Taco Seasoning Mix (or 40% Less Sodium Taco Seasoning Mix)
1 fourth  cup water
1 can Ortega Black Beans, drained
2 garlic cloves, minced
1  package fresh spinach leaves, washed
1 fourth teaspoon  salt
1 can Ortega Diced Green Chiles
8 Ortega Taco Shells  or Ortega Fiesta Flats (they look like little boats)
Crumbled feta cheese
1 bottle Ortega Taco Sauce

1.         In a large skillet, heat half of the vegetable oil over medium heat. Add the sliced onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 to 12 minutes, until the onions are a rich brown. While the onions cook, heat the beans in a small saucepan.
2.         Stir the taco seasoning mix and water into the onions, and cook for 1 to 2 minutes more to thicken. Spoon the onions into a serving bowl and set aside.
3.         In the same skillet, increase the heat to medium-high and add the remaining oil. Cook the garlic in the hot oil for 10 seconds, just until it’s fragrant, then add the spinach leaves, a handful at a time, stirring and adding more as they wilt. Sprinkle with salt and diced green chiles and continue to cook until the spinach is tender, 3 to 4 more minutes.
4.         To serve, mound beans, spinach and onion in taco shells or Fiesta Flats™ and top with crumbled feta and taco sauce.
Makes 4 servings.

Spanish Olive Oil
I’ve read you should stock the best olive oil you can afford. Carbonell, which I’m told is Spain’s top brand, has a distinctive flavor that sets it apart from Italian “extra virgen” varieties (that I also love). The lovely lady on the label looks like she’s enjoying it as much as I do. I use olive oil for lots of things that I used to use butter for, like cooking eggs, and Carbonell is a flavorful option that is affordable and has some flair. This bottle was so good that I began craving new ways to cut back on every other seasoning so I could taste the oil even more. For recipes like the following, visit

Apple and Mango Marinated Chicken

1/2 cup Carbonell Extra Light Olive Oil
4 cleaned free-range, boneless chicken breasts (cut into 3-inch strips)
2 cups fresh apple cider
2 cups mango juice or your favorite equivalent
(guava, pineapple or blend)
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon kosher salt
additional kosher salt and
black pepper for seasoning after the marinating process


1. Remove any fat and cartilage from the chicken breast and cut into small 3-inch strips.
2. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together juices, salt, pepper and Carbonell Extra Light Olive Oil.
3. In a glass baking dish, container or resealable plastic bag, lay the strips of chicken in the marinade and let them sit overnight for maximum results.
4. Remove the chicken from marinade and season both sides of the chicken with a pinch of kosher salt and black pepper (50/50 blend).
5. Heat outdoor or indoor grill to high and place strips on it, quickly grilling each side. Do not overcook the chicken as these little strips will cook in about 3-5 minutes total cooking time (remember some of the acids from the juices have broken down the chicken already).
6. Remove cooked chicken from the grill and place in a new clean container.
7. Cover with plastic wrap or foil and let chicken rest (it will continue to cook slightly). Serve over a simple salad or roasted corn salad.

New Iberia means Louisiana to me, and until I heard of Iberia, makers of ethnic and Latin cuisine foods, I never made the connection to the Iberian Peninsula of Spain and Portugal. Iberia features basics from rice, beans and olive oils to foodie finds such as aioli, blended oils, paella packets for Spanish, Latin American and Caribbean dishes. Their mission is to brand source authentic, fresh ingredients from the original climates in which they grow, like making oil from olives hand-picked in Spain and seasoned with South American peppers.
Ibera sent a sample of premium select Spanish Queen Olives stuffed with Garlic and I’d like to say “one’s a meal.” I’d also like to say two are even better.
You can see right through the jar that these guys have taste and they just look so beautiful and ripe. Just maybe, on Halloween, I can go savory with these olives instead of wiping out the candy corn.

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