Unexpectedly Delicious Salsas

from Jamey W. Bennett
to Daniel Larkin 

Dude,

So with #weddingweek craziness upon us, I thought it would be nice to have my brother, sister-in-law, and parents over for dinner right when they got to town. I had intended to get a locally-sourced brisket for my smoker, but the lady at the buying club dropped the ball somehow.

Anyway, so I decided to make tri-tip tacos. I smoked carne asada-style tri-tip, premarinated from Trader Joe’s. I wanted to have some vegetables for the tacos, but thought maybe going fajita style with them would be a nice touch. So I sliced up jalapenos, cherry peppers, several colors of bell peppers, yellow and red onion, cloves of garlic, and tomatoes, placing them in a bread pan. I poured a generous amount of Italian dressing over the top, and let it marinate for a couple of hours. Then I put the pan in the smoker for a couple of hours. Honestly, it could have used more time, or I should have just done it in the oven. But they came out great. Oh, and when I was done, I threw the veggies in a colander to get the excess dressing off. In the end, the tacos were a smash hit.

Now, let me digress. I made guacamole and fresh salsa to go with the tacos. My regular “staple” salsa is simple: tomatoes, garlic, cilantro, jalapeno, lime juice, salt and pepper. Never measured, all to taste. But that night, it was perhaps the best it has ever been. My secret? The juiciest, deepest red, large heirloom tomato. Oh my gosh, that salsa was like candy.

Needless to say, while I was running around the kitchen finishing up the tacos, my giant bowl of homemade chips were being used to devour my salsa. By the time I sat down for dinner there wasn’t much salsa left.

Since then, I’ve been craving salsa, and #weddingweek has made it impossible for me to get back out to the store for another gorgeous heirloom tomato.

So this morning, I scooped a bunch of my leftover marinated and cooked veggies into my food processor, grabbed and rinsed a handful of cilantro, added salt and pepper, and blended until nice and chunky. It is really damn good. The Italian dressing adds a nice subtle vinegar tang and the olive oil gives it a good mouth feel. It’s heavier on sweet peppers and lighter on tomatoes, but the sweetness of the roasted vegetables makes it difficult to stop eating.

I think I may have just stumbled onto something awesome.

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Vegetarian Chicken Soft Tacos [Bonus: Pork Tacos]

[Note: This is the post that planted the seed that led to Two Dudes Foods.]

From: Daniel Larkin
Date: Wed, Sep 29, 2010 at 7:56 PM
Subject:
Today I share the secret
To: “jamey w. bennett”

After years of blindly making this recipe, I finally measured the ingredients for my chicken soft tacos.  I figured you should be the first person I share the recipe with.  If anyone can give me constructive feedback on my taco recipe, it’s you – the taco guy.  I make these veggie-style, using Quorn Naked Cutlets.  I’ve never made them with real chicken, but if I had to, I would first try using left-over chicken (fully cooked) shredded as thinly as possible.

I chop the Naked Cutlets into thin strips, lay them flat, and chop again until the pieces resemble shredded chicken like you expect to see in Mexican restaurant.  If you can find the Naked Cutlets in Philly, I would recommend this as a meat-free meal.  I know you could use a little taco in your meat fasting days.

So here it goes.

  • 6 oz chicken (this translates into 3 Naked Cutlets) finely shredded as mentioned above.
  • 8 oz can of no salt added tomato sauce
  • 4 oz orange juice.  (I measure this in the empty 8 oz tomato sauce can)
  • 4 oz water
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 3/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp seasoning salt
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • Squirt of lemon or lime juice
  • Chopped cilantro

Jenny’s not a fan of overly overly-spicy foods, so these are super low on the heat scale.  But you can heat them up with cayenne and red pepper flakes, or by tossing a few Jalapenos in the marinade.

Marinate the chicken in all ingredients (except cilantro and lemon/lime juice) for at least 30 minutes.

Bring the mix to a boil, and simmer covered on low for 5 or 10 minutes.
Remove lid and simmer for another 15 minutes – until sauce has thickened or soaked into meat.

Toss in some chopped cilantro and squeeze in lemon/lime juice, and viola!

Let me know how it goes.  I would love the feedback.

from Jamey W. Bennett
to Daniel Larkin

Dude,

I am eating the most amazing pulled pork tacos ever. I still haven’t made your faux chicken tacos, but you inspired this. I sauteed onions and jalapenos in olive oil, added precooked pulled pork and cilantro, then poured 100% mango-orange juice over it and cooked it until excess liquid was gone. Added to whole wheat tortillas (which I briefly browned in a skillet), added sour cream, pepper jack cheese, lettuce, and homemade salsa. INCREDIBLE!

Jamey