Thursday, August 16, 2012

4 Step Fajitas

Fajitas are an easy way to lay out a fun and festive spread of food without breaking the bank - or your back, for that matter!

Though they have some authentic roots in Mexican cuisine, fajitas as we know them are an advent of American Tex-Mex cuisine.  However, this fact doesn't limit us to consuming the fajita creations of "T.G.I McFunsters," as my favorite celeb-chef Anthony Bourdain no-so-lovinging refers to American chain restaurants. 

So... where does this leave us?  In the kitchen, of course, with chili powder, tortillas and a whole lot of veggies in hand.  I've found it's fairly simple to create your own fajita fest at home, by utilizing a simple four-step formula:

1.  Pick a Protein
  • Meat protein: Chicken, beef, shrimp, pork, etc.
  • Meatless protein: Beans or tofu
I usually go for chicken or beans.  When using chicken, I simply season with salt, pepper, chili power, cumin and a squeeze of lime juice, and grill.  

For beans, I empty a can or two of rinsed black beans in a medium pot, mix with a clove or two of minced garlic and cook, covered, over medium heat.  Once warmed through, I roughly mash with a potato masher, which transforms my humble canned beans into chunky faux refried beans.  ...Okay, that might not be the most appetizing description, but believe me, they're good, and much better for you than actual refried beans.  I would recommend finishing these off just before serving your fajitas, as they can dry out quickly on the stove top after mashing.

2.  Ready Your Rice

I take a tip from Chipotle on this one.  Prepare your rice of choice (mine is Uncle Ben's Fast and Natural 10-Minute Brown Rice) and add a handful of roughly chopped fresh cilantro and the juice of one lime before serving.

3.  Veg-Out

I'm sure to add lots and lots and lots of veggies to my fajitas.  Most recently, as we're in the peak of produce season, my fajita veggies included: 
  • Red bell pepper
  • Yellow bell pepper
  • Hot banana pepper
  • Red onion
  • Zucchini
  • Heirloom tomato

Other good options, depending on season, might include:
  • Mushrooms (of any verity)
  • Other summer squash (like yellow summer squash or pattypan squash)
  • Broccoli
  • Winter squash (like butternut, acorn or spaghetti)
  • Asparagus

Like my chicken, I grill all my fajita veggies.  I toss them in olive oil, salt, pepper, chili powder and cumin, and grill them until just tender and nicely charred.  If you use some of the alternative suggestions, like winter squash or asparagus, I think you'd be better off roasting... but you get my drift.

4.  Assemble Accoutrement

In my option, the best part of fajita making, and eating, is adding all the fun toppings at the table.  I like to have at least a few of the following on hand:
  • Green salsa
  • Red salsa or pico-de-gallo
  • Hot sauce (especially green Tabasco)
  • Fresh cilantro
  • Lime wedges
  • Cheese of choice
  • Plain, non-fat Greek yogurt (as a healthy substitute for sour cream)
  • Shredded lettuce 
  • Guacamole or diced avocado

And there it is, friends, simple as that.  No matter the combination you pick or the adaptations you make, I think it's hard to go wrong with a wholesome combination of protein and vegetables, sumptuous seasonings like cumin and chili and vibrant accents like lime and cilantro.  Pile in high on your tortilla of choice - or skip the carbs and mix in a bowl - and enjoy! 

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