Yes, I love tacos, but actually I believe the taco was not invented by the Hispanic culture. Seriously, according to my crazy Greek family, the Greeks invented the taco. Of course I want to say, “Yes, of course we did,” but I needed to confirm the actual historical Greekness of the taco and asked Google. To my chagrin, here is the historical breakdown according to the Internet. Go back several years; I mean way back … “shawarma.” Yes, the Turkish taco translation means “turning.” Of course, they call it a kabob; my Greek family calls it a gyro, with the meat cooked on a spinning, rotating vertical rotisserie (BTW, this vertical rotisserie is on my wish list for my kitchen).
Jump forward to sometime around the late 19th-early 20th century as Lebanese and Syrian immigrants migrated to Mexico. Many Greek and Turkish families had made it to Ellis Island, as mine did. They all began serving their gyros, shawarmas and kebobs. In Mexico City in the 1960’s, Tacos Árabes were invented, but instead of using the Greek, Middle Eastern or Mediterranean countries' meat of choice – lamb – they served sliced pieces of pork cooked beside a firepit on a rotating vertical rotisserie. It was served on corn or flour tortillas with, of course, cilantro, onions and fresh salsa. This dish soon was reinvented again and became a Mexican street food staple where they marinated pork in a red pepper, tomato and chili sauce and served them in a traditional corn tortilla. These are called “tacos al pastor.” I looked up just what "al pastor" means. Ah ha … it means “in the style of the shepherd." So there you have it. The taco may be Greek after all, since we always use lamb when making our Greek lamb tacos called gyros. Pull up a chair and “Please Join My Table” as we enjoy tacos from around the world!
New in Kingwood is Torchy’s Tacos, but also just down the road is my go-to favorite, Kingwood Meat Market, with homemade sauces, flour and corn tortillas, and great breakfast tacos. Try both menus and let me know your favorites!
My Version of a Torchy’s Mad Cow Taco (makes 4 large tacos)
1/2 pound shredded, grilled beef fajita meat
1/2 cup cooked black beans
1/2 cup grilled roasted corn
1/2 cup shredded pepper jack or Mexican blend cheese
Rough-chopped fresh cilantro
Chipotle ranch dressing (home made or store bought)
8 Flour tortillas
Chopped green or red onions, salsa and other goodness (optional)
DIRECTIONS: On four serving plates stack two flour tortillas. Place the following on the tortillas in even amounts in this order: chipotle ranch dressing; top with beef fajita meat, black beans, corn, cilantro, cheese and optional ingredients. Add a drizzle more of chipotle ranch dressing and serve immediately.
Breakfast Chorizo Tacos like Kingwood Meat Market
8 ounces fresh Mexican-style chorizo sausage, casing removed (I found turkey chorizo at H-E-B)
4-6 ounces frozen hash brown potatoes, defrosted, set aside
5 large eggs
1 cup shredded Mexican cheese blend
1/4 cup sour cream or strained whole milk yogurt
Pico de gallo, home made or store bought
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt and pepper to taste
8 flour tortillas
Rough-chopped fresh cilantro
Tabasco for passing
DIRECTIONS: Heat a small amount of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Saute the chorizo until cooked through, breaking up with back of wooden spoon, about 5 minutes. Transfer the chorizo to a paper towel-lined plate. In the same skillet over medium-high heat add the potatoes and cook, covered, stirring occasionally until slightly browned 4- 6 minutes. Sprinkle with cumin, salt and pepper. Crack the eggs into the same skillet with the chorizo, breaking up and mixing the eggs. Cook over medium heat, stirring until the eggs are done, 2-4 minutes. Toast the tortillas in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Transfer to a platter, topping each tortilla evenly with the cheese. Put 1/4 cup of the egg and chorizo mixture in each tortilla and top with 1 tablespoon of pico de gallo. Fold each tortilla in half and serve with the sour cream, cilantro and hot sauce.
Quick Greek Taco Gyros
1 tablespoon Greek seasoning
1 teaspoon Greek oregano
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon wine
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 pound lamb, ground or cubed
6-8 pita flatbreads
Garnish: Tomato slices, red onion slices, shredded lettuce and tzatziki sauce*
DIRECTIONS: Mix all except garnish and pita bread in a large plastic bag and refrigerate overnight. Preheat oven to 200 degrees; wrap pita bread in aluminum and place in the 200-degree oven to warm for 15 minutes. Bring marinated Greek taco meat to room temperature. Place in an oven-safe pan and broil or fry until brown. Serve with pitas and garnishes.
*Ttzatziki (Greek cucumber and yogurt sauce/dip) is now available at HEB in the refrigerator case by the sour cream, etc.
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