The fajita, a staple of Tex-Mex cuisine, consists of strips of meat seared at high heat and wrapped in a warm tortilla with caramelized bell peppers and onions. Introduced commercially by an Austin, Texas, street vendor in 1969, the simple dish frequently shows up on menus accompanied by a side of refried beans and a big spoonful of rice. Liven up your sides with fresh ingredients and a generous helping of spice.
Beans and Rice
Black beans, pinto beans and refried beans all benefit from a touch of fresh chopped tomato, diced onion or hot pepper rings. Make a black bean soup as a side or appetizer by heating cooked or canned beans in chicken stock. Add a few tablespoons of sugar and an equal amount of white vinegar, then sprinkle in some salt and pepper. Swirl the soup in the food processor or blender and top with a dollop of sour cream, chopped onion and tomato. Spanish rice is an easy and economical side. Toast raw rice in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. Add chopped onion and garlic and cook until the vegetables soften. Add diced tomato and chicken stock, cover and cook the rice until it is tender.
Salads, Greens and Sides
Add authenticity to the meal with a side of Mexican corn salad. Grill husked corn over medium-high heat until the kernels char slightly. Toss the corn with a dressing made from mayonnaise, cotija cheese, lime juice and cayenne pepper and top it with chopped cilantro. While the grill is hot, cook sliced tomato, zucchini and red onion and make vegetable stacks topped with Monterey Jack cheese and chopped jalapenos. For a cold side, combine sliced avocado, thinly sliced red onion and orange sections. Sprinkle the salad with fresh orange juice mixed with a little olive oil, salt and black pepper.
Salsas, Sauces and Toppers
A fresh tomato salsa, made by combining chopped tomatoes, onion, garlic and hot peppers, adds a cool acidity to the meal. Fruit salsa is a simple mixture of fresh fruit, peeled, seeded and chopped combined with orange juice. For a savory salsa, combine yellow corn, white corn, black beans and diced tomatoes. Add chopped cilantro, onion, garlic and bell pepper and dress the salsa with lime juice and olive oil. Set out a bowl of sour cream for topping the fajitas and fresh guacamole made from ripe avocado mashed with chopped onion, chills, tomato, cilantro, lime juice, salt and pepper.
Flan is a classic custard dessert made with sugar, eggs and cream. It is baked in the oven in ramekins, for individual servings, or a pie pan, and topped with caramel sauce. For a sweet finish, make churros, fried dough dusted with sugar and dipped in warm chocolate sauce. If you prefer not to heat up the kitchen with the oven, serve the creamy strawberry soup called Atole de Fresca, made by blending fresh fruit with sugar, buttermilk, vanilla and cinnamon. Sandwich fresh fruit drizzled with honey between two tortillas, lightly grill the filled tortillas and top with caramel and whipped cream.
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