Tuesday, July 22, 2008
There are cookbooks I own that inspire me in their creative simplicity. The recipes are not terribly fussy or complicated, but the way the ingredients come together is a subtle thing of beauty. Those are the recipes I find myself making over and over again.
Then there are the cookbooks that inspire, sure, but they also intimidate. David Thompson's Thai Food is one that comes to mind. Every recipe seems just out of reach of my cooking abilities or patience. I find myself creating a cost-benefit analysis and ordering takeout. And while I'm ashamed to admit it, Diana Kennedy's The Art of Mexican Cooking provokes a similar reaction. Too many ingredients, too much lard, too time-consuming for me to feel at ease.
However, there is a way to get past that intimidation factor and that is by finding the easiest recipe in the book, mastering it, and then slowly moving forward. And I'm proud to say I've found that recipe, and it's really, really tasty.
Kennedy's recipe for ricotta tacos is hardly rocket science, yet it's unusual flavor pairing creates a simple, light and very summer-friendly recipe. The radish relish served with the tacos is beyond key and soon you'll find yourself making the relish alone and adding it to any old dish that needs a little snazzing up. Last week we added the relish to fish tacos. Perhaps it would go well atop a cold, creamy soup, say Bittman's avocado soup?
It's also the perfect way to use up those orphaned radishes in the crisper drawer or the extra radishes in your CSA box.
Now that I've conquered this--the easiest recipe in the book--I'm ready for...the second easiest. Any suggestions?
(from Diana Kennedy's The Art of Mexican Cooking)
1/3 cup lime juice
1/3 cup finely chopped radishes
1/4 cup finely chopped white onion
1 chile peron, black seed removed and roughly chopped, or any hot green chile chopped with seeds
1 T. chopped cilantro
Put the lime juice and salt into a bowl, mix in the rest of the ingredients and leave for at least 30 minutes to marinate.
1 cup drained and lightly salted ricotta cheese
6 thin, 5 inch corn tortillas
Safflower oil for frying
Spread 1T of ricotta over half of each tortilla. Fold over and secure with a toothpick.
Put oil to depth of 1/4 inch in a large frying pan and heat. When hot, but not smoking, add a few of the tacos and fry, turning once until they are golden and quite crisp. Continue with the rest.
Drain the tacos on paper towels and remove them when cool enough to touch. With toothpick, slowly open them up and add about 2T of the radish relish. Serve at once. (Or just spoon the relish over the tacos...)