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Taco tool kit

Pesto and pulled jackfruit tacos. In Southern California, working-class Mexican-American chefs are giving traditionally meaty dishes a vegan spin.
WYPR
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Pesto and pulled jackfruit tacos. In Southern California, working-class Mexican-American chefs are giving traditionally meaty dishes a vegan spin.

A lot of us spent a portion of summer's closing weeks putting up and preserving that great Maryland produce. Now it's time to use it. A good tangy salsa is a great destination for, say preserved tomatoes, peppers and garlic, and what better way to enjoy a salsa than with a taco. Chef Jerry Pellegrino, give us some tips on fixing homemade tacos.

Tacos come in two styles, the rigid corn meal version and the softer wheat flour version. Here are Jerry's recipes for both, plus some very useful sauces for your taco.

Tacos, Etc.

Chefs Amy von Lange & Jerry Pellegrino

The Flour Tortilla

Ingredients

4 cups flour

½ cup lard

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup water

In a mixing bowl, rub the lard into the flour until it resembles coarse oatmeal. Add the water and stir, using a wooden spoon, until a dough begins to form. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface. Knead the dough until it becomes smooth and pliable, about 10 minutes. The dough should be supple but not sticky. If the dough is too sticky continue to knead additional flour into it but avoid overworking the dough. Cover with a clean dish towel and allow to rest for 15 minutes. Divide the dough into 20 equal pieces and roll them into balls. Again, cover the balls with a clean dishtowel. Prepare a skillet or cast iron griddle by heating it over medium heat. Using a rolling pin or tortilla press, flatten one of the balls of dough into a circle about 1/8 inch thick. Grab the tortilla and place in the palm of one of your hands. With one quick motion, flip the tortilla into the hot skillet. Cook until the tortilla

starts to change color, about 15 seconds. Flip it using a metal spatula and cook an additional 30 seconds. The tortilla should start to darken on the edges. Flip it one more time and cook until slightly brown on this side. Remove and keep warm, covered in a warm oven. Repeat until all the balls of dough have been used.

The Corn Tortilla

Ingredients

4 cups Masa Harina

3 cups water

1 teaspoon salt

In a mixing bowl, combine the masa and the water, using a wooden spoon, until a dough begins to form. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface. Knead the dough until it becomes smooth and pliable, about 10 minutes. The dough should be supple but not sticky. If the dough is too sticky continue to knead additional masa into it but avoid overworking the dough. Cover with a clean dish towel and allow to rest for 15 minutes. Divide the dough into 20 equal pieces and roll them into balls. Again, cover the balls with a clean dishtowel. Prepare a skillet or cast iron griddle by heating it over medium heat. Using a rolling pin or tortilla press, flatten one of the balls of dough into a circle about 1/8 inch thick. Grab the tortilla and place in the palm of one of your hands. With one quick motion, flip the tortilla into the hot skillet. Cook until the tortilla starts to change color, about 15 seconds. Flip it using a metal spatula and cook an additional 30 seconds. The tortilla should start to darken on the edges. Flip it one more time and cook until slightly brown on this side. Remove and keep warm, covered in a warm oven. Repeat until all the balls of dough have been used.

Salsa Negra

Ingredients

One 8-ounce cone of piloncillo (cane juice, reduced to a syrup and hardened)

2 cups water

6 garlic cloves, skin on

½ cup lard

60 chipotle chiles, stems removed

2 cups water

In a sauce pan set over medium-high heat, bring the water to a boil. Add the piloncillo and, with constant stirring, dissolve the piloncillo completely into the water. Turn of the heat. In a cast iron skillet set over medium-high heat, toast the garlic cloves until the skins begin to burn in places and they become aromatic. Remove and allow to cool. Add the lard to the skillet and allow to heat until just

smoking. Working in batches, toast the chipotle about 30 seconds on each side. Remove with a slotted spoon and place in the piloncillo syrup. Continue until all the chiles have been toasted. Weight the chiles down with a small plate so they are completely submerged and allow to soften for 30 minutes or until they are all soft enough to be easily pulled apart with your fingers. Using an immersion blender, purée the salsa until the chiles have all been blended and no more lumps remain. Set a large sauce pan over medium heat. Add the salsa and cook an additional 10 minutes with constant stirring. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Pico de Gallo

Ingredients

2 quarts heirloom cherry tomatoes, cut into ¼ inch dice

1 small red onion, cut into ¼ inch dice

2 guajillo chiles, soaked in hot water for 30 minutes

6 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup fresh cilantro leaves

1 jalapeño, seeded and diced

1 lime, juiced

Remove the guajillo chiles from the water and pat dry with paper towels. Remove the stems and seeds and dice the flesh. Add that and the remaining ingredients to a mixing bowl and combine. Season with salt and serve immediately.

Salsa Roja

Ingredients

2 quarts heirloom cherry tomatoes, cut into ½ inch dice

1 small red onion, cut into ½ inch dice

10 guajillo chiles, soaked in hot water for 30 minutes

2 chipolte chiles, soaked in hot water for 30 minutes

6 cloves garlic, skin on, toasted in a hot skillet

¼ teaspoon cumin

½ teaspoon Mexican oregano

1 lime, juiced

1 tablespoon sugar

Remove the guajillo & chipotle chiles from the water and pat dry with paper towels. Remove the stems and seeds and chop the flesh. In a large bowl, combine the chiles with all of the other ingredients. Using an immersion blender, purée the salsa until smooth. Season with salt and serve.

Roasted Salsa Verde

Ingredients

10 tomatillos, peeled and cut into quarters

1 large white onion cut into 1-inch dice

5 jalapeños, cut in half, seeds and veins removed

6 garlic cloves

1 cup cilantro leaves, roughly chopped

Place the tomatillos, onion, jalapeños and garlic on a baking sheet and roast in a 400°F until the tomatillos have broken down and the onions are slight brown on the edges, approximately 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool. Grind the roasted vegetables along with the cilantro leaves in a molcajete until smooth and creamy. Season with salt.

Al Spoler, well known to WYPR listeners as the wine-loving co-host of "Cellar Notes" has had a long-standing parallel interest in cooking as well. Al has said, the moment he started getting serious about Sunday night dinners was the same moment he started getting serious about wine. Over the years, he has benefited greatly from being a member of the Cork and Fork Society of Baltimore, a gentlemen's dining club that serves black tie meals cooked by the members themselves who are some of Baltimore's most accomplished amateur cooks.
Executive Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Corks restaurant is fascinated by food and wine, and the way they work in harmony on the palate. His understanding of the two goes all the way to the molecular level, drawing on his advanced education in molecular biology. His cuisine is simple and surprising, pairing unexpected ingredients together to work with Corks' extensive wine offerings.