Recent Nor’easters, ice, whiteouts, and Arctic temperatures have most of us hunkering down at home. The kitchen becomes a place of warmth and comfort, and for the cook presents both challenge and opportunity to try new things. Some of us will even reluctantly admit that it is a way to relieve that encroaching “cabin fever” feeling.
Cold mornings call for warm breakfasts to fortify us, if nothing else than for that trip to the mailbox. Steel-cut oats, various egg dishes with or without grits, and even blueberry pancakes suddenly take on a special appeal. The food industry, though, recently threw me an unexpected challenge.
I had purchased a package of 6-inch soft corn tortillas for a quick dinner of my Philadelphia tacos. A closer inspection of the package revealed that in its zeal for softness and reduced calories per serving, the company had reduced the thickness of each 6-inch tortilla, so that filled with the requisite ingredients, it would no longer hold them together. We were reduced to eating the untidy combination with a knife and a fork. This left most of the rest of the package of tortillas unusable for their original purpose. But this is a column about “thrifty food,” and a solution was found by inventing breakfast tacos that require less voluminous filling.
Egg and ham tacos
Lightly toast six small soft corn tortillas on both sides in a lightly oiled pan one at a time and set aside. Beat four eggs with a dash of salt and pepper and a couple of tablespoons of milk. Thinly slice two scallions with greens and two pieces of deli ham in small strips and set aside. Scramble the eggs, and when they start to set, incorporate the scallions and the ham in the eggs. Set the tortillas on serving plates and distribute the scrambled eggs on each. Sprinkle with grated sharp cheese and serve with some sliced tomatoes. Serves 2-3.
Cottage cheese and sun-dried tomato tacos
This recipe is for four 6-inch tacos but can easily be scaled up for heartier appetites or more than two people. Use the tacos directly out of the package without crisping. Prepare fresh salsa and set aside by mixing: ½ cup chopped cherry tomatoes, 2 tbsp. chopped green pepper and scallion each, with 2 tsp. rice vinegar and ¼ tsp. salt. For the filling, beat together in a small bowl: 1 cup large curd cottage cheese (drain off some of the liquid if too creamy), 1/3 cup shredded sharp cheddar, dash of pepper, and ½ tsp. garlic salt. Stir in one thinly sliced scallion with greens, two sundried tomatoes sliced in thin strips, and four chopped slices pickled jalapeno pepper. Distribute the filling in a strip along the middle of four tacos and fold the tacos in half along the filling.
Lightly oil and heat a large pan. Place the folded tacos in the pan with the filling toward the middle and fry 1-2 minutes on a side until lightly browned. Serve two or more tacos per person, topped with the fresh salsa. To gild the lily, place a small dollop of sour cream on top of the salsa.
While both of these breakfast tacos are hearty, for those who like their breakfast slightly on the sweet side, cottage cheese paired with corn tortillas can produce an unusual, but tasty, blintz.
This recipe is also for four uncrisped soft 6-inch tortillas, but can easily be scaled up for more. For filling, beat together in a small bowl: 1 cup large curd cottage cheese (drain off some of the liquid if too creamy), 1/3 cup grated mild cheddar, 1 ½ tbsp. sugar, ¼ tsp. nutmeg. Stir in 1/3 cup chopped raisins and pecans each. Divide among the tortillas and process on an oiled pan as in the recipe above. Serve with sour cream or your favorite jam or jelly. For variety, this recipe would also work well with chopped dried cranberries and walnuts.
Always give the cook a good challenge to keep from being bored!
(I. Winicov Harrington lives in Waldoboro. She is the author of “How to Eat Healthy and Well for Less Than $5.00 a Day: The Smart-Frugal Food Plan.” For more information, go to winicov-harrington.com.)