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Food Ventures

Summer and Mexican Food Fun

By Ann Hattes
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A taco is simply a meal in a tortilla, and, while traditional tacos typically involve slow cooked meats, you can put just about anything in a tortilla with delicious results. Fruit? Macaroni and cheese? Chinese food? Yes! Breakfast? Lunch? Dinner? Yes! Tacos have stuck around for so long because they’re creative, filling, and you can personalize them.

Milwaukee, known as the “City of Festivals,” annually hosts Summerfest, the world’s largest music festival before and during the July 4th weekend.  Following that event, the city’s shores of Lake Michigan become a portal to the world with ethnic and cultural celebrations throughout the summer, from Fiesta Italiana, Germanfest, and Irish Fest, to Mexican Fiesta, and Indian Summer Festival.

For visitors staying overnight there’s a new lodging option in town, Potawatomi Hotel & Casino, formerly known as Potawatomi Bingo Casino (opened 1991), operated by the Forest County Potawatomi Community. Entering the hotel lobby, guests are greeted with pillars throughout the space replicating large trees and leaf canopies. Far above, a complex lighting system can simulate sun breaking through trees or thunderstorms. The hotel is smoke-free and green, with many environmentally friendly features. This priority on sustainability stems from the tribe’s traditional belief in honoring all living things. 

Beyond the abundant food options at the festivals, visitors have many choices at Potawatomi Hotel & Casino. Locavore, the newest restaurant, specializes in dishes prepared with local and sustainable foods with the menu changing according to the seasons and daily harvests. Dream Dance Steak offers regional ingredients and a reasonably priced wine list of 600 selections from around the world. Both Locavore and Dream Dance Steak often hold special dinners highlighting particular wines, craft beers, or unusual food items like white truffles or morel mushrooms. Other dining options besides the buffet and food court include Wild Earth Cucina Italiana featuring old world flavors of Italy and RuYi, an authentic Asian restaurant with an emphasis on noodles.

Even if you can’t get to Milwaukee’s Mexican Fiesta, you can enjoy many tasty and traditional Mexican foods at home. With the over 100 recipes in The Taco Revolution (Skyhorse Publishing) you can master America’s new favorite food. A taco is simply a meal in a tortilla, and, while traditional tacos typically involve slow cooked meats, you can put just about anything in a tortilla with delicious results. Fruit? Macaroni and cheese? Chinese food? Yes! Breakfast? Lunch? Dinner? Yes! Tacos have stuck around for so long because they’re creative, filling, and you can personalize them. Give the Reuben Taco with taco Russian dressing and classic taco seasoning a try. Mix up some avocado spread too.

Authentic Mexican Cooking (Skyhorse Publishing) shows you that the flavorful and piquant foods from south of the border are easy to make. Find recipes for vegetarian frijoles, Tortilla soup, chocolate-chili sauce, mushroom-filled burritos, and shrimp in tequila sauce. Co-author Scott Myers fell in love with Mexico as a little boy. Inspired by his Mexican family roots, he opened a restaurant in Munich, Germany, in 2009 to acquaint his guests with real Mexican food instead of the widespread Tex-Mex food served in other restaurants.

For chocolate snacking anytime there are gluten-free Brownie Thins, a crunchy cracker by Partners Free for All Kitchen (www.partnerscrackers.com), and Pascha Chocolate (www.paschachocolate.com), allergen-free creations made in a dedicated manufacturing facility free from all eight major food allergens including peanuts, nuts, dairy, soy, eggs, wheat, shellfish and fish. Enjoy.


 

Reuben Taco

(Courtesy of The Taco Revolution, Skyhorse Publishing). A classic Reuben is typically served with Thousand Island dressing, but try Taco Russian Dressing for fuller flavor.

Makes 4 tacos.

¼ cup Taco Russian Dressing (see below)

1 cup sauerkraut, prepared

4 slices Swiss cheese

1 cup shredded corned beef, prepared

Cracked black pepper for garnish

Tortillas

 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Spread about 1 tablespoon Taco Russian Dressing evenly over a tortilla.

Top with sauerkraut, 1 piece of Swiss cheese, and corned beef.

Put taco on an oven-safe plate and heat 2 – 3 minutes until cheese melts. Garnish with cracked black pepper.


 

Taco Russian Dressing

Makes about ¾ cup.

1/3 cup mayonnaise

3 tablespoons ketchup

3 tablespoons relish

1 scant teaspoon Classic Taco Seasoning (see below)

 

Combine all ingredients in a small mixing bowl and mix thoroughly.

Refrigerate leftovers.


 

Also from the same cookbook:

Classic Taco Seasoning

Makes slightly under ½ cup.

2 tablespoons chili powder

1 & ½ tablespoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons paprika

2 teaspoons garlic powder

1 & ½ teaspoons black pepper

1 & ½ teaspoons onion powder

1 & ½ teaspoons coarse ground sea salt

¾ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

¾ teaspoon dried oregano

 

Mix all ingredients in a small mixing bowl.

Store in an airtight container.


 

Avocado Spread

Simpler than guacamole, avocado spread adds a touch of flavor without overpowering the taco’s main ingredients. Makes about ½ cup.

½ avocado

2 tablespoons sour cream

 

Scoop the avocado from its shell and add contents to a small mixing bowl. Add sour cream and mix all ingredients until mostly smooth.

Refrigerate leftovers.


 

Tequila Sauce

(Courtesy of Authentic Mexican Cooking, Skyhorse Publishing) Makes 4 servings

This sauce matches ideally with filet mignon. Use light tequila. Tequila is the Mexican miracle elixir. In this sauce, the alcohol has evaporated, and only the agave flavor remains within.

1 quart chicken broth

1 cup cream

1 cup sugar

¾ cup tequila

 

Mix all of the ingredients together and poach in a pot on very low heat while stirring frequently for about 20 minutes.


 

Mole Verde de Oaxaca

(Courtesy of Authentic Mexican Cooking, Skyhorse Publishing). This famous sauce from the southern part of the country is prepared with pumpkin seeds and lettuce. It is very, very tasty, especially with poultry, but also with tortillas, and it is budget-friendly. Makes about 2 quarts.

1 small crunchy lettuce head

½ pound arugula

½ pound tomatillos (canned)

1 star anise

1 small bunch scallions

1 garlic clove

1 small, stale roll or piece of baguette

1 & ½ quarts chicken broth

1 & ¼ cups shelled pumpkin seeds

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

 

Clean the lettuce head, wash it, shake it dry, and coarsely chop it. Mince the tomatillos as desired. Crush the star anise. Clean the scallions, wash them, use only the white parts of the scallions, and coarsely chop these parts. Peel the garlic clove and the shallot and chop. Grate the stale roll or piece of baguette.

Brown the pumpkin seeds underneath the grill or in a pan on very low heat. (Be careful, these burn easily and then turn bitter.)

Put the chicken broth in a pot. Stir in all the ingredients, spice, let it boil, and then simmer on the lowest heat until the sauce thickens and becomes creamy after about thirty minutes. In the meantime, stir around the broth constantly. Finely puree the sauce or press through a food mill, then spice as desired.

 

Ann Hattes has over 25 years experience writing about both travel and food for publications both in the US and internationally. A senior living in Wisconsin, she’s a member of the International Food, Wine and Travel Writers Association and the Midwest Travel Writers Association.

Meet Ann