by Betty Thompson
It was just a little hole in the wall in Mexico City; no chairs, only stand-up tables. We waited in line at the grill while studying the menu posted overhead.
We ordered chuletas de puerco and it turned out to be well worth the wait. Thin pork cutlets were grilled with a bunch of whole green onions, cut into strips, and covered with a slab of white cheese. As soon as the cheese melted the lot was laid in warm tortillas, ready for fresh salsa.
Another memorable tortilla filling was scrambled eggs, chorizo, cheese, fried potatoes and salsa. Then there was my brother's north-of-the-border creation, the "Burgerito." He cut a grilled ground beef patty into three strips, laid it in a warmed flour tortilla, topped it with sour cream, chopped tomatoes, avocados and onions and wrapped it up. He repeatedly told me the essential part was the plastic sandwich bag which held the wrap together and prevented the delicious juices from running down his arm. I have to admit it's a useful idea.
Tortilla wraps have become increasingly popular for enclosing far more than Mexican-style burrito fillings or fajitas. For example, Thai chicken with peanut sauce, spinach, coconut rice and mango salsa wrapped up in a tortilla makes a delectable dinner. Lamb kebabs with tomato rice, garlic cucumber salad and smoky chipotle salsa also has a strong appeal.
The large flour tortilla lends itself very well to wrapping up breakfast, cold cuts, salads or a whole meal hot off the grill. It can be folded fresh by the diner or wrapped ahead and reheated or eaten cold. Today's recipes feature whole meal wraps.
The first filling teams up smoky sausages and garlic mashed potatoes with lemon mustard slaw and pineapple salsa to create a picante German-style wrap. Try grilling sausages such as Taylor's Smoked German brand or the locally made garlic-pistachio or Louisiana hot links. Mashed potatoes are seasoned with lots of garlic and green onions (instant potatoes work); or try your favorite potato salad hot or cold or hash browns. The pineapple salsa is also delicious using fresh mango or peach for the pineapple.
The second filling is snapper seasoned with zesty cajun spices, baked or fried, and wrapped with corn, green pepper, onion-and-black bean relish and creamy garlic pecan dressing. Any fish such as ling cod, catfish, halibut or tuna can be substituted for the snapper. Remove the bones before cooking and wrapping.
Blackened red fish or other creole seasoning is suitable. Serve any leftover relish as a side dish.
The third filling is strips of grilled chicken breast nested on a bed of couscous topped with sun-dried tomato pesto with pine nuts, fresh basil, and garlic and green beans. Try steamed spinach or grilled strips of zucchini, peppers or eggplant in place of the green beans.
If you're in the easy summer mode, today's wraps can be simplified by using prepared salads, sauces, chutneys and salsas from the market. Some suggestions: sun-dried tomato pesto, garlic pesto, tomato-olive-caper-and-basil sauce, hummus, ranch dip, peanut sauce, smoked-salmon cream cheese, potato salad and salsas. Try these in combination with grilled meats, vegetables and couscous or rice.
This month's wraps were made with 10-inch flour tortillas. (Safeway now has different flavors such as spinach or sun-dried tomato.) The gorditas are a little thicker and tear less easily. The eight-inch and whole wheat tortillas are also good.
A thin base spread of sour cream (nonfat is fine) is helpful to stick loose fillings to the tortilla for ease in wrapping. With base ingredients such as refried beans and mashed potatoes, this is not necessary.
A good finale is a warmed tortilla spread with sweetened cream cheese and slices of kiwi, peaches, pineapple and strawberries or a can of apple pie filling.
That about wraps it up.
6 sausages, grilled
2 cups mashed potato seasoned with 3 cloves minced garlic and 4 chopped green onions
3 cups nappa cabbage, finely shredded and dressed with 1 tablespoon coarse grained mustard with horseradish and 1 tablespoon lemon juice.
Pineapple salsa (below)
6 10-inch flour tortillas
Warm one tortilla, spread with 1/3 cup mashed potato. Top with 1 sausage cut in half lengthwise after grilling. Shorten if necessary to fit the tortilla. Top with 1/2 cup slaw and 1-2 tablespoons salsa. Fold and roll as for a burrito.
1 8-ounce can crushed pineapple, drained
1/4 cup red onion finely chopped
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
2 teaspoons salsa
Cajun Snapper Wrap
1 pound cod or snapper fillets, bones removed
1/2 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
1 teaspoon cajun seasoning or more
Confetti Corn Relish (below)
Garlic Pecan Dressing (below)
4-6 10-inch flour tortillas
Salt and squeeze lemon juice on each fillet. Coat both sides in crumbs and sprinkle generously with cajun seasoning. Place on an oiled baking sheet and bake about 20 minutes in a 375° oven, or pan fry until golden.
Make relish and garlic dressing. Warm tortillas by placing 1 at a time on a hot griddle. Spread with a thin layer of sour cream if desired. Place about 1/2 cup corn in the center of one tortilla, top with a portion of fish; then garlic dressing. Fold the right edge over the top of the filling, then fold the bottom edge up enclosing the filling into a roll. Roll over once to complete.
Slip the folded end into a small plastic bag if desired.
2 cups frozen corn, defrosted
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 small onion, diced
1 sweet red pepper, diced
1 green pepper, diced
1 tomato, diced
2 teaspoons, jalapeño Tabasco sauce
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
Combine all ingredients.
Garlic Pecan Dressing
1/2 cup sour cream
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons pecans, coarsely chopped
3-4 tablespoons milk
Salt and pepper to taste.
Combine all ingredients. Thin with a little more milk if necessary.
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons corn oil
1 teaspoon oregano
11/2 cups couscous, soaked 10 minutes in 11/2 cups boiling chicken stock
2 cups cooked green beans
4-6 10-inch flour tortillas
Sun-dried Tomato Pesto (below)
Pound chicken flat gently between sheets of wax paper. Marinate in lemon juice, oil and oregano one hour or over night. Grill and slice crosswise into half-inch slices.
Warm tortillas on hot griddle until pliable, spread with sour cream; top with 1/3 cup couscous, a few slices chicken, 3-4 tablespoons beans and 2 tablespoons pesto. Fold as for a burrito.
Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto
1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes, packed in oil
2 tablespoons garlic, minced
2 tablespoons pine nuts
1 cup fresh basil leaves, packed
3 tablespoons grated parmesan
4 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
Place all ingredients in the food processor and coarsely chop. Add a little additional oil or water if necessary.
Betty Thompson has taught cooking locally since 1974.
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