Friday, December 10, 2010

Vegetarian Three Pepper Fajita Burritos - homemade Mexican treat

oooohhh 'Fa-Hee-Taz'!! who doesn't love fajitas..Chili's has one effective ad, I am sure, because everytime the 'Chilis to Go' advertisement aired ( from a couple years ago I think) wooing you with how easily you could pick up a platter of smoking hot fajitas carside, I just wanted to run out, rain or snow, to get some for myself. No pizza ad had me drooling that much.

This is one thing that's readily available for vegetarians in hotels, thank god, and they are either stingy or generous depending on the place. Some chain restaurants just do not have any specific 'vegetarian' fajitas on the menu, and you have to order a meat one minus the meat. Then again depending on the whim of the cook I guess, you sometimes end up with just a few measly onions and peppers, and end up cursing yourself for ordering them. Some local Mexican joints, such as my favourite Mexico restaurant or Mi Hacienda in local Richmond actually have a seperate Vegetarian Fajitas on their menu, and treat you to a veritable feast with every possible vegetable from broccoli to mushrooms and what not on your platter.

My obsession with Fajitas started a very long time ago when I used to work at Mexican joint. They had two signature burritos called 'fajita' and 'mexicali'. The Fajita burrito had onions and peppers with your choice of meat and a very fattening but delish chipotle sauce( which moi had no idea was made of egg yolks), and the mexicali was seasoned mexican type rice with the sauce - and meat, of course! The flavour combination of grilled peppers and onions is unbeatable, and so natural. The slight spice of the pepper, the sweetness from the caramelization, the smokiness from the charring, oye!

Turning the time machine to the present, I had been dreaming about these fajitas for some time, and luckily there was a time when there were all sorts of coloured peppers in the ice box, and loads of onions, corn etc. - in general almost every grain and vegetable that was needed to turn out this delectable treat. The only thing missing was an avocado, that I spent and hour acquiring, which finally turned out to be raw, hence dashing my plans for guacamole :( . But hey, I guess you gotta lose some.

This is a detailed recipe where all the fixings are made from scratch, but doesn't take that long to put together, really. You roughly need the same amount of time to make a small or large batch of this. Leftovers are a MUST!! These can provide you lunch for the whole week, as burritos, salads, bowls etc. etc.

There are multiple ways you can serve this up -
1) Burrito Bowl - if you are interested in 'losing layers', just pile these on artistically one over the other in a bowl, or shallow plate, with lots of crunchy lettuce on top.
2) Taco salad - with or without the bowl - start with a large base of romaine or such, and then dish everything else on top
3) Fajita platter - everything here, plus some beans served with steamed tortillas
4) Burritos - wrap burritos and serve with some chips and salsa
5) soft tacos -You can also create soft tacos with your choice of these ingredients
.... and so on and so forth. The possibilities, my dear, are endless!!

I am listing the various things I made and then will give each recipe seperately -

1) pico de guile or 'pico'
2) corn salsa
3)mexican rice
4)grilled onions and peppers
5)grilled tofu
6) fresh tortillas ( courtesy mater)

Refried beans and guacamole are missing 'coz i decided to go beanless and the avocado turned on me.

We also decided to go sans cheese or sour cream and keep this totally vegan and healthy. We certainly did not miss it amidst all these fresh and flavourful homemade items.

The detailed recipes for each of the above follow -

1) Pico De Guile
I am not sure if I have spelt this correctly, but everyone knows this is the tomato intensive 'mild salsa' or tomato salad that goes with your burrito.

4-5 vine ripe or any tomatoes
1 small onion
1 jalapeno
1 Tbsp chopped cilantro or more per taste
pinch of sugar
half a lime juiced

1)Chop all the above and mix together. You can use canned chopped tomatoes in a bind, but fresh with always always taste best, especially the vine ripe ones. You can use a deseeded jalapeno and only a half one for a mild pico, and more if you like heat.
2) Add the lime juice and refrigerate in a covered bowl for at least an hour before eating. This will allow everything to blend and the tomatoes to soften a bit.

2) Corn Salsa

I just love this - adds a sweet element among other fiery ones.

1 can sweet yellow corn or 2 cups frozen thawed sweet corn kernels
1 onion finely chopped
1 small jalapeno deseeded and chopped
1 small tomato chopped
2 Tbsp cilantro finely chopped
1 tsp chili or taco seasoning
salt and pepper
juice of 1 lime

1)Wash corn well if using canned corn and get rid of the canning liquid. If using frozen corn, you may want to blanch it a bit.
2) Mix all the above ingredients together in a bowl. Add the seasonings and the Fresh lime juice. The chili or taco seasoning will give a slight kick to this otherwise sweet salsa or salad.
3) Refrigerate for a minimum of one hour before use

3) Mexican Rice
Mexican rice recipe can be found here.

4)Grilled onions and peppers

There is no replacing these. They are what make a fajita a fajita :)

3-4 medium onions any colour
2 large green peppers
2 large red peppers
2 large orange or yellow peppers
salt and pepper

1) Cut the onions lengthwise in thick slices. Seperate them with fingers and set aside.
2) De-stem and deseed the peppers and remove all white parts. Cut long strips using a knife or kitchen shears.
3) Heat a non-stick pan and add a couple of drops of oil on a high flame. Add the onions such that they do not crowd the pan. Let them char a bit on one side and then toss them. You can fulfil all your fancies of tossing things in the pan in the air etc. chef style. The onions should only be slightly cooked and charred, but should have a bite to them. Add a sprinkle of salt and pepper and remove to a platter.
4) Repeat the above process with all the peppers in several batches as needed.
Tip - Sprinkle some sugar on the veggies. The sugar will caramelize and give a nice char to the vegetable
( I saw this on tv but honestly can't say if it made a difference)
5) Grilled Tofu

The tofu is our protein here, and needless to say, my carnivore friends can use this same process for any kind of meat etc. they like or dairy lovers can use paneer.

1 packet extra firm tofu
chili seasoning
vinegar or fresh lime juice
salt and pepper
oil for pan

1) Wash and drain the tofu, and cut into longish pieces.
2) Add seasonings, lime juice, dash of vinegar and toss lightly
3) Let it marinate for some time, the more the better. I generally do this first, then cut all the veggies etc., and then by the time I light the pan, at least half an hour has gone by. This can also be done any time beforehand and refrigerated. 4)Heat a non-stick pan and add some oil or PAM type spray. Place the tofu on the pan and grill until browned on all sides. Turn periodically as needed.

6)Fresh Tortillas
You can buy any store brand, but this makes All the difference. It was simply heavenly taking a tortilla fresh off the stove, and this herculean task was graciously undertaken by the mater. Kudos!
2 cups all purpose flour
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1-2 tsp baking powder
salt to taste

1) I have used plain old flour here since this was the first attempt. You can use masa, wheat flour, corn meal etc. -- the choice is yours.
2) Mix all the ingredients together - by hand or FP- to make a dough like you would for roti or chapati.
3) Let the dough rest for some time, maybe half hour.
4) Make rotis as you would usually. I wasn't sure if these should be roasted over the fire like a 'phulka'. My Internet searches revealed nothing about this. They just mentioned turning the wrap in the pan.
5) The wraps were sufficiently 'chewy' thanks to the baking powder I think. The above measurements were my own experimentation, based on a few tortilla recipes I found on the web. Some used butter or lard, and a lot of it, for making the dough. I decided to go with a little bit of oil, or 'mohan' ( funny maharashtrian term for oil that is added while kneading dough).

Whew!! I hope I have covered everything that I set out to portray here.

What method did I use to eat this?? I will let a picture speak louder than a thousand words. Here is a pic of my three pepper fajita burrito before it got rolled and disappeared!!
Now where's that margarita?
Do you love fajitas? Have you ever tried them at home? What other veggies do you add to your fajita platter. Your questions, comments, suggestions are always welcome.


Uma said...

very well explained..
i like fajitas... i'll try this soon!

amee said...


KamalKitchen said...

Thanks Uma and Amee, please keep visiting for more exciting recipes!