© Constantine William Spyrou
Although they seem like they have almost nothing in common, Italian and Mexican food are actually extremely similar to each other. Both put an emphasis on low and slow cooking and longer preparation times that make dishes deeper in flavor and completely worth the wait. Sauces, especially tomato-based ones, are also common in both cuisines, as are cheeses. Since I love fusion dishes so much, I decided to make a dish combining the flavors of Italy and Mexico. Using my friends' inspiration of tomato and basil (you two are awesome, by the way =) ), I decided to create a caprese salsa. Caprese is a traditional Italian salad made with fresh mozzarella, basil, tomatoes, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. All of these seem like they would go great in a salsa with just some heat and citrus needed to balance everything out- again, that 5 flavors concept coming out to play. The shredded beef is a classical Chicago-style Italian Beef, which is simply seasoned and roasted (sometimes with vegetables to deepen the flavor, which will be done here), but will be spiced up with Mexican chiles and Italian arrabiata sauce to really complement and accentuate that fresh salsa.
Recipe should make around 15-20 tacos.
For the Salsa:
2 pounds fresh tomatoes, diced (Roma tomatoes work best, but San Marzanos/Stanislaus tomatoes also work well)
1 1/2 cups fresh chopped parsley
1 pound fresh mozzarella, diced
1 cup diced red onion
2 cups fresh chopped basil
1 cup diced jalapenos
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tbsp dried oregano
Salt and Pepper to taste
Combine all the ingredients thoroughly. Let sit for up to 36 hours in the fridge.
For the Beef:
1 4-pound portion of top round beef
2 cups water
2 tbsp salt
2 tbsp cracked black pepper
2 tbsp dried oregano
2 tbsp dried rosemary
2 tbsp dried marjoram
2 tbsp dried basil
2 tbsp garlic powder
2 tbsp onion powder
1/4 cup capers
4 cups crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 pound guajillo chiles, dried
1/2 pound celery, roughly chopped
1/2 pound carrots, roughly chopped
1/2 pound onions, roughly chopped
Taco Assembly Ingredients:
About 20 corn tortillas
1 head of cabbage, coarsely chopped
Parmesean Cheese for garnish
1. Rub all of the salt, pepper, oregano, rosemary, marjoram, basil, garlic powder, and onion powder onto the beef. Let it sit for at least 12 hours to take in all of the flavors.
2. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
3. In a roasting pan, lay in the celery, carrots, and onions. Pour the water underneath the vegetables, and lay the chiles around the vegetables in the water. Place in the beef. Mix together the capers, tomatoes, and red pepper, then pour that over the beef. Leave uncovered, and roast in the oven for about 2 hours or until the meat shreds apart.
4. Let cool, then shred apart the beef in its cooking liquid. Warm up the tortillas, and place about 2-3 ounces of beef into the taco. Lay in a layer of cabbage, followed by the salsa. Finish the taco off with a sprinkle of Parmesean cheese.
These tacos bring together the freshness of Mexico with the warmth of Italy in a great way. Let me know if you make these tacos and how they turn out! Enjoy!