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Friday, February 29, 2008

Hidden Treasures at Tacos Por Favor in Santa Monica

Driving on the freeway, looking at the streets and neighborhoods below, I often wonder what fabulous restaurants I'm missing.Tacos Por Favor is one of those places that I had heard about for years, but had always driven by without stopping.

Today I decided to stop.

A cantina-sized Mexican restaurant on the corner of Olympic at 14th Street,Tacos Por Favor sits on the border between the two-Santa Monicas. It is well-known to the people who work in the auto repair and building supply businesses nearby as well as the students of the upscale private school, Crossroads and the well-heeled who could eat at the upscale Buffalo Club down the block, but prefer Tacos Por Favor's casual atmosphere and lower prices.

Long before it was hip, the restaurant made its reputation on the quality of its ingredients. Abandoning lard and searching out the freshest vegetables to make its salsas, Tacos Por Favor prides itself on serving "healthy Mexican food."

On this first visit, I tried a selection of the soft tacos: carnitas, chicken, cheese, shrimp, and the potato (delicious). One of the day's specials was shrimp soup. Six corn tortillas came with the large bowl of spicy soup, filled with whole shrimp, bell peppers, roasted red peppers, celery, and onions.

Delicious, filling, and affordable.

Stimulated by the flavors, I knew what I was going to make for dinner: carne asada with avocado and homemade salsa.

Carne Asada, Avocado, and Salsa

Instead of buying the meat at the supermarket, if you're close to a Mexican or Asian market, you'll find the cuts of meat you need at half the price.

Yield: 4 servings

Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

1 pound flank or skirt steak, thin sliced
1 ripe tomato, washed, stem removed, chopped
1 carrot, washed, peeled, sliced into thick rounds
1 medium sized ripe avocado, washed, peeled, the pit removed, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped yellow onion
1 teaspoon chopped cilantro leaves
1 garlic clove, peeled, finely chopped
1 small serrano chile, washed, cut in half, seeded
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Mexican hot sauce or Tabasco
Olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper
6-8 large tortillas, corn or flour

Method

Marinate the steak in olive oil, seasoned with sea salt, black pepper, and a bit of hot sauce. If you have the time, overnight is great, but as little as an hour will help tenderize and flavor the meat.

Toss the carrot pieces and serrano chile in a bowl with olive oil and sea salt, then grill, 3 minutes on each side, remove and chop. Put them back into the bowl. Add the chopped tomatoes, onions, avocado, and cilantro. Mix well. Drizzle with the lemon juice and season with hot sauce, if needed. Marinate 30 minutes.

Grill the steak on a hot grill, 5 minutes on each side or until the edges are charred. Transfer to a plate, cover with a piece of aluminum foil, and set aside for 5 minutes.

Grill flour or corn tortillas and keep warm in a covered basket.

Roughly chop the steak, put the pieces into a bowl, pour the juices over the meat, and serve with the salsa and hot tortillas.

Variations

Grill 6 scallions--washed, ends trimmed--until charred and serve with the tacos

Grill 1 ear of corn--shucked, silks removed, washed--take off the kernels, add them to the salsa

Roast 2 garlic cloves in their skins over an open flame until their skins burn off, let cool, mince, add to the salasa

Add 1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro to the salsa

3 comments:

deuddersun said...

Years ago, when I worked on Babylon V, my favorite rest was a little place called Gorky's. After closing the Cat & Fiddle, we'd all head over to Gorky's for the best omelets I've ever had.

I just want to know, is Gorky's still there?

d.

deuddersun said...

Funny thing is, I really like to eat, therefore I also cook. Not like you do, mind you, I'm more of an experimental chef. I tend to buy things spur of the moment and take them home and see what happens. My Lady, damagster, is a master at this, and even in the winter months, the grill is always in use. I have pictures of damagster and me standing on our patio, while snow swirls thru our backyard lights, turning foil-wrapped potatoes or salmon, or flipping two Angus steaks.

I'm going to link to you because I think there are a lot of men who like to cook, and my readers, while generally as big a bunch of wildass madmen (and women) as you could hope to find, also like to eat.

d.

David Latt said...

Gorky's closed some time ago. I used to go there for the borscht with sour cream, which I loved, but afterwards always made me ill. I discovered years later that I'm allergic to beets...
Thanks for the 2nd note. I am a bit obsessed about food, although like a true obsessive, I don't really think I am. I assume everyone thinks at great length about what they're eating. If you like grilling, try tossing vegetables with olive oil, sea salt, and black pepper and grilling them for a few minutes on each side. I've had good success with squash, carrots, mushrooms, broccoli, string beans, sugar snap peas...slices of potatoes...
All the best,
David