Growing up in Southern California, we were lucky enough to have access to lots of really good Mexican food; even back in the ‘60’s we had great Mexican restaurants and taco stands. Often on Saturday night my Mom would make tacos, frying up the tortillas and setting all the ingredients on a big lazy susan in the center of the table so we could all stuff our tortillas according to our own personal whim. This was perhaps my favorite meal, and I quickly learned to fry the tortillas and help chop, grate and slice to get it on the table more quickly. She always put out a couple kinds of taco sauce, but my Mom always put Tabasco sauce on hers, and that’s how I learned to eat them (still do).
After school my friends and I would often stop at this little taco stand nearby and get a couple of tacos to eat on the way home. But one time I got a tostada instead, and I was hooked, hooked, I tell you! I can still remember the flavors and textures of that tostada, which were so like a taco, but with the addition of refried beans, lots more lettuce, olives, cheese, tomatoes, etc. It was sort of like going from a regular sandwich to an open-faced sandwich with no constraints on how much stuff you could pile on.
Many years and many tostadas later, I am still hooked. So today I share with you my recipe for what I think is the perfect tostada, which is such a great light, but filling meal for a warm summer day.
A good tostada always starts with a great tortilla (corn, of course), which must be really crisp and then stay crisp for the duration. I’m not a fan of the fried flour tortilla kind of tostada that many restaurants serve these days. I’m kinda old school when it comes my tostadas, and sure, you can fry a tortilla for this, but guess what, it will get soggy long before a baked tortilla will, so save yourself a few calories and bake ‘em! 400 degrees for 10 minutes, to be exact.
Then, on top of that ever-so-crispy tortilla, we’re going to shmear some tasty refried beans (I love Whole Foods’ refrieds with chile and lime), and then we’re going to top that with some grated cheese. On top of that goes cooked shredded or ground meat, which I cook in my own blend of taco seasoning spices (see recipe for this blend). Then I put a little more grated cheese on that and then load on the chopped lettuce salad.
Now, let’s talk about this lettuce thing. This is often where most restaurants lose me. It’s so easy to just pile on a bunch of chopped up iceburg lettuce, but this is probably the biggest component to a tostada, and there must be flavor here, I say! So in a large-ish bowl I combine chopped lettuce (the light crunchy parts of the romaine), some chopped tomato, olives and more grated cheese. Then I toss this with a light, red wine vinaigrette. You can’t imagine what this does for the flavor here. Don’t skip this step!
Then the lettuce gets piled on top of the bean-y, meat-y tortilla and we top this with more grated cheese, some salsa, sour cream and avocado. Sliced jalapenos would be a nice addition here if you want to add some heat.
I think it’s safe to say that this is one of the best tostadas you will ever eat. I was going to say that it’s the best tostada, but that would be like giving out a 10 at the beginning of the Olympic ice skating program. You have to leave room for some new discovery or improvement, so suffice to say that, for now, this tostada gets a 9.8, just in case….
For a printable recipe, click here
4 corn tortillas
refried beans (I like Whole Foods Green Chile and Lime), heated through
2 large chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
4 cups (or more) shredded lettuce or chopped romaine
2 cups (or more) grated jack and cheddar cheese
1 large, ripe avocado, sliced
1 large or 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 sm. can sliced olives
¼ to 1/3 cup red wine vinaigrette (3:1 ratio of canola oil to red wine vinegar and a little salt and pepper)
your favorite salsa
sliced jalapenos (optional)
To a small skillet over medium heat, add 1/4 cup of water, 2 tablespoons of the Mexican seasoning blend (see recipe below), and 1/2 tsp salt. Stir to mix well and add your shredded chicken. Toss to combine well, cover and heat the chicken through over low heat.
Preheat oven to 400°. Place tortillas on a baking sheet, spray with a little baking spray, and bake for about 9-10 minutes until crispy. They should be slightly browned. If they don’t seem crispy enough, turn off the oven and them sit in there for a few more minutes. Keep warm.
Toss the lettuce with the vinaigrette, grated cheese, tomatoes and sliced olives and set aside.
Place a crisp tortilla on a plate. Spread the tortilla a good amount of refried beans, some cheese and then top with some shredded chicken, and then pile on the lettuce mixture. Sprinkle this with some more grated cheese and top with salsa, some sour cream, sliced jalapenos and avocado slices.
Taco Seasoning blend:
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground coriander
1 tsp dried oregano
¼ tsp cayenne (or more if you prefer more heat)
1 tsp salt
Mix all the ingredients together and set aside. I like to make big batches of this and keep it on hand in the pantry.