Hello and welcome back to Toothsome!
The heat of summer is coming in fast, and it feels like life’s long-missed sense of normalcy is leading the charge. Thanks be to vaccinations!
I started out planning this month’s installment to be focused on the virtues of growing a kitchen herb garden. But, then I planted a bunch of cilantro, which made me hungry for (and want to write about) nachos, which, of course, made me want a margarita to enjoy with them. Sort of like the mouse and the cookie dilemma. Anyway, it’s a lot of ground to cover in one 900-word column. So, ¡Vamanos!
Firstly, if you haven’t already, do plant up a few herbs on your patio, deck, or even on your kitchen window sill. They smell heavenly and are always superior to anything you’ll get at the supermarket. Basil is far and away the easiest to keep going and quickly returns to life even if forgotten for a few days — just give her a good drink of water and she’s back. Add in some rosemary — the scent alone is worth the minimal effort required — mint, parsley, thyme, all potted together in a big planter set in full sun outdoors. The mixture will bring months of joy to your cooking, plus they are as beautiful to look at as they are aromatic. Oh, and don’t forget the cilantro.
So, herb garden: check. Now, on to topic 2: Nachos. I am a huge fan of Spanish and Spanish-inspired food, so I ask you, readers, is there a better snack for cocktail hour? Or lunch? Or dinner? Don’t answer that if the response is anything to do with charcuterie boards (another solid fave, but 900 words — I have to stay focused!). Honestly, I know of no other sharable, good-mood-inducing, satisfyingly-hearty nibble to accompany a cold, citrusy libation in the summer.
And any proportion works! A big crowd coming over? Pile them high and load ’em up. A more modest gathering? A small baking sheet is the perfect size. Just yourself? Well, that’s your call. I tend to go lunch-plate size. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!
Tapas, appetizer, hors d’oeuvre, call them what you will. Nachos are king of them all! And no matter which way you slice it (or stack and layer it) nachos win at every turn. They really do have it all — crunch, veg, melty cheese, salty-spice, pickled peppers, and any number of add-ins you desire.
Leftover pulled pork, last night’s black bean chili, shredded rotisserie chicken, black olives, avocado, even a sprinkle of crumbled bacon and that cilantro snipped from the patio pot. Anything goes!
And lastly, the really fun bit: Margaritas! While scrolling through the ’gram the other day, I landed on an account wherein Chris Morocco of Bon Appetit Magazine was giving a tutorial on how to mix a proper margarita cocktail and I have to say he nailed it. Uncomplicated and quick, it played out as follows: 2 oz. tequila; 1 oz. freshly squeezed lime juice (about 1 tbsp.), and 1 oz. Cointreau. Mix all together in a cocktail shaker with filled with ice, and shake vigorously (not kidding about that shaking), rub a lime slice around the rim of the glass, pour the liquid in and garnish with a wide strip of orange zest. Retreat to the nearest outdoor venue and have a seat. Enjoy.
I hope you’ll make some nachos soon and savor the deliciousness in their utter simplicity. As for me, I’m headed down to the patio to snip some mint and attempt to master the mojito. I mean, there’s so much mint down there!
Stay well, and keep on cooking.
Note: The recipe that follows is one I have used for several years and also comes from Bon Appetit Magazine. It never disappoints, and is receptive to any toppings you like. It’s more of a no-recipe recipe or template, so have some fun making it your own.
Nachos with All
•3 bags tortilla chips
(shout out Tostitos!)
9 oz. each
•2 15-oz cans black beans,
•1 large white onion
(but any color works)
•3 lbs. shredded cheese,
such as sharp cheddar
and/or Monterey Jack
•8 oz. Cotija cheese or
•1 bunch radishes,
•1 cup fresh cilantro,
•1 or 2 ears of corn,
grilled, kernels cut from
cob (my addition, and
(Use some or all)
•Salsa (green or red — your choice)
•Pico de gallo
•Sour cream (thinned with
a little water for drizzling,
•Hot pepper sauce
(I like Cholula)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat two large rimmed baking sheets with nonstick spray. Dividing evenly between baking sheets, layer chips, any cooked meats you may want to add (like pulled pork or chicken), beans, onion and shredded cheese, mounding in the center.
Nachos can be assembled up to 1 hour before baking. Working with one sheet at a time, bake until cheese is melted, for 20–25 minutes. Sprinkle with Cotija or feta cheese, radishes and cilantro. Serve with desired toppings. And a Margarita.