A Newspaper-Clipped, Trashy, Suburban Recipe

I'm too embarassed to even put the recipe name in the subject line. At least it's not really clipped from a newspaper. It just would sound like it were.

We're going on vacation soon, so are cleaning out the fridge. And since Alex is back home after a week+ at Boy Scout camp, he's picking our menus. He wanted tacos, and knew nothing of the Mexican feast we had just a few days before he returned.

I generally don't care for "one-dish" meals. However, we had ground turkey in the freezer, some leftover tri-color rotini pasta, and a fresh package of Chinese long beans (more on long beans later). So I decided to mix up a taco seasoning, and combine all those ingredients. Frankly, it looks like a lame suburban "throw it together" dish. However, there were some very nice flavors, subtle enough for picky eaters, and at least the dish didn't get its taco seasoning from a foil package.

Actually, a package of taco mix is often used in my house, just not by me. Like most busy households, we've got a few shortcut, go-to dishes that the kids like and are truly fast to make. However, I'll contend that my dish is only 5 minutes slower than Margie's fast taco night.....especially if you don't have to cook the pasta or make this as just a taco dish with tortillas.

Ground Turkey and Bean "Taco Pasta"

1 pound fresh green beans or Chinese long beans (see note), trimmed
1/2 pound or more cooked pasta, such as rotini
1 medium onion, chopped. A little more than 1 cup.
1 red bell pepper, chopped. A little less than 1 cup.
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, more or less to taste
1 teaspoon salt
Fresh black pepper
20 ounces ground turkey (that's the common package size in my stores)
1/2 cup chicken stock, white wine or water
3 tablespoons tomato paste
  1. Bring beans to boil in salted water. Cover and simmer for 6-8 minutes, depending on thickness. Taste for doneness. Drain and rinse under cold water to keep the beans from overcooking.
  2. If needed, cook pasta and drain. Let cool.
  3. Add onion to a saute pan with 1-2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. After 2 minutes add red peppers and garlic. Cook vegetable about 4 minutes more. They don't need to be soft yet.
  4. Add all spices and stir to combine, then add turkey. Cook about 7 minutes, breaking up turkey into smaller pieces.
  5. Add chicken stock and tomato paste and turn heat to high. Stir paste and stock to combine. Allow some of the liquid to cook off slightly (evaporate). Keep cooking until just a small amount of liquid remains.
  6. Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Serve with grated cheese, sour cream, tortilla strips and lime wedges.
Why do I believe this recipe is better than the pedestrian, newspaper-clipped, clap-trap that finds its way around suburban kitchens? Or compared to taco mix in a package? Here are a few thoughts:
  • Using ground turkey. Turkey will absorb the spices and other flavorings better than beef. It's also got far less fat than beef. So much so that you can cook it without draining off fat. That's why we didn't have to brown the beef first, drain it and later return it to the pan with the seasonings and vegetables. 
  • The simplicity and focus of a few high quality spices. Margie uses a high quality packaged taco mix called Pioneer Brand. It's good, not great. It's quick and the kids like it. The spices listed are: chili pepper, salt, maltodextrin spices, MSG, food starch, bleached flour, cocoa powder (really?), spice (which is what??) and citric acid. Compare that to chili, cumin, cayenne, salt and pepper. Focused and simple.
  • All fresh ingredients. That package of taco mix also listed onion as the first ingredient, and you know what that means (largest quantity). Of course it's dried onion. Also listed - garlic. Dried. Compare those to spending less than 5 minutes (and for some of you, less than 3 minutes), chopping a little onion and garlic.
  • One last thought. The reddish color in the packaged version: food coloring. Mine: tomato.

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