This Dame Cooks A Collection of Recipes from Alaska to the South Pacific and Caribbean

Tacoritos Colorado

09.23.2016 · Posted in Main Dishes

taco1This might look like a mess but boy is it a tasty mess!  Tacoritos are 10-inch flour tortillas filled with taco meat, frijoles (refried beans), cheddar cheese, and green chili gravy.  Then they are topped with more green chili gravy,  lettuce, guacamole, salsa picante, sour cream and black olives.  Of-course this size is meant for super-heros who work hard or play hard all day and love firy hot Mexican food.  You can make these with 6-inch tortillas and tone down the chili heat by omitting the jalapenos and just use poblanos or Anaheim green chilies in the gravy.  I’ve used chipotle chilies in the meat to add a little smoky flavor and used some of the picante salsa in the guacamole.  There’s plenty of cilantro in the green chile gravy for earthy flavor and color plus a good heaping teaspoon of cumin for the authentic  Spanish flavor.

This was a Tuesday lunch special at my restaurant in Tonga and the Peace Corp always made a good showing for this Tex-Mex dish.  The recipe is my version of a popular dish served in Mexican restaurants in Fort Collins, Colorado.  Tacoritos have a lot of components but they’re not difficult to make.  You can substitute pulled pork or chicken for the beef and whole wheat tortillas for the flour tortillas.  Friends always rave when we serve these so invite the gang over for tacoritos and have a party.

Ingredients for 4 10-inch tacoritos or 8 6-inch tacoritos:

The taco meat:

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 cup of diced onions
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 beef steak tomatoes, diced
  • 2 chipotle chiles diced
  • 1 tsp of cumin
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp chile powder
  • 1 tsp sea salt

The green chili gravy:

  • 3 poblano chilies, charred, peeled, seeded and deveined
  • 1 cup cilantro
  • 1 heaping tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 2 cups of beef stock or juices from pulled pork or chicken stock
  • 2 corn tortillas for thickening

The salsa picante:

  • 5 or 6 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced (add juice and seeds to taco meat)
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 serrano chile, finely chopped (or jalapeno, seeded and deveined)
  • juice of one large lime
  • 2 Tbsp oil (olive or vegetable)
  • sea salt to taste

Other ingredients:

  • Tortillas warmed, your choice of size and grain
  • 2 cans of frijoles (refried beans) warmed with 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 2 cups cheddar cheese, grated for filling
  • 3 or 4 avocados for guacamole topping
  • juice of 1 lime or lemon for guacamole
  • 1 head iceberg lettuce, shredded or chopped  for topping
  • Sour cream for topping
  • Black olive slices for garnish


  1. To prepare the taco meat:  Brown the ground beef in a skillet over medium high heat.  Remove meat and saute onions and garlic until wilted.  Return meat to skillet.
  2. Add remaining taco meat ingredients and stir.  Lower heat so mixture barely simmers.
  3. To prepare the green chili gravy:  Rub olive oil on the poblano chilies.  Char the chilies under the broiler until blistered all over the surface.  Cover chilies with foil or a bowl for 10 minutes.  Peel off skins, remove veins and seeds.
  4. Place prepared chilies in a blender or food processor.  Add remaining ingredients for green chili gravy and puree until almost smooth.
  5.  Place gravy in a sauce pan and heat through.  Cover and keep warm.
  6. To prepare frijoles (refried beans):  Place beans in an oven proof pan, top with 1/2 of cheddar cheese and cover with foil.  Heat in oven at 300° F. until ready to assemble.
  7. Wrap tortillas in a clean kitchen towel.  Wrap towel in foil or place in an oven proof pan and seal with foil.  Heat in oven at 300° F. until ready to assemble.
  8. To prepare the salsa picante:  Mix all ingredients in a bowl.  Cover and chill until ready for service.
  9. To prepare the guacamole:  Remove avocado flesh from shells, mash with a fork until almost smooth.  Add heaping tablespoon of picante salsa and adjust salt to taste.
  10. To assemble the tacoritos:   On a warm tortilla, spread 2 spoonfuls of refried beans down the middle of the tortilla, top with 2 spoonfuls of taco meat mixture, sprinkle 1/4 cup of cheddar cheese on top of meat and ladle green chili gravy over all.
  11. Roll tortilla so ends are on bottom of plate.  Ladle green chili gravy over filled tortilla.  Top with chopped lettuce, a spoonful of salsa picante, a spoonful of guacamole and a spoonful of sour cream.  Sprinkle sliced black olives on top.

Coco’s Pancakes

iStock_000001560440XSmallMy Dad made pancakes, bacon and eggs every Sunday morning after church.  He always saved some grease from the bacon to add to the pancake batter and he always whipped the egg whites.  Dad’s pancakes were bar-none the lightest and fluffiest pancakes I have ever tasted to this day…well with the exception of my own.   This recipe is adapted from the standard Better Homes and Garden Cookbook that my Mom gave me  for a wedding gift in 1967. It’s the source of Dad’s recipe too.  I altered the ingredient proportions to make the recipe a “no brainer” for breakfast chefs at my restaurant in Tonga.  You’re going to love these pancakes!

The secret to making these lofty pancakes is in the whisking – don’t over beat the batter!  The batter should be a bit lumpy with clouds of egg whites poking through.  Let the batter rest while the griddle heats up.  When the griddle sissles, lightly spray or wipe it with oil.  A drop of water should dance across the surface of the pan when its the right temperature.  You can also use a non-stick skillet over medium high heat to bake these cakes.  If the griddle or pan gets too hot or starts smoking, lower the heat please.

Pancakes should be light and fluffy, and uniformly golden brown on both sides.  There’s only 2 tsp of sugar in this recipe because you’re going to serve them with maple syrup or fruit.  At Coco’s, we baked them with sliced bananas, apples and of-course blueberries.   Although we paid $8 for 1/3 cup of imported blueberries, blueberry pancakes were still profitable and a good seller.   We served them with a variety of tropical fruit syrups such as passionfruit or guava, and fresh sliced fruit like mango with a dollop of whipped cream.


  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 Tbsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 Tbsp oil
  • 2 eggs, separated


  1. In a bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together milk, water, oil, and egg yolks.
  3. Beat egg whites until soft peaks form.
  4. Pour wet mix into dry mix.  Whisk to just moisten dry ingredients.  Fold in egg whites.
  5. Preheat griddle, brush with oil.
  6. When griddle is hot, wipe off excess oil with paper towels.
  7. Pour batter onto griddle and cook until a few bubbles pop in the middle and the edges look dry.  Flip and continue cooking until done.  Lightly press tops, if they spring back, they’re done.

Cioppino – Seafood Stew

04.15.2015 · Posted in Main Dishes, Recipes

cioppinoThis San Francisco  classic dish is truly for seafood lovers.  There are as many recipes for this stew as there are cooks and the variety of seafood is truly up to you.  The San Francisco preference is Dungeness crab, steamer clams, mussels, lingcod, shrimp, scallops and squid…its the perfect seven fish dish  for Christmas Eve or any dinner party where you want WOW your guests.  Add as many kinds of seafood as you like or can find where you live. If crab isn’t available use lobster or prawns.  If lingcod isn’t available where you live, sea bass, snapper, halibut or mahi-mahi will be unctuous added to the marinara sauce.  Serve it with sourdough bread, fresh green salad and wine.  Sop up the sauce with the bread…totally worth it.  BTW, if fresh seafood isn’t available use the fresh-frozen and if you can’t find fresh or frozen clams, a can of clams can be added at the last minute.

The sauce is easy to make with fresh or canned tomatoes, onions, garlic and a few herbs.  Add a slice of fennel bulb and some tarragon if you like but don’t forget the basil and peppers.  Think Italian seasoning and you can’t go wrong.

Sauce Ingredients:   (Serves 6-8)

  •  1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/3 cup parsley or chives
  • 1 small dried red chile or 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 15 oz can of tomato sauce or homemade sauce
  • 28 oz can of San Marzano  tomatoes or 2 lbs. fresh ripe Roma tomatoes, peeled
  • 1 cup red wine, or white if you prefer
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil or 1 Tbsp dried basil
  • 2 sprigs of oregano or 1 tsp of dried oregano
  • 1 sprig of tarragon or 1/2 tsp dried tarragon
  • salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • 4-5 lbs. seafood of choice (clams, mussels, shrimp, crab claws or legs, firm white fish fillet, squid tubes and tenacles, or lobster and scallops


  1. Saute onion and garlic in oil, add bell pepper and parsley.
  2. Stir in tomato sauce and crushed tomatoes with their juice.
  3. Add wine and herbs.  Cover and simmer 20-25 minutes.
  4. 20 minutes before serving add the shell fish.  Cover and simmer until clams and mussels open and the crab, shrimp or lobster turns pink.
  5. Add the fish fillets, squid and scallops.  Cover and simmer 10 minutes more.
  6. Serve in pasta bowls with sourdough bread, salad and wine of choice.


  1. Don’t forget to clean the shell fish, de-beard the mussels, skin and de-bone the fish fillets.
  2. If using scallops in the shell, remove the scallops and slice in half if too big.  Save the shells for holding dipping sauces at your next Japanese dinner. Works great with sashimi, sushi, and Shabu Shabu.




Sausages and Balsamic Grapes with Mash

03.27.2015 · Posted in Main Dishes

sausages-and-grapesThis dish is a take-off on “bangers and mash” or sausages and mashed potatoes.  It has its origins in London and Dublin public houses or pubs going back to 1919…the ultimate pub-grub for the working class.   However, bangers and mash is immensely popular in all Common Wealth countries around the world.   Its cheap comfort food that can be made in quantity.  Normally served with caramelized onion gravy, some gastropubs today have kicked up the traditional recipe with mushrooms, garlic potatoes and some fairly sophisticated sauces.

Seedless red grapes and onions stewed in balsamic vinegar is surprisingly not tart and adds delightful richness to a spicy Italian sausage or traditional Cumberland sausages.  The new potatoes are boiled in their jackets (not peeled) slightly mashed with buttermilk and seasoned with salt and pepper.  The whole affair needs only a salad or other slightly blanched green vegetable such as haricot verts (French green beans) or asparagus.  The next time you need comfort food for a gang on football Sunday try this dish.  Serve with a pint of ale and you’ll score for sure.


  • 4 oz sausage per person
  • 1/2 cup red or green seedless grapes per person
  • 1/2 onion per person, chopped
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar per person
  • 1 Tbsp cold butter to bind sauce
  • 1 large new potato per person, scrubbed and boiled until fork tender
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 scallion sliced for garnish


  1. Place sausages in 1-inch of water in a sauce pan over medium high heat.  Cook until nearly all water dissipates and sausages begin to brown.
  2. Add onions and cook until wilted and fragrant.
  3. Add grapes and balsamic vinegar and cook until  sausages are browned on all sides.  (Turn sausages to brown as sauce stews.)
  4. Meanwhile, boil potatoes until fork tender, drain and mash until broken up.  Add buttermilk and mash until lumpy.  (You want texture here.)
  5. Season potatoes with salt and pepper.  Keep warm over simmering water until serving time.
  6. When sausages are done, remove from pan, swirl cold butter into grape and onion sauce until smooth and thickened sauce results.
  7. Plate mashed potatoes, top with sausages, spoon grape and onion sauce over all.
  8. Garnish with sliced scallion threads.

Mojo Isleño – Red Snapper with Islander Sauce

08.29.2014 · Posted in Main Dishes

Salinas is a little town on the Caribbean side of Puerto Rico famous for their Festival del Mojo Isleño.  The festival celebrates the largess of Caribbean fish and mojo varieties of the island.  Literally, Mojo Isleño means “islander sauce” and Pargo (red snapper) is the traditional fish for this recipe, though grouper, cod, tilapia or any white-flesh fish will do.    This sauce is very close to a Sofrito with the usual Puerto Rican ingredients:  garlic, onion, sweet red and green peppers, tomatoes, green olives, capers, vinegar and olive oil.   Mojo has its origins in the Canary Islands and is a superb condiment for mofongo (mashed plantains), fried plantain chips, rice or chicken.   Substitute lime juice for the vinegar and smother sauteed shrimp or scallops.  Substitute a jar of roasted red peppers for the bell peppers and serve as a dip with conch fritters.

Mojo is easy to make and any left-overs will keep in the refrigerator for a month and in the freezer for 4 months.  Try this the next time you want to throw a Latin party or serve a tasty seafood dish.  As I’ve mentioned in my last posts on Puerto Rican cuisine, Puerto Ricans do not cook with spicy hot chilies but that shouldn’t stop you from adding chili sauce or chilies to taste to any Puerto Rican recipe.  What you’ll end up with is your version of a great Puerto Rican dish.  Bueno!  Muy delicioso por tu.


  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 1 Anaheim chili chopped (or green bell pepper)
  • 4-6 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 cups tomatoes diced (15 oz can Roma tomatoes diced and drained)
  • 2 Tbsp red wine vinegar (or lime juice)
  • 1/4 cup pimento stuffed green olives chopped
  • 1 Tbsp capers rinsed
  • 1-2 bay leaves
  • 2 lbs fish fillets cut into serving portions
  • 3 Tbsp lime juice and 1 tsp minced garlic
  • sea salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • olive oil for frying


  1. Heat olive oil in a sauce pan over medium heat.  Saute onions and peppers until translucent.
  2. Add garlic and saute 1-2 minutes more.
  3. Add tomatoes, vinegar, olives, capers and bay leaves.  Simmer 10-12 minutes until somewhat reduced.
  4. Mix 3 Tbsp lime juice with 1 tsp of garlic and rub the fish fillets to marinate while sauce reduces.
  5. Heat a non-stick skillet over medium high heat, coat bottom of skillet with olive oil.
  6. Salt and pepper fish fillets and saute until lightly browned on both sides.
  7. Spoon sauce over fish and continue to cook for 6-8 minutes until fish is flaky done.