Three Takes On: Tacos

Three Takes On offers several different versions of the same classic dish. This month: Tacos.

Published in FSD Update

Nuevo Taco

Valparaiso University (Indiana)

Served in the Mexican concept Nuevo at this northern Indiana university, students enjoy Nuevo Tacos because of the “full flavor and freshness of our recipes and that they have the option to choose how they would like their taco to be complemented,” says Anthony Coschignano, director of dining services. Students can tailor their dishes by choosing the protein (pork, chicken or flank steak) and toppings. 

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Catfish Tacos 

Austin Independent School District (Texas)

“Fish gets a bad rap in school foodservice,” shares Steven Burke, foodservice chef. “It is underutilized and the dishes are usually ancient or not so appealing to that age group. Fish tacos have been a popular dish in mainstream restaurants for a few years now, and I thought it was time to bring a fresh new look to fish [we] served.” Using breaded catfish strips in this flavorful spin on fish tacos “was the way to go, and the kids really do love it!”

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Grilled Chimichurri Shrimp Tacos

Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (New Brunswick, N.J.)

Taking advantage of the popularity of ethnic flavors, Timothy Gee, executive chef, finishes these seafood tacos with chimichurri sauce. “My customers love chimichurri sauce and this is a great recipe that is both light and flavorful,” he says. Packed with cilantro and garlic, the sauce provides bold, refreshing flavor to the shrimp and stir-fried vegetables. “You are getting a lot of unique flavors that are not found in your run-of-the-mill taco recipe,” Gee explains.

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On every other Thursday of our four-week cycle menu, we allow K-8 students to pick the entree choices. The media center specialist for each of the participating schools sets up the list of entree items on a computer for voting, and the winning entrees are given to cafeteria managers two weeks before the upcoming month to put into production. Students really like this, as it promotes ownership of the menu.

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We highlight our North Carolina products on a large chalkboard in our dining halls, and also list any produce we bring in from our own agroecology farm. It helps tell our story—positive and local.

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We have raised garden beds that residents can reserve and use to grow their own plants. Whenever a resident brings me fresh produce from their own garden, I try and incorporate it into a dish. If I do end up using it, I will display the resident’s name and what the produce was next to the dish on the menu.

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Curriculum for the mobile teaching kitchen centers around a single kid-friendly recipe, using ingredients that can provide talking points for nutrition, sustainability and food origins. “The recipe is the lesson,” Saidel says. “Every ingredient is an opportunity to talk.”

Earlier this year, Saidel, Perkins and Harvey did a student demo featuring roasted chicken and white bean tacos with greens and citrus salsa. “We can say, ‘Why are we using chicken instead of beef? Why are there some beans in here?’ You can talk about plant proteins and the sustainability and health message around...

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