May 19, 2009 12:00 PM
Tostada Buzz: To infinity, and beyond!
I am so surprised tostadas haven't become wildly popular in the US. Here are some reasons for my surprise...

They can be assembled in a couple minutes, as ingredients can be prepared beforehand or store-bought. They can be eaten anytime of day, depending on what you layer on them. They are a wholesome one stop meal, for proteins, vegetables and carbohydrates happily mingle in there. They are accommodating, you can decide how much to add of each topping. They are forgiving, choices can vary from one tostada to the next. Moreover, they are fun to prepare, eat and share.

In a sense, they are the perfect dish for casual entertaining. So much of Mexican food just lends itself to being in a Fiesta mood.  

What can you layer on a tostada? Well, almost anything! There are regional specialties, traditional favorites, modern twists and family staples. Yet, after the hundreds of variations there is a lot of room to play and create your own. But for a memorable tostada, you need to know some simple basics.

First of all, start with a good tostada. A tostada is a corn tortilla that is either toasted (that is what the word tostada translates to in English) or deep fried until golden and crisp.

Now, you can go as hands on as you want. You can make your own tortillas or buy the already made tortillas and make your own tostadas. But there are pretty good ready to eat tostadas at the stores. If that's the way you want to go, try a couple brands to see which you like best. They do taste different. Once you have the tostadas, you already have a filling, crunchy and sturdy base for your creation.

The most common tostadas add a layer of smooth and tasty refried beans, home made or store bought. From there, you can go many ways.

My sister Karen likes to host tostada parties. She places a basket with tostadas, a bowl of refried beans and different hearty toppings (which shouldn't be too saucy, just nice and moist, as tostadas are somewhat flat), such as chicken tinga and shredded beef in a chile sauce. She plates fresh garnishes, like avocado, tomatoes, lettuce, onion, cream and crumbled cheese. Her guests just go around the table adding whatever they feel like on top.

I will leave you with the ones I make most often at home. My kids are happy adding crumbled cheese and Mexican cream on top of the refried beans. I am more satisfied throwing in some shredded chicken, tomato, lettuce, ripe avocado and a salsa verde, made with tomatillos, to drizzle on top.

Don't let any version stop you though. You may start with the tostadas and the refried beans. From there... it is up to your imagination. It can go to infinity, and beyond.

Basic Tostadas
Makes 12 Tostadas

12 corn tostadas
2 cups refried beans, warmed up
2 cups shredded chicken
1 cup finely sliced iceberg or romaine lettuce
1 ripe avocado, pitted, peeled and sliced
1 tomato, sliced
1 cup Cotija, Fresco or Farmers Cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup Mexican or Latin style cream
1 cup green tomatillo salsa (or your salsa of choice)

To Prepare
Place the tostadas on a large platter and all of the toppings and garnishes in separate bowls.

For a complete basic tostada: Layer a couple tablespoons of refried beans on the tostada. Spread a couple tablespoons of shredded chicken, lettuce, and one or two slices each of  avocado and tomato. Top it all with a tablespoon or so of crumbled cheese and cream. Drizzle some green salsa, if you wish, to your liking.