My earliest recollection of fajitas is from 1981 in Austin, Texas. I had just moved there from Oklahoma City to start my internship and residency in Internal Medicine at Brackenridge Hospital. Back then fajitas were made with skirt steak, the diaphragm of a cow or steer. It was considered a cheap low-quality cut of meat. You can also make fajitas with chicken. The contents of a fajita are wrapped in a tortilla usually made with flour. Are you trying to lose weight or prevent weight gain by cutting back on calories? You can do that but retain all the flavor by using lettuce as a wrapper.
Today’s recipe is very low-carb; after adding walnuts and a pear to comprise a whole meal, it’s still just 27 grams of digestible carbohydrate per serving.
I wonder if the El Azteca Restaurant in Austin is still in business. Best Mexican food I ever had. I think it was on 6th Street or so, about 3/4 mile east of I-35. Good times.
By the way, the j in fajita is pronounced “h.” Accent on second syllable. “Fuh-HEET-uh.”
Today we’re using chicken and making four servings.
1 lb (454 kg) chicken breast, raw, boneless and skinless, cut in strips about 1/4-inch wide (you can often buy it this way)
7 oz onion, raw, cut in long crescent shapes about a 1/4-inch wide (0.6 cm)
6 oz (170 g) bell pepper, raw, cut in long strips roughly a 1/4-inch wide (these are also called sweet peppers; a combination of the red and green ones is eye-pleasing)
2 tbsp (30 ml) olive oil
5 or 6 oz (155 g) tomato, raw, cut in long strips
1 tsp (5 ml) salt
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) pepper
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) chili powder
1 tsp (5 ml) parsley flakes
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) oregano leaves
1 pinch of cumin
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) paprika
(Optional: You could replace all these spices with a 1-oz (28 g) pack of Lawry’s Chicken Fajitas Spices & Seasoning. The sodium and potassium values below would be different.)
1/3 cup (80 ml) water
16 oz (454 g) lettuce (e.g., iceberg, romaine, or bibb)
4 oz (113 g) walnuts
4 pears, small (about 1/3 lb or 150 g each))
Add the onions, peppers, and 1 tbsp (15 ml) olive oil to a 12-inch (30 cm) skillet and cook at medium-high heat until tender, stirring occasionally. This’ll take about 10 minutes. Set the skillet contents aside.
In the same pan, add 1 tbsp (15 ml) olive oil and the chicken and cook at medium to medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until chicken is thoroughly cooked. For me, this cooked quicker than the vegetables. But don’t overcook or the chicken will get tough. Then add the water and all the spices. Bring to a boil while stirring occasionally, then simmer on low heat a few minutes. This is your fajita filling.
My original plan was to make “fajita wraps,” wrapping the cooked fajitas into a large leaf of iceberg lettuce. This was pretty messy, especially since I love the sauce in the bottom of the pan. I tried two leafs as a base: still messy. Finally I just made a bed of lettuce (4 oz) and loaded the fajita concoction right on top. Mess gone. Try a different lettuce? Skip the lettuce entirely and you can reduce digestible carb count in each serving by 2 grams.
Enjoy the walnuts and pear with your meal.
Leftovers taste just as good as fresh-cooked, perhaps even better.
I have another fajita recipe using skirt steak marinated in commercial Zesty Italian Dressing in the refrigerator overnight or for at least four hours. Grill it over coals outside. Yum! I don’t recall whether I added lemon juice to the marinade or squirted it on the meat just before serving. You would just cook the onions and peppers on a pan on the stove as above, with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with a margarita and I’ll make you an honorary Texan.
Number of servings: 4
Serving size: A cup (240 ml) of the fajita mixture, 4 oz (113 g) lettuce, 1 oz (28 g) walnuts, 1 small pear. One cup makes two lettuce wraps.
Nutritional Analysis Per Serving:
37 g carbohydrate
10 g fiber grams
27 g digestible carbohydrate (25 g if you skip the lettuce)
928 mg sodium
904 mg potassium
Prominent features: Rich in protein, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, vitamin C,copper, iron, manganese, niacin, phosphorus, and selenium.