recipe

two vegetarian tacos

If there’s one thing I dislike about vegetarianism, it’s that people are often trying to sell vegetables for their meatiness. It’s usually very well-meaning, and an earnest effort to get meat-eaters to try something that didn’t once have a face. But every time someone writes about how “mushrooms can be excellent meat substitutes!” I cry a little. Because let’s face it: vegetables don’t taste like meat. That’s one of the things that I like about them. I think that if we want people to eat less meat, we need to sell them on the deliciousness of mushrooms, eggplant, quinoa, celery root, etc. in their own right, not as a stand-in for meat.

Anyway. I recently checked out Mark Miller’s Tacos from the library and was really impressed with the delicious-looking all veggie tacos in the first section of the book (in addition to great recipes for meat, poultry, and fish tacos). I was especially interested in his recipes for roasted pepper-cream tacos and chipotle mushroom tacos.

The roasted pepper taco is based on rajas (Spanish for “rags”), which are just strips of roasted peppers. Roasting, seeding, and peeling the peppers does take a bit of work, but there are some tricks to make your life a bit easier.

Lay out your peppers on a foil-lined baking pan:

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Broil until blackened all over, turning as needed (sound familiar?:

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Then, seal the still-hot peppers in a plastic bag for about 15 minutes. This lets them steam in their own heat, loosening the skins.

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Using your fingers, remove as much of the skin as you can (you can rinse them under running water if you need to, but try to avoid this as it washes away some flavor as well) and pull out the seeds. Cut them into strips:

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As you can see, you don’t need to worry too much about getting out ALL of the seeds.

You’ll be left with a bowl of richly flavored rajas, which you can use in a number of different ways. You can incorporate them with scrambled eggs, incorporate them into your favorite Mexican dish, or even use them as a basis for an Italian-Mexican fusion pasta dish. Here, we combine them with crumbly Mexican cheese and sour cream to make a melty, creamy taco filling.

The second taco features strips of pan-seared mushrooms. The recipe calls for portobellos, which are nice because you can get big strips out of them (which nestle nicely in a small corn tortilla). I’m cheap, though, and can’t bring myself to pay $7/lb. for an overgrown crimini mushroom. I compromised by using half-and-half.

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Scrape the black gills out of the portobellos and chop the stems finely:

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Cook the mushrooms over high heat for about 8-10 minutes, or until they’re deeply browned and fragrant (I gave the stems less time, since they were cut so small):

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Once everything is done cooking, you stir in some chipotle puree (just canned chipotles en adobo whizzed in the food processor or with a stick blender) and cilantro.

So this weekend, try making some veggie tacos. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Creamy Rajas Tacos

adapted from Mark Miller’s Tacos
makes about 8-10 tacos (serves probably 2 or 3 as a main dish)

Ingredients

  • 2 large red bell peppers
  • 6 large Anaheim chiles
  • 1 jalapeno chile
  • 1 T vegetalbe oil
  • 1/2 small white onion, cut into 1/4 inch dice
  • 2 T chopped cilantro
  • pinch of salt
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/3 cup grated Mexican cheese (queso fresco, queso Oaxaca, or queso Chihuaha) or Parmesan cheese
  • tortillas

Roast the peppers. Place the peppers on a foil-lined baking rack and broil until well-blistered, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a plastic bag, seal, and set aside for 15 minutes. Remove skin and seeds from the peppers. Don’t worry about getting every last seed. Cut the peppers into 1/4-inch wide strips and set aside.

In a medium saucepan, heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat and add the onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until browned and soft. Add the peppers, salt, sour cream, and cheese and reduce heat to low. Cook gently until all the cheese is melty.

Serve immediately, spooning about 2 tablespoon into a warm corn or flour tortilla.

Chipotle Mushroom Tacos

adapted from Mark Miller’s Tacos
makes about 8-10 tacos (serves probably 2 or 3 as a main dish)

Ingredients

  • 1 pound portobellos or cremini mushrooms
  • 3 tablespoons butter, plus more if needed
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • salt
  • 2 teaspoons chipotle puree (or use 2 chipotles en adobo, chopped finely)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • about 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella or gouda cheese, for serving
  • tortillas

Directions

Scrape the gills off of the portobellos, if using. Trim the stems off mushrooms and dice finely. Set the caps aside with the garlic. Slice the caps into 1/3-inch strips.

Heat your largest nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the butter, the mushroom caps, and a hearty pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Add the chopped stems and garlic and continue to cook until the mushrooms are dark and well-caramelized.

Remove from heat and stir in the chipotle puree and cilantro. Serve immediately, passing the cheese at the table.

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