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Vegetable Taco Fillings A Mexican love letter to Vegetables

Vegetable Taco Fillings_Ideas_ recipes _Yes, more please!

Feelings…. nothing more than Fillings”… Hello friends, we’re back.We have been on a roller coaster; from a vacation in Mexico, to Slow Wine Festival, meeting new people, giving cooking classes, Ian giving lots of photography classes…we have been busy, but you have always been on our minds.

Visiting my Mexico after more than eight years was reinvigorating. Being back in my birth country was very fulfilling and I felt my roots strongly. We were welcomed at the airport with a big familiar smile and , thankfully, we did not have to get in the long customs line. During the visit we could eat and breathe the delicious in-season ingredients that Baja produces; from papayas, to avocados, chiles, lettuce, pineapples, limes, guanabanas, tomatoes, chard, radishes, you name it!. I just felt like a fish back in the water, especially walking along the pristine coastline. Now I’m melancholic… its hard to forget the people, the laughs, the air and the sea… and the food. From freshness, flavor, aroma, ingredients, preparations, sazones… can you imagine? Good thing we just visited one little town…Phew!

I have harnessed the melancholy and channeled it into a love letter to every Vegan and Vegetarian who has felt neglected by the Taco Love. Yes baby, not one, not two, but EIGHT vegetable fillings that will add vitamin “V” (vegetable) on any Taco night!

Some are more seasonal than others but I kept in mind vegetables that can be accessible almost all year around. I came up with these delicious and simple variations with strong MEXICAN flavors, no wimpy vegetable tacos here.

You can whip-up these recipes any day of the week, choose one, or two, or three for variety sake or just try one each day and call it the Taco week. Want to go the extra mile? try  making your homemade tortillas here recipe and tutorial.

For this post we decided no step-by-step photos are necessary. These vegetable taco filling recipes are so easy to prepare using basic chopping, seasoning, and sautéing that you can make them faster than you can say chiffonade. All fillings are Gluten free, Vegetarian and Vegan, except for one filling, but I included some vegan substitutions.

I hope you enjoy this vegetable rant of inspiration while my inner Mexican is fully inspired. Enjoy!

P.S Recipes dedicated with love to the Panda’s and their Neighbors, thank you for your friendship. Xoxo

{Lately, we have been reading, and watching many documentaries that have resonated with and influenced our way of eating and cooking. For example we watched one about food production and agriculture. We are of the opinion that its a good idea to put more effort toward cooking a vegetable main dish more than once a week. Perhaps it should be the other way around, one day of meat and the rest days of vegetables as I rant on instagram… What you think?}

Vegetable Taco Fillings, a Mexican love letter to Vegetables

1.Roasted Cauliflower in Salsa VerdeCauliflower-in-Salsa-Verde_Vegetable-Taco-Filling_Yes,-more-please!

Holly shubangwuah!, I can eat this roasted Cauliflower in salsa Verde by the spoonfuls. Cauliflower when roasted becomes sweet and nutty and all this crispy salty edges that when in combination with the tangy spicy tomatillo salsa verde the flavors just warm you up. Leave this little florets navegate in the saucy verde salsa, be generous with the salsa.

A must try. You want to have this quick recipe under your sleeve for any given day of the week. Do not limit yourself using this recipe for just the taco filling. This delicious Cauliflower in salsa Verde can be serve on a bed or rice or a side of whole buttery beans and you have a winner for dinner. Garnish with queso fresco, a dollop of yogurt freshly made tortillas…

Serves 4-6 taco using regular size 5” corn tortillas

½ Medium Cauliflower head separated in small florets.

12 medium Tomatillos peeled and washed.

1-2 Serrano chiles roasted until chard.

¼ white onion roasted until chard.

1 garlic clove

6-8 Cilantro sprigs

sea salt and pepper to taste

1 tablespoon sunflower or corn oil + more to drizzle.

In a small pot

In a small pot place 1 cup of water, tomatillos cut in halves, a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer until tomatillos changed color, look olive-green, and they are smash-able. Set aside.

Pre-heat the oven at 425 F. Place cauliflower florets, chiles, and onion piece on a baking sheet lined with foil. Drizzle some oil and sprinkle salt and pepper. Roast the Cauliflower for 8-12 minutes or until golden brown and some chard edges showing. When chiles and Onion are charred, pull the baking tray out of the oven. In a blender add the cooked tomatillos strained, ¼ cup of water in which the tomatillos where cooked, charred onion, chiles, fresh cilantro, raw garlic, and few healthy pinches of sea salt. Blend until pureed.

In a skillet add 1 tablespoon sunflower oil or corn oil bring to heat, and carefully add the green sauce until bubbly, cook for 5-7 minutes. At this point add the roasted cauliflower florets, toss well, adjust for salt and its ready to serve!

2. Cremini Mushrooms Ajillo – GuajilloCremini Mushrooms Ajillo-Guajillo_Vegetable-Taco-Filling_Yes,-more-please! copy copy

Mexico has a great variety of mushrooms and various preparations can be found. Often they are cooked in simple manners to make them shine. Like inside quesadillas, soups, or quick sautéed with herbs. My take on this mushrooms, a little butter, garlic and a hint of chile guajillo wich it adds a very settle flavor, not spicy at all but a punch of color and flavor to the sautéed creminis. I will highly recommend this mushrooms on top of queso fundido, quesadillas a bowl of buttery beans or with a sunny side up egg for breakfast. Honestly once you try these mushrooms you will be making a double batch next time…

Serves 4-6 taco using regular size 5” corn tortillas

16oz. Cremini Mushrooms sliced

2 dry Guajillo peppers

1 teaspoon ancho chili powder

5 garlic cloves finely chopped

2 tablespoons sunflower oil-corn oil

3 tablespoons of butter (for vegans, use coconut oil)

Sea salt and pepper to taste

Using Kitchen scissors cut the guajillo across and into small thin rings. Discard seeds and steam.

Bring a cast iron skillet to a medium high heat. Warm oil, place the guajillo rings and sauté for 2-3 minutes until they are crispy. Remove promptly from skillet into a paper towel. By now the oil color in the skillet looks bright orange. Add the sliced mushrooms, sea salt and black pepper. Saute for 5-6 minutes until mushrooms start sweating and some of them have little golden crisp edges, add one more drizzle of oil if needed. Once the mushrooms start looking cooked, add garlic, butter and 12 pinches of salt. Saute for 3-4 minutes. Add the crispy Trujillo rings back into the skillet. Saute briefly until well incorporated. Remove from skillet and its ready to serve.

If you are on a spicier mode use a Pasilla, Ancho or Cascabel chile to bring out the heat. Or a dollop of this Mucha Muchacha Salsa.

3. Sweet Potato and Pineapple Pastor Sweet Potato and Pineapple Pastor_Vegetable-Taco-Filling_Yes,-more-please! copy copy

Ok hands down my favorite Vegan-Pastor. These Sweet potatoes Pastor are the bomb.

Spicy Pastor adobo and the sweetness in the potatoes are a match made in heaven. The orangey color even helps to make them more visually appealing. The Pineapple is a must on this recipe, plan accordingly. Vegetarians, vegans and Meat lovers are gonna love this one.

Serves 4-6 taco using regular size 5” corn tortillas

2 Medium sweet potatoes, washed, peeled and cut into one inch batonnets

¼ cup white onion diced

2 chile chipotles en adobo

1 teaspoon anatto powder or achiote paste

½ tablespoon ancho chili powder

½ teaspoon garlic powder

½ teaspoon Mexican dry oregano

¼ teaspoon cumin powder

1 bay leaf

½ teaspoon brown sugar

½ teaspoon salt

2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

½ cup Fresh Pineapple

2 tablespoons Corn or Sunflower Oil.

On a blender, immersion blender, molcajete or mortar, combine until pureed the chipotles, achiote, ancho chili powder, garlic powder, oregano, cumin powder, bay leaf, brown sugar, salt and vinegar. On a bowl combine the sweet potatoes and this chili pastor paste. Let marinate for at least 30 min. Best overnight.

Heat a cast iron skillet on medium high heat, add the oil until ripples, add the onion and sauté until translucent. Add the marinated Sweet potatoes. Cook until the sweet potatoes are tender and they have a crusty golden char exterior. To achieve this crusty potatoes is best not to shake them to often, to allow them to get a crust. Make sure there is enough oil so they don’t scorch before they are tender and cooked, you can add another drizzle. Sweet potatoes should be a little aldente. Remove from skillet transfer to a bowl. Then add Pineapple slivers or little squares into the skillet and sauté for a few minutes. Add sweet potatoes back to the skillet and toss. Transfer to a platter and you are ready to make the tacos. I will recommend this tomatillo avocado salsa verde, it is part of other recipe look for it its amazing!..and of course a squeeze of lime… mmm..

4. Poblano and Sweet Corn RajasPoblano and Sweet Corn Rajas_Vegetable-Taco-Filling_Yes,-more-please!

This Poblano Corn and crema filling is very traditional and often used as filling for sopes, huaraches and tacos. Traditionally this recipe is made with white corn, to be honest if you can get fresh white corn for this recipe it will be fantastic. Living in the States, well you make some concessions and adjust to the best ingredients you can find. I used sweet yellow corn for this recipe and I think the sweetness of the yellow corn balances really well with the smokey and sometimes unexpectedly spicy roasted poblanos. Add an extra pinch of salt and you have one of the most scrumptious taco fillings. Check for Vegan substitutions at the end of the recipe.

Serves 4-6 taco using regular size 5” corn tortillas

2 ear of corn kernels

2 chiles poblanos, roasted or charred, skinned, deveined removed seeds and cut into long stripes. See this method

½ medium white onion

1 garlic clove minced

¼ -1/3 cup crema oaxaquena, mexican crema or heavy cream as last resource*

1 splash of milk.

1 Tablespoon Corn or Sunflower oil

1 tablespoon butter

Salt and Pepper to taste.

On a skillet over a medium heat, warm up oil and sauté the onions, until translucent. Add the corn Kernels, season with salt and pepper and sauté for 3-5 minutes. Add the strips of poblano, and toss well. Add the crema, and a little splash of milk. Adjust salt and pepper, toss well. And bring to slow simmer. Cook for 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a platter and they are ready to serve!

Vegan Substitutions: unsweetened coconut cream, or ½ coconut ½ tahini paste.

 

5. Kale a la Mexicana

Kale a la Mexicana_Vegetable-Taco-Filling_Yes,-more-please!

The easiest way to Mexicanize your vegetables is the tri-color ingredient, basic mexican recaudo, white onion, chile serrano and tomatoes. This recaudo is usually the base for scrambled eggs, “a la Mexicana, or other quick chicken or fajitas preparation. It is easy and a classic. Kale, Chard, Spinach, Mustard Greens, Purslane, Lambs Quarters, every green  “a la Mexicana” can be delicious.  Use different kinds of tomatoes, or kinds of fresh chiles can be a great variation.  I think is quick recipe is one of my favorite ways to prepare and incorporate kale into the Mexican Table… Breakfast?…Put an egg on it, or make a taco with a scrambled eggs concoction. What you think?

Serves 4-6 taco using regular size 5” corn tortillas

½ medium yellow onion

1 Serrano small diced or thinly slices

3 cups Lacinato kale chopped into thin ribbons

½ cup cherry tomatoes

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

Salt and Pepper to taste.

Heat a cast iron skillet, over a medium high heat. Add oil and diced onions, quick sauté until translucent edges. Add Serrano, salt and pepper. Quick toss. Add Kale and vinegar, toss quickly and sauté until kale begins to welt. Add cherry tomatoes toss quickly until they warm up. Taste for salt and pepper, adjust seasoning if necessary. Transfer to a bowl or platter serve immediately.

6. Chipotle Soy Picadillo Chipotle Soy Picadillo_Vegetable-Taco-Filling_Yes,-more-please! copy copy

Picadillo is a typical homemade dish. One pot wonder, the original dish uses a combination of ground meat, lots of vegetables, sometimes you can find sweet picadillos for chiles en nogada, or like this version wich is the homestyle spicy chipotle version. I decided to use texturized soy wich is often used in vegetarian Mexican cooking. The brands I prefer, Bob Red’s Mill or Now Foods are my favorites they are organic and texture and taste is great. Yo also can find this TVP at Natural groceries  on the bulk section. This Picadillo its one pot wonder a great way to incorporate vegetables into this taco situation…I hope you like it!

Serves 4-6 taco using regular size 5” corn tortillas

1 cup texturized soy, follow the package instrucctions to rehidrate.

½ meddium size onion finelly chopped

1 garlic clove minced

4-5 Worcestershire sauce (if vegan, add 1 tablespoon of tomato paste or a couple of sundry tomatoes, and a few more dashes of black pepper)

1 small potato small diced

1 carrot small diced

1 small mexican calabazita (light green zucchini) small diced

¼ cup peas

½ cup small diced tomatoes

2 chiles chipotles en adobo plus about 1 teaspoon of the adobo juices and purée it.

(I like “La Morena” or “San Marcos”Brand)

½ teaspoon dry Mexican oregano

1 tablespoon Corn, Sunflower oil, or extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to your taste.

On a cast iron skillet, over medium hight heat, add the oil and onions until translucent. Add the diced potatoes, salt pepper, cover with a lid until potatoes are al-dente. Add garlic saute for 1 minute. Add the texturized soy and 4-5 dashes of Worcestershire sauce. Saute for 5 minutes. (Make sure the texturized soy is well hydrated, and remove all water excess before cooking) At his point add the diced tomatoes, the chipotle purée, and dry oregano. Saute for 1-2 minutes. Add ¼ cup of water, carrots, zucchini, salt and pepper. Toss well. Lower the temperature, and cover with a lid for 5 minutes, until carrots are cooked but not mushy. At last, add the peas and toss, taste , adjust for salt and pepper if necessary. Turn off and cover with a lid until peas are cooked but still bright green. Serve immediately. This filling can be made in advance and it tastes even better the next day, Enjoy!

7. Nopalitos and Onions in Guajillo – Pasilla SauceNopalitos and Onions in Guajillo-Pasilla Sauce_Vegetable-Taco-Filling_Yes,-more-please! copy copy

Nopalitos Cactus plant is known to have a slimy reputation, but when you cook them right, and utilizing the right ingredients, Nopalitos are delicious. They are tangy and soft, the texture and flavor reminds me like if an ocra and a mushroom had a child. The guajillo – pasilla sauce add great flavor and contrast to the tangy nopalito flavor. Nopalitos beside being a nacional simbol on the Mexican flag, are the miracle vegetable. So many nutritious value and health elixirs attributes, you just want to start researching now!… Seriously, give these nopalitos a chance and you will love them.

Serves 4-6 taco using regular size 5” corn tortillas

6 Tender Nopalitos pieces, cut into small squares.

¼ medium size onion

6 sprigs of cilantro

4-5 tomatillo husks

1 chile serrano

1 teaspoon salt

½ onion diced

2 good drizzles of extra virgin olive oil, or sunflower oil.

For the sauce:

2 dry chiles pasilla

2 dry chiles guajillo

1 garlic clove

1/8 teaspoon cumin powder

½ teaspoon salt

Clean chiles and remove steams. On a small pot, place 2 cups water bring to a boil, add the chiles, simmer for 10 minutes until well hydrated, soft and plumpy. In a blender, purée the chiles, garlic, cumin, salt with about ¼-to a ½ cup of the water in wich the chiles hydrated.

Set aside. On another pot start cooking the Nopalitos. Add at least 4 cups of water, the nopalitos squares, onion, cilantro, tomatillo husks, chile serrano, salt. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat to low simmer and cook for 20 minutes. Check for doneness. Nopalitos should look olive-green, and fork tender. Remove cooked onion, cilantro and serrano. Strain the nopalitos and let the heat evaporate the rest of the water in them. About 4-5 minutes. By any chance, rinse them in water. These will make them slimy.

On a skillet, warm up the oil and add the diced onion, along with the dry nopalitos. And saute for 3-4 minutes, until onions are soft. Add the Guajillo-Pasilla Sauce, toss well, add about ¼ cup of water if needed. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cook on medium low for 4-5 minutes with lid on to avoid splatters. Turn off the nopalitos and they are ready to serve! You can sprinkle some queso fresco or cotija for a delicious accompaniment on the taco, and off course a few drops of lime juice, because what would be a taco with no lime right?…

8. Chard, Potatoes, and Shredded Carrot HashChard, Potatoes, and Shredded Carrot hash_Vegetable-Taco-Filling_Yes,-more-please! copy

This is the easiest of all the fillings. It is almost a hash. You can use spinach, purslane, kale or any type of green in season instead of the chard. Instead of potatoes you can use sweet potatoes, or zucchini. Carrots or/and yellow beets will work divine. This filling with an egg on it and a dollop of my favorite Mucha Muchacha Salsa, a match made in heaven. 

Serves 4-6 taco using regular size 5” corn tortillas

2-3 drizzles sunflower oil or extra virgin olive oil

1 medium wax yellow potato

1 small yellow onion diced

1 garlic clove

1-2 dry chiltepines…optional you can use pepper flakes for a less heated version.

2 carrots shredded or using one of my favorite tools  a  Julianne peeler. click here

4-5 cups Chard, cut into chiffonade

2 dashes of apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon golden raisins

Salt pepper to taste

Pepitas (pumpkin seeds) for garnish

On a cast iron skillet warm up the oil, saute potatoes and season with salt and pepper until potatoes are crispy. At this point add the onions , garlic and dry chiltepines crushed. (crush the chiltepines on a napkin. Avoid using your fingers directly to prevent chili burns.) Add the Juliane carrots, toss well saute for 1 minute. Add the Chard, raisins, apple cider vinegar salt and pepper. Toss well and briefly about 2 minutes. Just when the chard starts to welt, remove from heat and taste for salt ad pepper adjust if needed. Serve immediately, garnish tacos with pepitas, queso fresco or a dollop of greek yogurt.   Enjoy!

Make a Taco Tuesday…Wednesday, Thursday… Weekends…

Have fun and Let’s eat MORE VEGETABLES!!!

Music Pairing: A su Merced el Mercado- Liliana Felipe

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Grilled Nopalitos and Red Bell Pepper Salad

Grilled-Nopalitos+RED-Pepper-Salad

Have you ever had Nopalitos? Nopalitos are traditionally used in Mexican cuisine, they are part of the cactus family, there are more species than you want to know about. The word “Nopal” comes from the Nahuatl word meaning “pads” refers to the plant shape. They are a great source of Vitamin C, minerals like magnesium, manganese, calcium,and  also a great source of fiber. Besids their delicious and nutritious qualities, recent research studies have shown a positive effect on glycemic index which could be useful and a great value to add to your diet when managing diabetes or to include on your weight loss diet.

Anyhow, what you really need to know about Nopalitos and what I want to share with you is how delicious they are when prepared in a right simple manner.

Nopalitos have a bad reputation among vegetables because of their slimy and viscous flesh. However there are different ways to prepare them and a couple of tricks to avoid the slimy culinary disaster.

Like any other vegetable, Nopalitos can be boiled, steamed, sautéd, grilled or eaten raw, and there is a trick for each one of these cooking methods. Just to mention one of these tricks briefly, boiling nopalitos is the most common of all methods. When boiling Nopalitos, the trick to it is to add 4-6 tomatillo husks along with a piece of onion, a small bunch of cilantro and some sea salt in a pot of simmering water. The tomatillo husks will avoid the slimy matter. Simmer them in a pot over medium heat  for about 15-20 minutes, until they change of color. Turn the heat down, and  let them cool.  Strain and rinse thoroughly. Combine the nopalitos with a good amount of Pico de Gallo salsa, toss and they are ready to serve. As you can see, with a little effort you can make the fastest salad of them all!

This kind of Nopalito salsa/salad is ideal to have as a side dish. You can make tacos, sprinkle some queso fresco, and  even cook some of this left over salad with scrambled eggs, to prepare nopalitos egg breakfast tacos. OMG I just gave you another recipe! hehehe…

My favorite way to eat nopalitos it’s grilled. The char gives them a great flavor, firm texture and reduces the slimy texture almost to zero when you grill them. Therefore it’s one of my favorite ways of cooking them. Nopalitos when grilled, make the best tasting salad. This is definitely one of my personal favorite Mexican dishes, so simple and full of great flavors.

This Grilled Nopalitos and Red Bell Pepper Salad, combines simple ingredients and a crisp and tangy simple vinaigrette. As easy as it sounds it’s a great summer dish. This salad can be served as a side dish to accompany any grilled meat or fish. It can be made into vegetable medley tacos or as a vegetable complement over rice, quinoa, or whole black beans.

I hope you enjoy the recipe and give yourself the opportunity to try something new. Nopalitos salad has been in Mexican cuisine for a long time and it is too delicious to be ignored.

Give nopalitos a chance!

I would love to hear back from your culinary adventures. Remember to check our music pairings, if you are in need to shimmy while you grill…Enjoy!

Nopalito-Salad_Ingredients_Yes,-more-please!

Grilled Nopalitos and Red Bell Pepper Salad.

Serves 4… or 2 hungry Vegetarian Mexicans!

5-6 Nopalito pads, cleaned and thorn removed.*
1 large red bell pepper
3 small shallots or 1 small white onion thinly sliced.
1 small bunch cilantro (leaves only)
1 serrano pepper no-seeds finely chopped (optional)

For the vinaigrette:

1/3 cup Orange juice
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
4 tablespoons grape seed oil
2 tablespoons agave nectar
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds.
2 sprigs of fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dry mexican oregano.
1 teaspoon sea salt.
Fresh cracked black pepper to taste.

Garnish with:

Toasted sesame seeds.
¼ cup Cotija cheese crumbled.

*Nowadays it’s very easy to find fresh Nopalitos that have been cleaned and de-thorned. If you are lucky enough to have your very own nopalito cactus plant, gear up! Use thick leather gardener gloves, a pair of tongs, and a  sharp fillet knife to shave the thorns off. Rinse and wash thoroughly. Now it’s ready to use!
If you live here in Texas this type of Cactus Plant is very common to find in the prairie. Have a culinary adventure!
Tip: when choosing wild nopalitos: you will want to pick the medium-small size, deep green, about 1/4 inch thin or less. They look tender and have plump edges with no dry spots.These are the best tasting nopalitos and tender when cooked.

Preparation Method:

1.Wash and with a pairing knife gently score your clean nopalitos.
2.Prepare your vinaigrette by combining all the ingredients on a bowl and whisk.

Nopalito+Red-Pepper-Salad_vinaigrette+redpeppers

3. Fire up your grill. Grill Nopalitos and red bell pepper. Grill both sides until cooked and charred.
Nopalitos turn color from bright green to a olive green when cooked. Be sure to blister them. This will add so much flavor to the salad.

Nopalito-+-Red-pepper-Salad_grilled

4. Slice your grilled Nopalitos into ¾” ribbon strips, slice your grilled bell peppers into a thinner strips.

Nopalitos+RED-Pepper-Salad_nopalito-ribbon-slices 5. On a platter toss all ingredients and drizzle the vinaigrette. Sprinkle some toasted sesame seeds and/or some Cotija cheese crumbled. Serve room temperature.

Nopalitos+RED-Pepper-Salad_assambling_Yes-more-please!

Nopalitos+RED-Pepper-Salad_Yes-more-please!

Special Thanks to my Aunt Paloma,  who sent us this beautiful hand painted clay platter

from Guadalajara Jalisco, Mexico. XoXo 

Best, Ian & Mariana.

Music Pairing: John Lennon – Give Peace a Chance

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