A Recipe for More Than Just Taco Tuesday

28 Feb

A great taco, and not just for Tuesdays.

Here in Southern California, Mexican food is everywhere, and frankly, we love it. There are a few transplants from the east coast who do not like cilantro (or coriander, for my UK readers), which in my book is sacrilege. My favorite cuisines are the ones that use cilantro, like Thai, Vietnamese, Indian and Mexican.And we must love alliteration with our Mexican food, as Taco Tuesday is a weekly fixture, certainly in the Orange County culinary sphere. Like we need an excuse to eat tacos—I mean, c’mon. I’ve featured about three taco recipes in this blog already!

Well, get ready for another one.

Essential ingredients for Mexican food (if not all food): Chili, garlic and onion.

Although, this one is very versatile and can be used for more than just tacos. This recipe gave life to three different recipes: a taco, a tostada and a breakfast burrito. Yes, go ahead and make the joke that a tostada is just a taco that someone forgot to fold, if you must. And that a burrito is just a bigger taco with a better-wrapped package. Ha ha ha.You know the phrase “Don’t mess with Texas”? Don’t mess with my Mexican food. Although I can understand why the British think it’s a disgusting mess—all they have is places like Taco Bell and something called Chiquita on Leicester Square (I think it’s still there) where everything comes out of a can or a bag. The place should be burned down for its heinous crimes against Mexican cuisine.

I will say that after 10 years of living in the United Kingdom I finally found a real Mexican restaurant run by real Mexicans. (Whatever possessed them to go to London, I’ll never know!) I found it thanks to online dating, and an ex-pat (we shall call him “Scott”, because that is his name) living in London invited me to try it with him. My other ex-pat friends in London loved me for it, and not only did we all get a fix for real Mexican food, I gained a wonderful friend from that first dinner. And, I’m happy to report that the restaurant, Mestizo, is still alive and fighting the good fight for Mexican food in an otherwise desert of tasty south-of-the-border delicacies.A selection of taco toppings: Crema, lettuce, cilantro, red cabbage, avocado, homemade salsa and radishes.

And this recipe is for my vegan friends! And before I hear all you carnivores chorus in an “EWWWW!”, I have to tell you that The Husband loved it. He loved this recipe so much that he took back the “EWWW!” he exclaimed when he saw me making it. He said “Lentils? You know I don’t like lentils!” I just smiled and carried on.

He had seconds. So: In your FACE, carnivores—neener, neener, neener. Try them. You just might like them.

Ancho Lentil Taco Filling (From the ever-so-talented Isa Chandra Moskowitz)

This is Isa’s recipe, for sure. The only difference I did was to use a dried ancho chile that I ground up with a coffee grinder (and nearly stopped breathing from all the chili powder in the air—please be careful if you grind chilis yourself! It’s like mustard gas.), with toasted coriander and cumin seeds.

Also, I cooked 1 cup of dried lentils in 2.5 cups of water seasoned with a teaspoon of “No-Beef Beef Broth” from Better Than Bouillon. I don’t know how they do it, but it is some tasty stock.

I also used Valentina sauce instead of Cholula, as the former was in the pantry. It worked well. We also added some Ghostly Garlic sauce from Scotty B’s, a local producer here in South County. This stuff rocks my world. (It’s available at the Whole Foods in Laguna Beach! Go buy some now!)

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 small onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 1/2 cups cooked lentils (from about 1 cup dried)
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons hot sauce (preferably Cholula)

Spice mix:
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons ground ancho chile
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon salt

First combine all of the ingredients for the spice mix and set aside. Also, keep a cup of water within reach, you’ll need to add splashes as you cook.

Preheat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Sautee the onion and garlic in the oil with a pinch of salt for about 3 minutes, until lightly browned. Add spices and toss them for 30 seconds or so to toast.

Lower heat to medium, add lentils, a few splashes of water, tomato paste and hot sauce; use a spatula to mash them a bit as they cook, until they hold together. If your spatula isn’t strong enough to accomplish this, just use a fork. Do this for about 5 minutes, adding splashes of water as necessary if it appears dry. Taste for salt and seasoning; you may want to add more spices or hot sauce.

Vegan Crema

Crema in the works.

Then I added some crema that I found in a recipe from Food & Wine magazine. Of course, I had to change it up:

1/2 cup raw cashews
2 Tbs fresh lime juice
2 tsp white vinegar
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbs soy or coconut milk

Cover the cashews with hot water and let stand for at least two hours. Drain and transfer to a food processor or blender with the other ingredients and puree until smooth and creamy, adding a little more milk or water to get the consistency you’d like. Ours was about as thick as mayonnaise.

And now for photos of the other incarnations of this delicious taco filling!

It's a tostada, with a baked flour tortilla underneath. Just brush with olive oil and heat in the oven until crispy.

Breakfast burrito, with green salsa, scrambled egg, avocado and a little more of that Ghostly Garlic sauce.


21 Responses to “A Recipe for More Than Just Taco Tuesday”

  1. girlinafoodfrenzy February 28, 2012 at 12:40 pm #

    Wow! Looks seriously yummy and super healthy! A vegan taco? I’d never of thought!!! I think if I did make those is have to (hide) the ingredients from my beloved. His reaction would be about the same (to ur hubby’s) re lentils! Thanks for sharing, I’m thinking a definite one to try with my vego girlfriends next time round!

  2. debbrunson February 28, 2012 at 8:06 pm #

    Bring on the vegan and lentils and cilantro… I’m loving it! YUM! Completely endorsed by pigs and cows everywhere… and a few carnivorous husbands too 😉

  3. Tracey February 29, 2012 at 4:21 am #

    Wow! That looks great. I love that you include veggie recipes on your blog…

    • tinykitchenstories February 29, 2012 at 11:55 am #

      Well, I like making veggie recipes, so I’m glad you noticed! Plus people are going to have to realize that our meat “production” is not sustainable and will destroy the planet. Not in a cataclysmic “2012” kind of way, more in a Soylent Green kind of way.

  4. violetsandcardamom March 4, 2012 at 8:13 am #

    Love this! Looking forward to trying it.

  5. Karen March 10, 2012 at 8:21 am #

    Your tacos sound great and I can see why even a meat lover will like them.

    • tinykitchenstories March 10, 2012 at 11:28 am #

      Thank you! I can’t wait to make them again. The “meat” was so versatile!

  6. Beans, Figs and Katz March 13, 2012 at 7:15 am #

    This looks amazing!!!!!!!!!!! I shared it on:http://fuckyeahvegantacos.tumblr.com/post/19203638511/a-recipe-for-more-than-just-taco-tuesday-tiny


    • tinykitchenstories March 13, 2012 at 10:05 am #

      Thank you for sharing the recipe! I can’t wait to make it again, it was so delicious and versatile. I appreciate you taking the time to comment and share! 🙂

  7. victoriabruce March 19, 2012 at 4:56 am #

    cupcakinglydeliciouscakediaries.wordpress.com sent me your link. I have to provide a vegetarian friendly meal for about 25 children tomorrow for lunch that I whip tonight. The tacos sound amazing, would it be ruined if I left out the hot stuff? Or do you have any suggestions to rescue a mother in distress?

    • tinykitchenstories March 19, 2012 at 9:21 am #

      I think if you left out the chile you’d still have a tasty taco filling! Add another tablespoon of the tomato paste to replace the Cholula, and add a little more cumin and leave out the ancho chile. That way you’ll have a nice taco filling that’s got some flavor, but no heat.
      I think you could leave the crema off and just use some grated cheese instead, as kids will like that better.
      Let me know how it turns out, and thanks for getting in touch!

      • victoriabruce March 19, 2012 at 12:20 pm #

        Thank you. Combined it with a lentil ragu recipe and it tastes divine. I only hope the food critics at the school agree.

        • tinykitchenstories March 19, 2012 at 3:19 pm #

          I hope they scarf it all up! And if not, deny them any cake. Can you tell I don’t have kids? 😉

        • tinykitchenstories March 20, 2012 at 10:23 am #

          Eagerly awaiting the verdict!

          • victoriabruce March 20, 2012 at 11:55 am #

            25 small boys descended upon it and demolished the entire lot. I was even asked for the recipe!

          • tinykitchenstories March 20, 2012 at 12:53 pm #

            Woo hoo! Very glad to hear. Now I know what to do if I’m ever set upon by a Boy Scout troop. Or forced to babysit one of my nephews. Nice to have a back up plan! Well done on the execution of lentils. I think you won the award!

          • victoriabruce March 20, 2012 at 1:43 pm #

            But if I had to do a Gwyneth Paltrow speech you’d be there!

          • tinykitchenstories March 20, 2012 at 1:55 pm #

            Right by your side! 😉

  8. emmycooks March 27, 2012 at 4:07 pm #

    I’m with you on the Mexican food–lucky you to be in So. Cal.! And I make tacos all the time, but have never tried using lentils. I see that variation in my future!

    • tinykitchenstories March 27, 2012 at 4:22 pm #

      Mexican food is the BEST! And I bet it would warm up a cold Seattle evening. Don’t miss the chorizo tacos I posted–man, those turned out delicious… Thanks for following, too!

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