Grilled Plantain Vegan Tacos

from: Jamey W. Bennett
to: Daniel Larkin
date: Mon, Apr 6, 2015 at 4:53 PM

Hey Dude,
I know I already texted you a little bit about this, but I’ve gotta get into more details, because it was so good. Those grilled plantain vegan tacos I made this afternoon were absolutely stellar. It literally only took me like 15 minutes from start to finish to make this, but I had a lot of stuff prepped from either the freezer or frozen meals.

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The tacos were assembled with the following ingredients, from bottom up:

  • Corn tortillas
  • Grilled plantain pieces
  • Grilled cherry tomatoes
  • Spicy passion fruit-mango slaw
  • Pieces of fresh avocado
  • Sauteed onions
  • Sriracha to taste

It was really the perfect marriage of sweet, savory, and spicy. Amazing. There is really not much to say about this one. I got the tortillas at Trader Joe’s. They got sprayed down with a coconut oil spray and thrown on my grill. The plantains were pre-cooked in palm oil, got it from the freezer section of the grocer, but that may be a south Florida thing. You might have to go fresh. Anyway, I sprayed these down with coconut oil while still frozen and generously sprinkled faijita seasonings on all sides. They went directly on the grill, and only needed maybe 7 minutes.

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Put the cherry tomatoes on a skewer, sprayed them lightly with coconut oil. Grilled. The slaw is trickier. I made it the other night and can’t really tell you what I did, except the following ingredients got involved at some point: cabbage, jalapeno, red wine vinegar, adobo seasoning, fire sauce from Jake’s Sandwich Board in Philly, mango-passion fruit puree, and pear-passion fruit juice. Beyond that, I couldn’t say. You’re on your own.

The rest of the ingredients are self-explanatory. I will make these again. Beautiful little f***ers.

Jamey

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Korean Shrimp Tacos

Hey Dude,
I made some fantastic Korean tacos tonight for friends visiting from California, and the flavor balance was perfect.

About 1 pound shrimp
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp rice wine
2 tbsp lemon juice
4 cloves minced garlic
Crushed red peper
A little ginger powder
A few grinds of fresh black pepper
A few shakes of Adobo seasoning

Combine all of these ingredients in a tupperware container, shake, and set aside to marinate.

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You will also need:
Cilantro, tortillas (preferably corn), red onion, Sriracha, pepper jack cheese, and prepared kimchi (easy to get at an Asian grocer, or make yourself).

Meanwhile, prepare any sides (I did spanish rice and refried beans with organic salsa), cook your tortillas, chop up a good deal of cilantro and fresh red onion (I guess you’d want to sautee these, but I like them raw), and chop up some of the kimchi so it’s not in such big pieces. Shred the cheese.

Cook the shrimp in a skillet, stirring and sifting from time to time. When most of the liquid cooks out, you should be done.

Combining the ingredients is simple: tortilla, shrimp, cheese, kimchi, onion, cilantro, and a single line of Sriracha. These are really good, simple, tacos. And my friend said she DOES NOT like kimchi, but she thought it was great in these tacos.

That’s it! I’ll send a photo over.

Vegan Taco Onslaught!!

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Daniel Larkin:

to Jamey Bennett

Traditional tacos filled a with lentil and mushroom base, and curry tofu and chickpea tacos in a soft tortilla.  Well, that’s really only two, but it kinda counts as an onslaught, right?  Now this looks like a long email, but bear with me because it’s two back-to-back meals that fold seamlessly into each other with very little effort!

I don’t know if I told you or not, but the doc told us that Charlie has some food allergies.  They should pass as he gets older, but in the meantime, Jenny has been told to avoid milk and peanuts while she breastfeeds.  Since Jenny is already vegetarian, that almost veganizes her diet.  (She still eats eggs)  So we’ve been really trying to create new whole food, meatless and dairyless recipes, and for the most part, we’ve had some really great successes – especially these two that I made over the weekend.  VEGAN TACOS TWO WAYS!

These two make great back-to-back meals because they share a ‘creamy’ avocado, lime and cilantro sauce.  And while these are both technically tacos, their flavors couldn’t be more different.  The best part is that both are ridiculously simple and only use a few easy to find ingredients.

OK, we’ll start with the sauce, since that’s the common denominator in both recipes; the Avocado, Lime and Cilantro ‘Cream’ Sauce.

Ingredients

  • 12 oz silken tofu
  • 1/2 ripe Haas avocado
  • 3 tbs lime juice
  • 1tbs apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • A good palmful of fresh cilantro leaves
  • Salt to taste

Put all of these things into a blender, and viola!  That’s it.  You’ll never want sour cream for your tacos again.  I promise.

Now, this makes enough to top all of your tacos, with enough left over to make slaw for your curry tacos.

But let’s start with the Lentil and Mushroom Tacos.  This is going to look stupid simple, because the only thing I was worried about was the “meat” base.  If you’ve got a taco seasoning mix or recipe you prefer, use it.  I’ve made my own taco seasoning before, and for the life of me, I just can’t compete with the 95 cent packets at the grocery store.  Or better yet, I just buy a taco kit.  Again, the only thing I worry about is the filling.

  • 2 cups prepared lentils cooked in veggie stock. (I won’t go into cooking details because different lentils cook differently)
  • 8 ounces portobello mushrooms finely chopped.
  • 2 tbs tomato paste
  • 1/2 tsp each soy sauce and vegan Worcestershire sauce
  • Splash of liquid smoke (optional)
  • Any extra veggie stock you didn’t use on the lentils
  • Packet of favorite taco seasoning

This is easy:

  • Sautee mushrooms in olive oil for 5-10 minutes (until they start to shrink)
  • Add lentils, tomato paste, soy, Worcestershire and liquid smoke.  (Stir this around and check the consistency.  You want extra liquid because it’s going to cook down, so if it looks stiff, add veggie stock.)
  • Slowly add seasoning mix, tasting as you go.  (I say slowly because all of these packets are different, and it’s easy to end up with a salt bomb)
  • Simmer for 15 minutes.  You’re looking for a semi-loose consistency, like beefy taco mix, so don’t be afraid to keep adding stock as you go.

Top those bad boys off with all the usual fixin’s using the tofu cream sauce instead of sour cream. The lentil and mushroom texture will more than fill in for the beef, and the flavor is more smokey and robust than any ground beef.  You’re welcome.

OK, so you’ve enjoyed your traditional tacos one night, but you still have a shit load of tofu and avocado sauce left over.  What do you do?  You make some Vegan Cilantro/Lime Slaw to go with your curry tacos, that’s what!

  • Buy a prepackaged bag of coleslaw veggies.
  • Add a handful of rough chopped cilantro, 2 tbs of lime juice – salt and pepper to taste.
  • Now mix in the left over tofu sauce until you get a good slaw-like mixture.
  • Cover and refrigerate for an hour or two.

The Tofu/Chickpea Curry Tacos are really the crown jewel of this whole thing, and they’re also the simplest thing to make.  There is really no heavy cooking involved, just mixing and simmering.  With my slaw premade, I had these tacos on the table in about 30 minutes.

  • 1 lb block extra firm tofu – well pressed and chopped into small cubes.
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped (optional)
  • I can prepared chickpeas – drained
  • 1 can unsweetened coconut milk
  • 2 tbs green curry paste (or more if you prefer)
  • 1 tbs brown sugar
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 10 cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • handful fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 1 tbs lime juice
  • soft tortillas
  • roasted cashews, chopped

And the cooking on these is so simple, it’s ridiculous!

  • First, saute the onion and tofu on high heat for 5 minutes (use coconut oil if you have it)
  • Add next five ingredients and simmer for 15 minutes
  • Turn off heat and mix in the cherry tomatoes, basil and lime juice.  Cover and let sit for 10 minutes while you warm tortillas.

Pile that shit on!  The curry mix should stiffen a bit, but make sure you get enough sauce in each tortilla.  Then top it with slaw, more cilantro and lime juice, cashews, and of course Sriracha.

The taste is amazing!  It’s subtle enough for you to pick out every flavor, but balanced enough that they all sing in perfect harmony.  These are the best things I’ve made in  while.  Seriously.

Now go make tacos!

World Peace Currywurst Tacos

from: Jamey Bennett
to: Daniel Larkin

Dude,

I think I may have just done more for world peace than any U.N. peace treaty ever could. I made a currywurst taco.

I don’t remember where I first heard about currywurst, but it’s important to note that I’ve never actually had currywurst until today. Even when I was in Germany, I had plenty of sausages, but never had currywurst. I guess that’s a sort of disclaimer, since I have nothing to compare it to. But if authentic German currywurst tastes like what I whipped up, I can see why it’s popular.

The legend of currywurst is that a simple woman in post-WW2 Berlin traded some booze with British soldiers for ketchup, curry, and Worstchestershire sauce. She threw them together in her kitchen with a few other spices, poured it over sausage and the rest is history. Now the stuff is everywhere over there.

Still, there’s plenty about the dish online, and I found this Wall Street Journal article quite enlightening. After scouring various articles and recipes online, it’s clear that few people agree on how to make the sauce that makes currywurst so delectable, and there appears to be some difference of opinion on what one should serve with currywurst.

Well, in adapting this for a taco, essentially I did this. For each taco: one Hofbrau beer brat from Trader Joe’s, served on a medium wheat tortilla, topped with a curried tomato sauce, and sauerkraut. It was amazing.

First the sauce. There are many simple recipes online that amount to essentially currying ketchup. I wanted something a little more refined than that, and I really didn’t want anything as sweet as ketchup. So here’s what I came up with. I found this recipe and made several twists and omissions, all changes I think were important.

I sauteed about 2/3 cup of chopped onions and 1 clove of minced garlic in oil for a few minutes, then I added a small amount of water and stirred to kinda clean up the pan. I turned the heat off, and added: 10 cherry tomatoes (sliced in half), 1/4 cup vinegar, 6 ounce can of tomato paste, 2 tbs. honey, 1/4 tsp of ground allspice, 5 tbs. curry powder (yeah, I said FIVE freaking tablespoons), 1 tsp. ginger powder, 1 tsp. cayenne pepper, 1 bay leaf, and a little salt and pepper.

I turned the heat back on, and simmered, adding quite a bit of water, probably about 1-1/2 cups, but I only did it a quarter cup at a time. Over the course of 25 minutes or so of simmering and occasionally stirring, a lot of water dissipated. In the end, the consistency I wanted with a chunky, slightly thick ketchup. And damn, it was tasty.

Meanwhile, I browned the small wheat tortillas in a separate skillet, doesn’t take long, and set them aside. I threw the brats in the skillet, and ended up breaking them down by chopping with a knife and separating them with the spatula until it had the consistency of ground meat.

Once everything was cooked thoroughly, I removed the bay leaf, spooned the sausage onto the tortilla, topped with a generous helping of sauce, and sauerkraut. I served with a big glass of water, but a large mug of German beer would have been even better.

As far as quantities…I used about a full brat on each tortilla, though the Trader Joe’s brats are relatively small, and I think the amount of sauce would work well for 4-6 tacos of this size.

Who woulda thunk? India, Great Britain, Germany, and Mexico, united in one damn fine dish.

from Daniel Larkin
to jamey w. bennett

That looks thoroughly delicious.  And that’s something I could easily do camping – freeze and vacuum seal the brats ahead of time, and then dehydrate the sauce.  Either way, home or in the woods, this is happening.

from: Jamey Bennett
to: Daniel Larkin

It’s super good. I just had some leftovers, and it was great. I took the sausage out of the casing this time, and it was much easier to break apart (duh). Full disclosure: I actually wanted to slice the brats to give it a more traditional (German) appearance, but my cuts were ugly, so I decided to go with the ground meat look! I think that actually was better, especially because it created pockets in the taco for the sauce to fill, likely making it less messy.

These things are pretty juicy, between the sauce and the kraut. Take some big paper towels for a cleaner experience.

North Carolina Barbecue Sauce & Tacos

from: Jamey Bennett
to: Daniel Larkin

Hey Dude,

Since North Carolina is basically your next door neighbor, I doubt I have to be the one to tell you that North Carolina barbecue rocks.

1. I love vinegar.
2. I love spicy food.
3. I love to eat pigs.

On a side note, I think it’s funny that the word “barbecue” to a North Carolinian means pulled (or chopped) pork and a spicy vinegar sauce. My homeboy Brotha SouL gave me a blank look when I talked about barbecue chicken, or barbecue ribs. To him, Barbecue is a noun meaning only pulled pork. I guess they call the other stuff “grilled” or something? I don’t know.

Anyway, I have only recently begun to enjoy the wonders of NC barbecue. My first exposure was when I made a sauce recipe from Amazing Ribs. I could practically drink the stuff. But the first time I tasted actual, authentic barbecue in NC was last summer. My life was changed.

Some time ago, my friend Steve Robinson posted an update on Facebook that he made an East Carolina sauce. I generally trust his palate (except for his McDonald’s habit!), so I asked him for his recipe. In fact, I’m pretty sure I texted you a screen shot of his “seat of the pants…ballpark” sauce recipe. Here goes:

  • 2/3 Cider Vinegar
  • 1/3 White vinegar
  • A couple Tbsp. brownsugar
  • Some salt
  • A good tsp. of cayenne pepper
  • Crushed red peppers (he used a 12-pepper mix from his sister, I used crushed and fermented red peppers that I made)
  • Some coarse black pepper
  • A couple tablespoons of red wine vinegar
  • A couple tablespoons of ketchup

I like mine with a lot of black pepper…it just smells and tastes awesome, especially with the vinegar. Anyway, I made two 16 oz. Mason jars a couple of months ago. Wonderful stuff. Oh, and it’s best if left overnight for the flavors to blend. And shake it up whenever you think of it.

Now, the tacos. The tacos are easy. Get some pork. Doesn’t really matter what kind, or how much. I put three pork chops in my crock pot, and poured the sauce over them. Cooked it on low all day. About 6 or 7 hours in, I pulled the pork out, shredded it with a couple forks, and then put it back in the crock pot.

When I was almost ready to eat, I made a simply pico de gallo with diced tomato, red onion, fresh jalapeno, cilantro, salt and pepper. I poured some of the barbecue sauce over it and let it sit for about 10 minutes to soak up the flavor. Meanwhile, I warmed some flour tortillas in my cast iron skillet.

Once done with all of that, I removed the meat with a ladle with holes. After removing the meat, I further drained the pulled pork. (The reason for this is that you don’t want soggy tortillas!)

Anyway, I put the pork on the tortillas, threw on the pico, and a little bit of lettuce. Then I spooned a VERY small amount of more vinegar sauce on the top. It was AMAZING.

Next time, I’m going to try slaw instead of lettuce. But I don’t think I’ll change a thing about the meat or the sauce. And I’ll probably keep the pico.

jamey

from: Daniel Larkin
to: ”Jamey W. Bennett” 

I LOVE North Carolina BBQ.  I used to cook at a dive bar in Charlotte called The Penguin.  The place had three owners — a cook, a business man, and a maintenance guy — all with full sleeves of tattoos.

Anyway, the cook-owner got his start making BBQ, and he would still do all of our meats offsite with his secret recipe.  I also worked with an awesome Mexican dude named Manuel (Real name? Probably not.) and he’s the one who showed me how to make salsa.  Manuel would also bring his own corn tortillas into work, and we would deep fry them to make taco shells.  You already know what we filled them with!

Long story short, this is gonna fill a gap that was left in my belly after I quit The Penguin.

Carne Asada with Roasted Salsa


from: Jamey Bennett

to: Daniel Larkin

Dude, I made a really delicious, really simple roasted salsa. I just ate a few bites and my mouth is warm and fiesta-like. Four tomatoes, two jalapeños, red and yellow onion roasted for about 35 minutes at 300 degrees. Added it to the blender with four cloves of garlic, salt and pepper, cilantro, cayenne, crushed red pepper, lemon juice, and a splash of white vinegar.

Also, I came up with a good carne asada marinade. I make a lot of tacos (obviously), but my tacos never taste like street tacos. This was my attempt. I marinated cheap, cheap steak with white vinegar, soy sauce, fresh garlic, salt and pepper, a dash of garlic powder, cumin, and paprika. I tried to keep the ingredients minimal, and only enough liquid to fully wet the meat. After a couple of hours, I cut the steak into small chunks, and tossed the pieces (with the marinade) into a skillet and cooked until no liquid remained.

Add to tortillas, throw on your taco toppings, add the roasted salsa, and bam. If anything, I won’t add salt next time, as the sodium in the soy sauce was plenty. I didn’t quite duplicate street tacos, but it was damn good.

from: Daniel Larkin
to: Jamey Bennett 

I’ve got the day off today, and I was thinking about brewing.  I might just make a salsa too now!

Whole Food Veggie Tacos FTW!

from Daniel Larkin
to jamey w. bennett 

I finally did it!  Veggie tacos made with real food!

My main qualm with vegetarian options at home is that they usually involve some sort of processed fake meat.  Not that I’m staunchly opposed to using them (my Skyline Chili knock-off and my chicken-less tacos both rely on faux-meats) but I’ve always wanted another option.  What comes next in this email is an approximation of what I did.  I didn’t do any prior research, I took no notes, and I’m writing this three weeks after the fact.  I tried to mentally tally everything, but you may still have to rely on your ninja skills of adaptation.

In all honesty, I’m not really going not on memory for all of the measurements, but rather guessing at how much I would add if I were to make this again.

Here’s a list of what made up the filling.  It’s kind of like refrigerator soup, in that I just used whatever I had on hand.  But as anyone who’s read about nutrition knows, variety is the best recipe.  The key to making this more taco-meat-esque is to chop all whole foods very small before cooking.  Obviously, you don’t need to chop the beans or corn, but you get the idea.

•    1 can of black beans (rinsed)
•    about a cup of frozen corn kernels
•    about 1/2 cup of carrot (finely chopped)
•    the tips off one head of broccoli (finely chopped)
•    One or two pablano peppers (finely chopped) — add more or different peppers if you like it hotter
•    1/2 onion (finely chopped)
•    3 cloves of garlic (finely chopped)
•    a handful of walnuts (you guessed it, finely chopped)
•    1 pack of firm tofu (it’ll break into small pieces when added and stirred) — extra firm tofu won’t break up enough and silken tofu will just dissolve
•    (I wanted to add small cubes of sautéed sweet potato, but I forgot.  I still think that would be good!)
•    1 tbs soy sauce
•    8-ish oz Guinness Draught
•    3-ish tbs tomato paste
•    2-ish tbs chili powder
•    1-1/2-ish tbs cumin
•    Pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg
•    A few sprigs of chopped cilantro
•    Salt and red and black pepper to taste

Sauté garlic and onion for a minute in the oil of your choice.  Mix all other veggies and sauté for about 10 minutes.  Then add the liquid and spices – again, tasting as you go because I didn’t measure shit.  Simmer everything for 30 minutes, and add walnuts and cilantro in the last 5 minutes.

Fair warning, this made a ton!

Now I didn’t want to just top the tacos off with lettuce and be done with it.  I wanted to go fancy pants.

So I filled a large mixing bowl with green cabbage sliced thinly and evenly with the mandolin.  Then I threw in a good handful of chopped cilantro, and an half-and-half mix of plain greek yogurt and sour cream —enough to make a slaw-type consistency.  I mixed in some salt and pepper, about 3 tbs of granulated sugar, about 1 tbs red wine vinegar and the juice from 2-1/2 limes.  (I used the other half lime to keep the avocado from browning) Then I tossed it all by hand until it was even and put it in the fridge to settle for about an hour.

The final setup went like this; tortilla, veggie filling, cheese, cilantro slaw, sliced avocado and hot sauce.  And it was phenomenal!  The mix of veggies and tofu was the perfect consistency, and the small crunch of walnuts kept the texture interesting.  The fresh slaw was a perfect compliment, and was way more interesting that lettuce and sour cream could have been by themselves.

These tacos made me realize that vegetarian eating doesn’t have to be about avoiding meat.  When done right, it’s really just a tasty way to eat your vegetables.  The variety of plant-based foods on this plate made for one of the most wholesome meals I’ve had in a long time.  And one of the tastiest.