April – Cauliflower and Black Bean Tacos

April – Cauliflower and Black Bean Tacos

I am not a taco snob. What do I mean by that? If you or your family like those crisp shells from a box sold at the grocery store, I am not one to criticize. Go for it! That’s what some members of my family prefers. Now I wouldn’t order tacos that way in a restaurant. But at home, they are perfectly fine and save me a lot of trouble when I’m trying valiantly to get dinner on the table. I myself prefer a soft whole wheat or gluten free tortilla that I can roll into a big fat burrito; the bigger the better. I want to have to eat it with a knife and fork.

Tacos are great because you can put out the fixings on the counter and let everyone customize it to their own taste. That way of putting dinner on the table is also ideal if you have a mix of vegans, vegetarians, and meat lovers to feed. A taco bar is a lot of fun, you can let you imagination run wild (or not if it’s one of those days). All you need is a wrap of some kind, filling, salsa, cheese (vegan cheese  is not bad), and some sliced cabbage or lettuce. Anything else is icing on the taco so to speak. But do try the pickled onions, their sharpness is very welcome against the smooth and creamy black beans.

This version of a vegetarian filling came from the blog Smitten Kitchen.  I have increased the amount of seasonings, otherwise I followed the recipe fairly closely. It features one of my favorite vegetables, cauliflower. And it’s prepared in my favorite way, roasted until brown and charred in spots. It really is the most amazing vegetable and it’s good for you as well.

Roasted Cauliflower with Black Beans

Roasted Cauliflower with Black Beans

You add the drained black beans to the sheet pan when the cauliflower first comes from the oven, warming them and further flavoring the beans in the seasoning in the pan.

The pickled red onions are definitely addictive. I keep a jar of these in my fridge. They are wonderful on a grilled cheese sandwich (any kind of sandwich for that matter), quesadilla, salad or taco. You can pickle them for 30 minutes to several days, they get better and better.

Pickled red onion

Pickled red onion

Cauliflower and Black Bean Tacos

Pickled onions:

  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar (rice vinegar results in a milder pickle)
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons cold water
  • 1/4 teaspoon of granulated sugar
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced

Cauliflower and black beans:

  • 3 tablespoons of olive or other neutral oil
  • 1 large head of cauliflower, trimmed, broken and chopped small (they need to fit into the taco)
  • Red pepper flakes
  • 2 heaping teaspoons of ground cumin
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 lime, halved
  • 1 15-ox can of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • tortillas
  • 1/2 to 1 avocado, thinly sliced
  • crumbled or shredded cheese
  • optional – salsa, hot sauce, chopped cilantro, pickled jalapeños, sour cream, thinly sliced cabbage or lettuce, sliced radishes, etc.

Method:

  1. Make the pickled onions by combining the vinegar, water, sugar and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt in a small bowl. Add the onion and toss to coat. Set aside or refrigerate until you are ready to eat.
  2. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
  3. Line a sheet pan with baking or parchment paper.
  4. Put the cauliflower in a large bowl, toss to coat with the oil, cumin, salt, and red pepper to taste.
  5. Spread on the sheet pan and roast for a total of 25-30 minutes, turning them midway through.
  6. Remove from the oven and squeeze the juice of 1/2 a lime over the cauliflower. Add the black beans to the warm sheet pan. Taste and add more lime juice if you want.
  7. Heat whatever vehicle you want for eating, top with the cauliflower and beans, add avocado, pickles onions and whatever else your taste desires.
Roasted Cauliflower and Black Bean Tacos

Roasted Cauliflower and Black Bean Tacos

For us it was slim pickings that night, no avocado, no cabbage (I did have a lonely head of romaine), and no cheese. But the cauliflower and black bean filling was delicious and easy. We still counted this a wonderful dinner which was worth repeating.

And the leftover cauliflower and black beans were delicious tossed into a salad the next night, this time with crumbled tortilla chips, shredded cheese, avocado, pickled onions and cherry tomatoes. I would consider making a batch just for the leftovers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

April – Lamb and Almond Patties with Sumac Yogurt Sauce

April – Lamb and Almond Patties with Sumac Yogurt Sauce

Lamb and Almond Patties with Sumac Yogurt Sauce

Lamb and Almond Patties with Sumac Yogurt Sauce

This recipe is based on one from Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbook Simple. Year’s ago when I first saw his books I thought they were a little esoteric. That has all changed with time. Ingredients like lemon grass, pistachios, rose harissa, good quality tahini and pomegranate molasses are more common in grocery stores. Sumac, urfa chili flakes, and za’atar can be found on-line or from better quality spice vendors. Recipes for making preserved lemons abound on the web and are superior to those purchased at stores. There are less obstacles to cooking from his books even in these days when shopping is more limited to places closer to home.

We are members of the Oakland speaker series which has, for the past year, been via Zoom because of the pandemic. Last month’s lecturers were Yotam and Samin Nosrat author of the cookbook Salt Fat Acid Heat. The show airs during our usual dinner time and I was inspired to make something from one of the books. Lamb and pistachio patties with sumac yogurt sauce jumped out at me (although I didn’t have any pistachios in the pantry). But an easy substitution would be almonds, and I had a wonderful new dairy free yogurt in the fridge to try…Nancy’s Oat Yogurt. The patties themselves didn’t contain any breadcrumbs so the dinner was both dairy and gluten free.

I could easily see these patties (made a little smaller) as part of tapas meal…or even as meatballs in a Moroccan styled tomato sauce. Or made larger and stuffed into a pita with the sauce and some summer sliced tomatoes. They will definitely become part of my regular retinue in some form or another.

Lamb and Almond Patties with Sumac Yogurt Sauce

Lamb and Almond Patties with Sumac Yogurt Sauce

It was fun to snack on these patties with the yogurt sauce while we listened to their take on the pandemic and how their lives have changed.

Ingredients:

For the sumac yogurt sauce:

  • 1 cup of Greek style yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon of sumac
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of lemon juice

Method:

  1. Mix together all the ingredients for the sauce and keep in the fridge until needed.

To make the patties:

  • 1/2 cup of shelled pistachios (I used almonds, toasted for a few minutes in a dry skillet)
  • 1 1/4 cup arugula
  • 1 onion quartered
  • 1 large garlic clove, peeled
  • 1 lb 2 oz (I used a lb.) of ground lamb
  • about 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Method:

  1. Toast the almonds if using and cool on a plate (not necessary if using pistachios)
  2. Put the nuts into the bowl of a food processor. Blitz for a few seconds to roughly chop, then put into a medium sized bowl. Add the arugula to the processor, blitz a few seconds to roughly chop, add to bowl with nuts. Continue with the onion and garlic, to form a smooth paste, and add to the bowl. Add the lamb, 1 tablespoon of oil, 2/4 tsp of salt, and a good grind of pepper. Mix to combine, then with wet hands from into about twenty patties. Each should be about 2 inches wide and 3/4 inch thick, weighing about 1 1/2 oz. You can make these ahead for a day, uncooked, or they can be made in advance and reheated through 5 minutes before serving.
  3. Put 1 tablespoon of the oil into a large nonstick pan and place on medium heat. Once hot, add the patties. You can add as many as possible without crowding. Cook for about 7 minutes total, turning halfway, until golden brown and cooked through. Repeat with the remaining patties, adding more oil if needed.
  4. When done, pile onto a platter with the sumac sauce. More arugula in a salad is a nice addition.
Lamb and Almond Patties with Sumac Yogurt Sauce

Lamb and Almond Patties with Sumac Yogurt Sauce

Next time I might add some chopped mint with the arugula, maybe some zested lemon as well. The lemon would play off the lemony flavored sumac in the sauce and also add a touch of brightness. I’ve also stocked up on pistachios. Try this one and let me know what you think. What adaptations did you need to make for your pantry?