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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

May – Cinco de Mayo Tacos, Cauliflower and/or Chicken

May – Cinco de Mayo Tacos, Cauliflower and/or Chicken

I am not sure which might be more difficult to obtain these days, boneless chicken thighs or cauliflower. If you are using food delivery, you might not even know what you will be receiving or what will be missing from your order. You could easily go with all thighs or all cauliflower in this recipe if you only have one of them. With both it’s a perfect way to stretch a few thighs into a larger meal. If you want a vegetarian meal, this would be delicious made with a large head of cauliflower or two smaller ones.

Serve the tacos with soft corn tortillas, flour tortillas, or crisp ones from a box. Or give your family a choice of vehicles for transporting the spicy meat-cauliflower combo plus garnishes. My tastes geared towards a tostada and I decided to fry a flour tortilla (did you know they puff up and get wonderfully crisp?), spread some grated cheddar on it and warm in a low oven until the cheese melts and use that as a base.

Flour Tortilla with Melty Cheese

Flour Tortilla with Melty Cheese

Chipotle chicken and cauliflower

Chipotle chicken and cauliflower

The inspiration came from Week Light by Donna Hay. I did modify it slightly to make it much less spicy, and because not all the ingredients were available in my fridge or pantry. The original recipe called for an entire can of chipotle chillies in adobo sauce (OW!!!!), I used 2 chilies with a little of the sauce.

It was plenty hot enough for our family.

Chipotle Chicken and Cauliflower

Chipotle Chicken and Cauliflower

Ingredients:

  • 2 chipotle chilies in adobo sauce from a can, finely chop them
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup (or honey)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped or put through the press
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 4 boneless chicken thighs, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 head of cauliflower, broken into 1 inch florets
  • kosher or sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Corn or flour tortillas
  • Grated cheese of choice
  • Garnishes – sliced avocado, salsa, finely shredded cabbage, sliced red onions, chopped cilantro, lime wedges, thinly sliced red pepper, pickled vegetable salad…whatever you have on hand

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C). Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Combine the chopped chilies and a couple of tablespoons of adobo sauce in a large bowl. Add the maple syrup, garlic and oil. Mix to combine.
  3. Place the chicken in another bowl and top with half the chipotle mixture, mix together.
  4. Add the cauliflower to the remaining chipotle mixture, turning to coat as much as possible.
  5. Transfer the chicken and cauliflower to separate baking sheets. Roast the chicken for about 20 minutes, the cauliflower needed a little longer. You want a nice char on the cauliflower.

I put the chicken and cauliflower in separate bowls, surrounded by the garnishes, and let everyone make their own.

Donna Hay recommends a lime dressing which consisted of:

  • 1/2 cup of plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of lime juice
  • Salt and pepper

I didn’t have any yogurt on hand so we used a bit of jarred taco sauce.

Chipotle chicken and cauliflower

Chipotle chicken and cauliflower

Did you know that limes will turn the color yellow if left on the tree? That is why the limes in the pictures are yellow and look like lemons.

Do you have plans to celebrate today? Maybe a margarita is on the calendar?

 

 

March – Forever Roasted Pork Shoulder

March – Forever Roasted Pork Shoulder

I cannot believe I have never posted this recipe! I searched my recipe index but couldn’t find it anywhere, even though it’s a big favorite of both friends and family for years. This dish will give you days of leftovers for pulled pork, carnitas, BBQ pork sandwiches, tacos, etc. And if you are feeling, like I am, sightly depressed…it will make your kitchen smell like a warm hug (something in short supply at the moment). Now is the perfect time to cook something that takes most of the day in the oven, where else are you going to go? Don’t make this in the slow cooker, it will not be the same. You could make it in your instant pot, you would need to crisp it in the oven after. But why? Use the low oven method unless it’s 4 pm and the zombies are at the door (instant pot options at the end), I encourage you to embrace slow oven cooking for this if at all possible.

If you want it have dinner at 6 pm, you need to pop it in the oven right after your Zoom workout or the first conference call of the day at 9. Rub it down with the spices and put it in the roasting pan at 8 am while you are having your second (maybe first these days) cup of coffee. Let it rest at room temperature on the counter until you have finished your workout or your call. At that time preheat the oven, and put the pork in the oven (uncovered) at 10:30. Forget about it all day (you won’t be able to ignore the aroma coming from your oven). It will be ready at 5:30, enough time for it to rest. Resist the urge to steal crispy bits before dinner is officially served, I usually can’t.

You will have the entire day free. Time to deal with home schooling, your toddler, the garden, and/or work.

The original idea for this recipe came from Michael Chiarello’s cookbook Casual Cooking, published in 2002. He was named Chef of the Year by the Culinary Institute of America  and Food & Wine Magazine. Founder of the Tra Vigne Restarurant in St. Helena, CA (in the wine country).

I have dramatically simplified his recipe except for one thing, the amazing mixture of spices that he uses. Toasted Fennel Rub is my absolute favorite spice mixture in the whole world. You don’t need to use it though, use any beloved spice rub of your own. I just happen to have this on hand most times and often give it as a present to friends. I’ve modified it with the addition of some heat. But, use what you have. Any BBQ rub would be excellent, what about taco seasoning, or chili powder with some added salt? Do not fret about it. The trick is the slow roasting which transforms the pork into a meltingly tender piece of meat with a crisp layer of fat on the outside.

Ingredients:

  • One pork shoulder roast (mine was bone-in, about 5 1/2 pounds)
  • Enough rub to coat all sides of the roast (see the recipe for fennel spice at the bottom of this post)

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F
  2. Rub your spice mixture of choice (see Fennel Rub below) over all sides of the roast
  3. Place the pork, fat side up, on a rack in a roasting pan or other dish (there may be quite a lot of fat, so a deep one is best). Line it with foil for easier clean up.
  4. Roast, uncovered, for 7 hours.
  5. Let the roast rest for 20 minutes, then slice or shred.

Note: If you don’t have a rack of the correct size for your pan, make one with halved onions or whole carrots or crumbled foil.

Pork Shoulder Roast with Rub

Pork Shoulder Roast with Rub

Pork Shoulder Roast with Rub

Pork Shoulder Roast with Fennel Spice Rub

Here it is after 7 hours, juicy and ready to shred. As usual, I couldn’t stop the fingers from pulling off crispy bits before we were ready to eat dinner.

Forever roasted pork shoulder

Forever roasted pork shoulder

Shredded Pork Shoulder

Shredded Pork Shoulder

It was easy to shred. Served with roasted asparagus, avocado, pickled cabbage, shredded cheese, sour cream, and salsa.

Shredded Pork Tacos

Shredded Pork Tacos

We have some really amazing leftovers for the week. Stay tuned for some ideas.

 

Enhanced Fennel Rub

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup fennel seeds
  • 3 tablespoons coriander seeds
  • 2 tablespoons white peppercorns
  • 3 tablespoons kosher salt
  • My additions:
    • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
    • 1/4 cup chile powder (use something on the sweet rather than on the hot side, or leave it out)
    • 3 tablespoons cumin seeds

Method:

  1. Place a dry small heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the fennel, coriander, peppercorns and cumin seeds (if using). Continually stirring, roast until light brown and the smell is amazing.
  2. Turn your oven fan (high), add the chile powder and red pepper flakes. Continue to stir (it will smoke) for a few more seconds. Then remove from the heat and immediately turn the spices out onto a large plate to cool.
  3. Once cool, add the salt.
  4. Grind in your blender, mini food processor, or spice blender to a powder. There will still be some whole spices that won’t be completely ground, that’s okay.

If you want to make this in an electric pressure cooker or Instant Pot, here are some suggestions. After you coat the pork with your spice mix of choice, brown it on the saute setting in the pot or in a large skillet. Then add 1 cup of broth (chicken or vegetable), set the machine to high pressure and cook for 60 minutes, then turn the machine off and let the steam naturally release for 30 minutes. You won’t get that amazing crust, or a whole day of comforting aromas, but you will have dinner on the table for hungry mouths much faster.

Stay well everyone, stay safe, and please stay in touch.

I am going to take this dish to Angie’s at Fiesta Friday #321. Please come check out the virtual party on her site. The cohosts this week are Mollie @ Frugal Hausfrau and, none other than myself: Liz @ Spades, Spatulas & Spoons

And if you would like to join us, link your post to FiestaFriday.net and/or the cohost(s), so you can be featured.

And if you would like a chance to be featured next Friday, please read the guidelines.

Also linking this to Full Plate Thursday at Miz Helen’s Country Cottage.