Friday, May 17, 2013
Tempeh Tacos with Grilled Guacamole
Whenever I think of tacos (or any other Mexican dishes), I always hear Jim Gaffigan's voice in my head. He has a bit where he talks about what it must be like being a waiter at a Mexican restaurant in Indiana, with clueless old people asking "what is a taco?" and "what's a burrito?" and "what's a toe-stah-dah?" and getting the same answer every time: "It's a tortilla with cheese, meat or vegetables." Growing up in rural Missouri, I always thought that was exactly what Mexican food was. I loved it, but they seemed to be scamming us by renaming the same dish over and over again.
Of course, a place like Chi-Chi's isn't real Mexican food. And the tacos my mom would make out of a box and a packet of powder weren't, either. At some point, I realized that and have really enjoyed putting just about anything into a tortilla and calling it a taco. Some restaurants get it right (if you're a non-vegan and in Ballard, Oaxaca is a must), but most get it wrong in the exact same way.
These tacos are just one of the types I've started making since going veg. They're very easy to throw together and have a really great flavor. The nutty earthiness of tempeh works really well with the flavors in the sauce. Grilling the avocados and onion before putting them into the guacamole competely alters the flavor in a way liquid smoke or a smoky seasoning simply can't. You can also just cut up or mash up some avocado and throw that on if you don't have time to make the whole thing. The finished product is pretty simple and stripped down, but you can add or subtract veggies or other toppings until your heart's content.
For the tacos:
1 1/2 cups veggie broth
2 tbsp tamari (or soy sauce)
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp cumin
2 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 8-ounce package of tempeh, diced into 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 bunch of cilantro, leaves torn from stems
1 cup of vegan mozzarella cheese
Good corn tortillas
For the guacamole:
1 medium white onion
1 roma tomato, diced
2 tsp lime juice
1/2 tsp cumin
Pinch of sea salt
Fresh ground pepper
A little chopped jalapeno, to taste
Wrap your tortillas in foil and put them in a 200 degree oven.
Prepare the tempeh: Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Drop the tempeh in and let it brown on one side before flipping it over (about 5 minutes per side). This adds some flavor but also takes away the bitterness that raw tempeh has. Any time you cook with tempeh, do this first. It will make a world of positive difference in your tempeh experience (I usually steam it for about 10 mintues before using it in stir fry dishes). Meanwhile, combine the broth, tamari, tomatoe paste, smoke paprika, cumin and the other tablespoon of oil and whisk it all together.
Once you've browned the tempeh, pour the sauce into the pan and turn up the heat. Put the lid on and let it come to a boil for about 3 minutes or so. Remove the lid and turn the pan down to a simmer, stirring occasionally. After about 5 minutes, the sauce will thicken and reduce as it simmers and it'll all end up looking like this:
Prepare the grilled guacamole: Heat your grill (or a grill pan) to a medium-high heat. Slice the avocado and the onion in half, remove the seed from the avocado and brush all the halves with some oil. Put them on the grill, cover them and let them hang out for a few minutes. Once they're all good and charred, dice the onion (it'll be a little slippery) and scoop out the avocado flesh. Add everything else and stir it around until it's creamy. If you need to add more lime to get it there, go for it.
Spread or spoon the guacamole onto the tortillas and put the tempeh, cheese and cilanro on top. There you have it: cheese, meat or vegetables, vegan style.