Grilled veggie tacos with cilantro pesto

I have written about taco night before, one of my favorite meals in rotation.  With so many fresh vegetables available now, putting a little summertime spin on this basic recipe is the perfect way to enjoy your garden’s bounty.

A few recent issues of Fine Cooking have featured tacos, and while this recipe below is inspired mostly from this one, I hear that the recipes in this feature are good from the omnivores in my household.

I usually make corn tortillas but this time wanted to try flour.  The results were so astoundingly amazing that I spent the whole next day at work dreaming about them and immediately made a fresh batch before even changing out of my work clothes or taking the dog out.  I generally think homemade tortillas are too laborious for a weeknight — but NOTHING was going to stand in the way of my craving!

Thankfully, this recipe makes so much leftover veggies, beans and rice that the tortillas were the only thing I really needed to cook that night.  The meal below is simple and doesn’t really require a recipe per se, just your imagination.

Grilled veggies

You will need about six medium summer squash — any mixture of zucchini, yellow squash or chayote (a Central American vegetable you can find at Whole Foods or Latin grocers).  I also like to add one large or two medium onions, sliced, some crushed garlic, and a few cherry tomatoes to add flavor.  Peppers would also be nice.  There are no rules.

Toss veggies with some olive oil, salt, pepper, ground cumin, and chili powder, and grill, covered, for a few minutes until tender.  If you don’t have a grill, sauteeing would be fine too, but you’ll miss out on that smoky flavor.  I’ll also add that I am a total snob when it comes to grilling and if you’re not using charcoal, don’t even bother!  😉

Cilantro pesto

This stuff was amazing.  And simple:

1 cup packed chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 cup safflower oil, or other mild vegetable oil
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
1 clove garlic
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Purée.  Voilà.

Flour tortillas
Adapted from here

Like I said above:  good enough to trump your Monday night exhaustion-fueled desire to collapse on the couch with a beer.

2 cups all-purpose flour (I didn’t experiment with mixing in whole wheat, but might be worth a try — start with a little)
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
2/3 cup warm water

Sift flour, salt and baking powder together in a large bowl.  Add the shortening in pieces and mix with your hands until distributed evenly throughout the flour.  Gradually mix in the water.  Knead the dough a few times until pliable.

Split dough in half.  Split each half in half.  And one more time until you have eight pieces. The recipe linked above says to allow the dough balls to rest at least 30 minutes, but I didn’t do this.  Whoops.

Dust a work surface with more flour.

The gluten in these tortillas made my tortilla press useless — they’d just shrink back down to tiny and think little pancakes!  It is actually easiest to roll each tortilla out with a rolling pin.  This is so much easier than it sounds.

Heat up a cast iron skillet and roll out one tortilla until it is about 9 inches in diameter.  Heat on each side about 45 seconds, until you see that distinctive browning.  If any large bubbles form, pop them!

While it’s cooking roll out your next one.  Right off the skillet, the tortilla will seem crisp but it will soften up in just a few minutes.  Working efficiently, all eight will be done in about 15 minutes — see, easy enough for a Monday!

Assembly

In addition to the veggies and cilantro, I like to have beans and rice — go here for a tutorial on cooking with beans.  I like using white basmati rice seasoned with lime juice and cilantro, but again, do whatever is your personal preference.

With all the tomatoes in our garden, I also made a fresh pico de gallo by combining some chopped tomatoes, diced red onion, chopped jalapeno and poblano pepper, garlic and cilantro and tossing with lime juice (about 2 limes), chili powder, and salt to taste.

Take some of that pico de gallo and mix it in with some avocado and you’ve got the best guacamole you’ve ever tasted!

With some queso blanco, cholula, sour cream, etc etc etc….

Ahhh.  Summer at its finest.

-R

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