I had an epiphany this week, which really explains a lot of what I cook and what I crave. Ready? Here it is:
Tasty edible things wrapped in other tasty edible things, as a concept, is a total win.
I’ve been craving tacos lately. All kinds of tacos. There’s a place here in Pittsburgh called Yo Rita!, which is one of the few restaurants that I very specifically crave once in a while. Most times if we’re thinking of going out, I’ll have a leaning towards a particular food mood or idea — Italian, or Thai, or charcuterie. But every so often (more often than perhaps I would like to admit), when a certain mood strikes, all I want is to go to Yo Rita!. Their concept is simple — gourmet tacos, fabulous margaritas. Many of the tacos aren’t necessarily Mexican in flavoring (how about black eyed peas, mushrooms, and greens? or salmon with pickled cabbage? or chorizo with a fried egg?), but they do it so well.
So all of this got me thinking about how funny it is that my list of go-to/favorite foods includes things like tacos, and sushi, and spring rolls, and vegetable-stuffed peppers and squash, and good sandwiches, and soup in a bread bowl …. Need I go on? I have no idea why it is that I have such an affinity for food wrapped in food — is it the efficiency factor? the finger-foods attraction? the two-for-one deal that appeals to my thrifty side? — honestly, who knows.
All that to say, I’m embracing this phenomenon, and here are some tacos I made to satisfy my craving. They’re vegetarian, but totally substantial. I used cremini mushrooms, tho you could substitute any flavorful mushroom, and added red wine to bring out the “brown” flavoring (umami, if we’re being technical). Seriously, these are good without the wine, but that little bit of red wine adds a huge flavor punch. Then add some mild goat cheese for tanginess, a light cabbage slaw for texture and color, and cilantro and lime or lemon to brighten it up a bit.
Eat them with your hands! Two for one! So good.
For the tacos:
6 oz cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 small onion, halved and sliced into ¼ inch slivers
2 tbsp olive oil
3-4 tbsp red wine (I used leftover Malbec)
2 med cloves garlic, chopped
1 pinch red pepper flakes (approx ¼ tsp)
Salt and fresh-ground black pepper, to taste
4-6 fajita-size flour tortillas
For the slaw:
2 cups red cabbage, shredded/sliced very thinly
juice from ½ lime (approx 2 tbsp)
salt and pepper
drizzle of olive oil
For the garnish:
¼ cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped (I use most of the stems also)
Mild goat cheese or Gruyere
1. Thinly slice/shred cabbage (if you have a mandoline, use it!) and place in a bowl. Drizzle over olive oil (I used very little, maybe 1 tsp) and lime juice. Salt and pepper to taste. Toss together, and let rest at room temperature until ready to eat.
2. Heat the 2 tbsp olive oil in a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium high heat till shimmering. Add mushrooms and onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms begin to brown and onions start to caramelize. Turn heat down to medium low. Add garlic, red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper. Slowly add red wine and scrape up all the tasty brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Simmer until red wine has mostly evaporated. Remove from heat.
3. Lightly toast the tortillas over a gas burner or soften in the microwave (I like the burner — you get that slightly smoky flavor and pretty-looking brown spots).
4. Serve each tortilla with some mushrooms, topped with cheese, slaw, and cilantro. Garnish with lime wedges for spritzing.
(P.S. – pictures soon. Seriously.)