Tuesday, May 4, 2010

grab the tortillas

One of my favorite food blogs is Herbivoracious, written by Michael Natkin, a vegetarian cook who loves good food and fine dining. Michael is from Seattle so his local frame-of-reference is a little different than ours here in NY. I first came upon Michael's blog through the food blog hub Serious Eats. His recipes and food photos really stood out from the over-crowded field. Now that I have found Michael I really look forward to his strictly vegetarian recipes and smart observations about the food industry in general.

My backyard herbs are in full swing. I take cutting every evening to put into my salads.

Today's post on Herbivoracious was Grilled Tofu and Pepper Vegetarian Tacos. It seems like the perfect fit for our current grilling theme. Michael's recipe is a little more labor intensive than we usually offer up here, but I really respect his instincts and have faith that the result will be well worth the work. Michael suggests buying the freshest and best corn tortillas you can find. I heartily concur. Try to find lesser known brands that look like they came packaged straight from Mexico. There are small tortilla companys all over that sell great products.
These Guerrero tortillas are actually from Mexico. Also look for small brands like Tropical which is located in New Jersey. The scent of warm corn tortillas is a joy to behold!

Grilled Tofu and Pepper Vegetarian Tacos
by Michael Natkin
Vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free
Serves 4

1.5 ounces achiote "brick" paste (aka annatto)
1/2 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons Tapatio or other hot sauce
1 teaspoon salt
10 ounces extra firm tofu cut into 1/3" slabs and patted dry
1 medium zucchini, cut into 1/3" slabs
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 red and 1 yellow bell pepper, cut into strips
24 corn tortillas
-serve with guacamole and salsa

In a small bowl, break up the achiote with a fork and mash in the oil, a little at a time until it dissolves. Mix in the cumin, hot sauce and salt.
Heat up a grill or grill pan to a medium flame. Brush the tofu with the achiote oil on one side and grill until well marked. Brush the other side, flip, and grill. Repeat with the zucchini. Allow both to cool and then cut into 1/3" dice.
Heat up a frying pan over a medium-high flame. Add 2 tablespoons of the achiote oil. Saute the onion, garlic and bell peppers until very soft.
Add the tofu and zucchini to the pepper mixture. Taste and adjust seasoning. It may need more salt, or a little lime or lemon juice, or more chile heat.
Wrap the tortillas in a damp, clean dish towel and microwave for about 3 minutes until soft and warm.
To eat, lay down two tortillas. Top with a moderate scoop of the filling, a spoonful of guacamole and salsa. Pass more hot sauce for those who want it.

Well, it certainly seem worth the effort! First, Deb - where should I look for the achiote paste? Do you think Whole Foods or Fairway would have it? After that, the rest of the ingredients should not be a problem. And thanks for sharing the Herbivoraceous blog - it's wonderful!

I have mentioned earlier that you should basically choose a fun, simple wine when grilling and not think too much about it. Accept when there is a sauce, or ethnic flair. Because of the spicy nature of this dish, selecting the right wine is important. Spicy foods can have a very negative affect on wine, and vice versa. Stay away from Chardonnay and tannic wines. The heat from the spice will ruin the flavors of the Chardonnay, and the heat from the tacos will only be exacerbated. Avoid Cabernet and Merlot as well.

For white, which would be my first choice, I would definitely pick something with a lot of fruit, and even something "off dry" (slightly sweet). Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley would be delicious. Typically fragrant and lightly sweet, the wine is incredibly versatile and food-friendly. Vouvray is simply wonderful, and has a bit of a honeyed character. There are also an abundance of terrific, affordable Chenin Blancs from South Africa, referred to as "Steen". Mulderbosch and Simonsig are extremely affordable options. Pinot Gris would also be a great choice as well.

For red, I would look towards something simple, light and fruity. A Beaujolais would do the trick. They are nice when served with a slight chill. Georges Duboeuf and Louis Jadot are two producers whose wines are readily available in most shops, and are consistently good. Perfect summertime wine! An easy-going, inexpensive Tempranillo would also work. And if you have the time, might as well make a nice pitcher of Sangria!


  1. I look for achiote in stores that cater to hispanic shoppers. Not so easy to find everywhere. Whenever I see it I buy it because I'm not sure when I will find it again. The two Fairways on the Upper West side would be more likely than the ethnically bland bland bland Whole Foods .

  2. I am growing some Mexican herbs: culantro and epazote. Would love to see some recipes in which I could use them.

  3. I have never cooked with those particular herbs- they don't sell them in too many places around here but I would love to try them. Fresh herbs are generally mild enough to be added to any dish at the end of cooking to bring some freshness. I would mince up those two herbs and sprinkle them on top of the tacos, perhaps!

  4. Thanks - will definitely try. Epazote is supposed to be used with beans and purportedly reduces gassiness!


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