Thursday, January 23, 2014

Taco Salad with Cumin-Spiced Mushroom Meat

Growing up, one of my favorite nights of the week was when my mom would get out the big soup pot, fill it with peanut oil, and fry up a bunch of tortilla bowls so we could make taco salads. It was one of her specialties, and I was always in the kitchen helping out as much as I could. It was a bit of a dangerous undertaking, but she had it down pat. She'd toss a large tortilla into the oil, grab a metal bowl with a pair or tongs, and press the tortilla down in the center until it crisped. All the while, the thing was bubbling and making a ton of noise. I probably ate two of those things while we put the other ingredients together.

Back then, the components for this salad were iceberg lettuce, pre-shredded cheddar, a jar of salsa, some sliced black olives, sour cream, and ground beef. Today, we tend to incorporate more vegetables into dinnertime, and we bake our tortilla bowls rather than frying them. You are likely to find sliced avocado, sautéed poblano peppers, homemade salsa, cilantro leaves, and our cumin-spiced Mushroom Meat as a healthier alternative to the ground beef. 

The best part about this recipe is that it's infinitely customizable. When I was a kid, we would set everything out buffet-style. Everyone would grab a tortilla bowl, fill it with lettuce, and head on down the line adding whatever they liked and leaving off anything they didn't want. So feel free to throw in some black beans, quinoa, queso fresco, Greek yogurt, or pickled jalapeños. It's your taco salad…make it how you want it!

Taco Salad with Cumin-Spiced Mushroom Meat

Cumin-Spiced Mushroom Meat (recipe follows)

4 large whole-wheat tortillas
1 tablespoon olive oil
Honey-Lime Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
6 cups chopped romaine
2 sliced avocado, 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, 1 1/2 cups of your favorite salsa, cilantro leaves, hot sauce, and 2 sautéed sliced poblano peppers (to garnish)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Make Cumin-Spiced Mushroom Meat according to the recipe and set aside. Brush the tortillas with the olive oil and drape them over a medium-sized heat-proof bowl. Place the bowls on a large baking sheet and place into the oven for 10-15 minutes or until the shell is golden and crispy. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Make the Honey Lime Vinaigrette according to the recipe. Toss the romaine with the dressing and assemble the salads. Divide the dressed romaine among the bowls and top with 3/4 cup mushroom meat. Garnish with avocado, cheese, salsa, cilantro, hot sauce, poblano peppers, and anything else you see fit. (Makes 4 servings.)

3 cups finely chopped portobello mushroom (about 3 medium)
3 cups finely chopped eggplant (peeled, about 1 medium)
2 cups finely chopped white onion (about 1 medium)
2 bouillon cubes (like Not-Beef)
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon ancho chili powder
1/2 teaspoon chipotle pepper powder

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Add roughly-chopped mushrooms one at a time, stems and all, to your food processor and pulse 3 times or until finely chopped -- you do not want to turn the vegetables into a fine paste; the pieces should be about the size of a black-eyed pea. Place processed mushrooms onto a large, parchment-lined, 17 x 12 inch rimmed baking sheet. Pulse the roughly chopped eggplant in the food processor in the same manner. Place eggplant onto the sheet pan beside the mushrooms. Repeat this process with the onion. 

Crumble the bouillon cubes into the pile of processed vegetables. Drizzle the mound of mushrooms, eggplant, and onion with the olive oil and vinegar. Using your hands, toss it all together. Spread the mixture evenly over the sheet pan. Sprinkle the mixture with garlic powder, black pepper, cumin, ancho chili powder, chipotle pepper powder. Bake it for a total of 20 minutes. Remove the mixture and allow it to cool in the pan. (Makes 4 cups.) 

(Some eggplants will contain more water than others. If there is excess moisture in the bottom of the pan, drain it off using a colander. Reserve the liquid -- since it’s very flavorful -- to add to soups or stews.)

Honey-Lime Vinaigrette

juice of 2 lime (about 1/4 cup)

zest of 1 (organic) lime
2 tablespoons local honey
1/4 cup olive oil
scant 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper (to taste)

Place the lime juice, zest, honey, olive oil, cayenne, salt, and pepper in a small jar with a lid and shake it until the dressing emulsifies. Set aside until ready to use.  (Makes 1/2 cup.)


Bianca said...

YUM! I love taco salad bowls! I'll have to try y'all's mushroom meat sometime! I have to go by Whole Foods this weekend, but I may be at another event at the time y'all are there.... :_(

meryl said...

Your mushroom meat sounds amazing and I can't wait to try it. I'm not a fan of using bullion cubes. Do you think I can use a combination of spices in place of the cube?

The Chubby Vegetarian said...

We are not a fan of cubes for making broth, but to add a punch of flavor to a dry dish they can't me beat. Give it a shot!

Brooke Primomo said...

Maybe I'm missing it but how much cumin?

The Chubby Vegetarian said...

BP, that is pretty hilarious! Thanks for catching it. We added it above: 1 1/2 tsp.