Here’s the rub: Chipotle Cauliflower Tacos

Here’s to another Tuesday, and another taco. I’m choosing tacos as a focus for the summer because with less effort you can still have a tasty, fun, and fresh meal literally in your hot little hands in under 45 minutes, and probably in a lot less with some shortcuts of store bought salsa or toppings borrowed from the salad bar at Whole Foods or wherever. Tacos are also a great way to feature the peak produce, either locally grown and in season or exciting tropical fruits and vegetables.

The focus of today’s taco is a smoky rub, made from pre-ground pantry spices, that can be applied to roasted or grilled things to fill up tacos. In this instance cauliflower gets the rub-down; this aromatic blend adheres wonderfully to mild cauliflower (and a big sweet locally grown carrot), and when roasted to perfection is both toothsome and surprisingly hearty for an all-veggie taco filling. The toppings are what I have on hand, in this instance a ripe mango and and some scallions that had to be used ASAP…but I’ll confese making a run to the store to find a perfectly ripe avocado, because some corners can’t be cut.

I love this rub and will likely feature it on upcoming Taco Tuesdays, so if you do find yourself with extra rub I’ll find a good and proper use for you very soon! Or you could use it right now to rim the glass of a spicy margarita, made with a little mezcale, please.

 

Cauliflower Chipotle Tacos with Mango Lime Salsa

Makes about 6 tacos

I had some parsley to use, so into the salsa it went too!

Chipotle rub

1 tablespoon chipotle chile powder

1 tablespoon sweet or hot paprika

1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon smoked salt or sea salt

 

Mango Lime Salsa

1 mango, diced into 1/2 inch cubes

1/2 cup finely diced red onion

Handful finely chopped fresh cilantro or parsley

1 scallion, root ends trimmed and thinly sliced

1 jalapeño chile, seeded and minced (optional)

2 tablespoons lime juice

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

Sea salt to taste

 

Chipotle Cauliflower Tacos

1 head cauliflower

1 large carrot

Olive oil or olive oil cooking spray

Corn or wheat flour tortillas

Sliced avocado or guacamole

1. In a small cup combine together the rub ingredients. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Slice the cauliflower into quarters, slice away and discard the thick inner stems and leaves. Slice the cauliflower into bite-sized pieces about 1/2 inch thick. Peel and slice the carrot into strips about 1/4 inch thick. Pour the vegetables into a bowl, sprinkle on the rub and gently toss the veggies until coated with the rubbing spices.

2. Drizzle or spray the baking sheet with olive oil, then into a single layer spread the vegetables. Drizzle or spray veggies with oil, pop into the oven and roast for 18 minutes. Remove from oven, gently stir the vegetables and roast another 5 minutes or until tender and golden brown. While the vegetables are roasting, combine all of the salsa ingredients in a bowl.

3. To serve, heat the tortillas until soft, pile with veggies and top with mango salsa and avocado/guacamole. Stop reading this and eat some tacos already!

Strawberry Chipotle Sausage-Kale Tacos

It’s hard to believe, but sometimes you can have too much kale.

This past father’s day, visiting my in-laws for their traditional gathering and grilling, I prepared myself with the usual last-minute vegan BBQ supplies: a sack of veggie burgers and sausages for the grill (I woke up only an hour before that, so no handmade burgers this day) and a dashed together kale salad. They’ll supply the beer and the mustard, but beyond that it’s not unlike the BBQs of my teen years and many more after that; BYOVE (bring-your-own-vegan-eats). No big deal. And more kale for me.

Little did I know a seismic eating shift had happened since last time I visited. Due to cholesterol issues and various dietary events, the family BBQ spread was overwhelming, almost entirely vegan. Veggie kebabs, vegan yemista (Greek-style roasted veggies stuffed with rice), and no less than 3 kale dishes, including piles of crispy grilled kale dominated the table.

So what does this have to do with the excellent kale and strawberry salsa tacos above? Well, the end result is that there was left over kale. I’m a vacuum for the green stuff, but even I couldn’t conquered it all and I came home with nearly a quart of leftover salad.

These tacos sprung from the holiday leftovers in need of some TLC, plus a pint of delicate in-season local strawberries that needed eating NOW. You can of course use the fresh strawberry chipotle salsa on anything, but combination of the spicy veggie sausage (Field Roast in this instance, but homemade would fly just as fine) and juicy marinated kale is both refreshing and hearty.

The taco assembly is simple: sauté bite-sized bits of veggie sausage with fresh garlic and a little olive oil, and when crisp and browned transfer to a dish. Top warm tortillas with kale salad, sausage, and spoon on the salsa. For additional bulk I also sautéed a few handfuls of shredded collard greens with garlic, oil, and a dash of salt, then tossed them with the salad right before serving.

The magic of these tacos is in the fresh strawberry chipotle salsa; fruit and smoky chipotle pepper (either easy chipotle powder or saucy and delicious canned chipotles in adobo sauce) is a favorite combination and you’ll often see variations on this on my table. Make and eat this bright, smoky salsa as soon as possible; it doesn’t really keep well, and like peak season berries it’s best enjoyed in the moment.

 

Strawberry Chipotle Salsa

Makes about 2 cups of salsa

2 1/2 cups cleaned, hulled strawberries

2 tablespoons lime juice

1/2 cup finely diced red onion

1/2 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper or 1 chipotle in adobo sauce, finely chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

 

Dice the strawberries into 1/2 inch thick pieces. Gently toss with remaining ingredients. Serve immediately and eat up within a day of making.