The time – mid-1980′s. The place – Camp Nor’wester, Lopez Island, WA. The meal – tacos.
Dinner was always family style at our camp and on taco night, each table of eight got a bowl with ground beef in it, slightly-stale taco shells, and a platter filled with cheese, tomatoes, and lettuce. Maybe there was a sour cream – I don’t remember because I’ve never been a big sour cream person. Taco night was big at camp because the food was so filling – just what we needed after a long day of being outside in the sunshine. I will never forget that sensation of having taco meat grease run down my chin and the disappointment I would feel when the kitchen ran out of taco fixings. No matter how much they made, there was never enough. Somehow however, there were an almost infinite number of taco shells and we would try and content ourselves by licking them and then sprinkling them with salt to eat as chips.
I’ve always loved the idea of a soft corn tortilla filled with grilled vegetables and cheese. It seems like precisely the time that I get a craving for them is on a dark and stormy winter night and it just feels all wrong to eat something summery. Of course, I could fill a soft taco with lots of things but for my first go around, grilled vegetables sounded right.
I turned to Annie Sommerville’s Fields of Greens and a recipe I have looked at longingly on many a winter night. As with many of the recipes in this book, she kind of overcomplicates something that is actually quite simple. So I have streamlined in the recipe that you see below. The good news about these tacos is that a) they are delicious, b) you can make a lot of tacos, c) the filling keeps really well for a couple of days so you can make them again if you have leftovers, and d) both my boys devoured them. When I made them using the leftovers, I also threw in some refried beans for the boys. Graham ( 5½ )ate two whole ones and Spencer (3) finished his, albeit having picked out every last vegetable.
Grilled Summer Vegetable Soft Tacos
Inspired by Fields of Greens
The diced potato in here does give the dish more body but it’s also an extra step and more dishes to wash. You can omit it if you like. Substitute cotija cheese for the Cheddar if you prefer.
1 jalapeño chile, sliced in half and de-seeded
1 red bell pepper, cut lengthwise into thick strips
1 yellow pepper, cut lengthwise into thick strips
1 red onion, peeled and cut into ½-inch thick rings
1 zucchini, cut in half lengthwise and scored
1 yellow summer squash, cut in half lengthwise and scored
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 chipotle pepper, minced, plus 2 tsp. of the sauce
1 medium Yukon Gold potato, cut into ½-inch cubes
¼ cup water
¼ cup chopped cilantro
12 thick corn tortillas
About 1½ cups grated Cheddar cheese
Prepare the grill.
Place the onions, peppers, and squashes on a large sheet pan. Drizzle with olive oil and liberally sprinke with salt and pepper. Place the vegetables on the grill and cook, turning as needed, until completely tender. Remove from the grill and set aside.
Heat a bit of olive oil in a medium-size skillet and add the potatoes. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Lightly brown the potatoes over medium-high heat, using a spatula to loosen them as needed. Add the water, cover the pan, lower the heat, and simmer until completely tender, about 5 minutes. Tranfer to a medium size bowl.
Peel and seed the jalapeño. Finely chop and add to the potatoes. Chop the rest of the grilled vegetables into ½-inch pieces and add to the potatoes along with the chipotle and sauce. Stir in the cilantro. Taste for seasoning and add more chipotle sauce if it is not spicy enough for you.
Heat a little oil in a skillet and add a tortilla. When it is soft and heated through, flip it over and heat the other side. Sprinkle a bit of cheese over and spread about 1/3 cup filling across the center. Fold the tortilla in half and keep them warm in a low oven while you repeat with the rest of the tortillas. Serve with salsa, guacamole and sour cream if desired.