Soft Tacos

July 28, 2010

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’m not sure how this is possible but I have not had a taco since then.  I’ve had plenty of enchiladas and quesadillas.  I’ve probably eaten my weight several times over in guacamole.  But no tacos.

Until now!

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
Serves 6-8

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
Olive oil
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.


  1. Taco night was definitely a favorite in my house. My mom would saute some beef, grate some cheddar, and slice some olives. And then we would go to town. I really like your grilled veggie filling infinitely more than any of those options. I will definitely be giving this a try!

    Comment by Joanne — July 28, 2010 @ 5:50 pm

  2. We had burrito night growing up. My favourite part was adding a big glob of guacamole! These tacos look really good – I love all the veggies in there.

    Comment by Ashley — July 28, 2010 @ 8:05 pm

  3. These look awesome. I love taco’s, and have been favoring really light ones recently, what with the heat and all that. These would fit the bill perfectly.

    Comment by matt — July 28, 2010 @ 9:16 pm

  4. YUM! I bet these would be great for breakfast too, with a little egg tossed in for good measure.The potato got me thinking that!

    Comment by tracy — July 28, 2010 @ 9:47 pm

  5. What?! It’s high time it was taco time, then. We sometimes make them at home (and these look delicious), but there are so many amazing taco trucks around (including one 2 blocks from my house) that I find myself eating them out a lot.

    Comment by The Leftoverist — July 29, 2010 @ 5:53 am

  6. Just came across your blog and love it. I am also a Seattle food blogger and always nice to read about other folks in the area. Also happy belated birthday!

    Comment by Delishhh — July 29, 2010 @ 9:30 pm

  7. I’ve made fish tacos and lamb tacos but never veg tacos. I must be crazy because these look delicious!! I agree with Tracy about the egg and breakfast. Sounds perfect and I just might make these for a late lunch.

    Comment by kickpleat — July 29, 2010 @ 10:18 pm

  8. My husband eats not unlike a 5-year-old, and tacos (or burritos or quesadillas) are one of the ways I get him to eat vegetables. My newest trick is grating the zucchini before sauteing it. For some reason the changed texture doesn’t bother him as much as chunks of zucchini. We’ve also had pumpkin tacos in the fall!

    Comment by Stacy (Little Blue Hen) — August 2, 2010 @ 2:41 pm

  9. […] tacos (as a hot sauce conveyance more than anything, I think), so I was thrilled to discover this grilled veggie taco recipe from Dana Treat. I was pretty loosey-goosey with it, though – I just grilled the veggies […]

    Pingback by SSS day 5 and Monday Menu « no time to sew — September 6, 2011 @ 7:33 am

  10. I go to camp nor’ wester! But now it’s on Johns Island. And yes, there is sour cream :)

    Comment by Emily — August 27, 2012 @ 3:16 pm

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