Every once in a great while, I have the time, energy, and foresight to make a whole, interesting meal. I’m calling this a taco salad, but is that a stretch? There’s a protein, salsa, and a tortilla involved, so I feel pretty OK with it.
You’re looking at bringing three little projects together for this meal, and they can be done in stages, so don’t freak out: the tortilla bowl, the tofu bits, and the pineapple salsa. Other than that, it’s just greens and cut-up avocado. I was so happy with how the flavors worked together in this, and I’m a sucker for the fun factor of a tortilla bowl. I haven’t had one of these babies since I was wee (and since I just had my friggin’ 40th birthday this past weekend, that means it’s been a looooong time.) So let’s break it down.
Pineapple salsa: Like any salsa, just put together flavors you like! This was my first sweet-n-spicy salsa experiment, and I’m sold. If you can let it sit overnight, the flavors come together and that pepper mellows a tad. Here’s what I used, but seriously, own your salsa.
• half a fresh pineapple (probably a tightly packed cup)
• half a medium red onion, diced
• one full habanero pepper, minced
• one handful (½ cup) chopped cilantro—or use parsley or scallions if you hate cilantro more than Hitler
• juice from a lime
• pinch o’ salt
Tortilla bowl: Really, is it this easy? When I was a kid, I remember buying a box containing a tortilla bowl kit. It had some sort of special tortillas and paper fold-em-up bowl forms. Turns out, the special tortillas were probably just coated with a little oil, because that’s all you need to do. Just rub a little canola oil over both sides of your tortilla (the big kind, of course), and lay it over an upside-down oven-safe bowl (or place it in a metal strainer with some spoons inside to hold it against the strainer, because you don’t have any oven-safe bowls). Place your forms on a cookie sheet or foil or something, just in case some of that oil drips—which it probably will, even if you used just a little bit like you’re supposed to. After around 10 minutes in a 375º oven, you got yourself a bowl. Huzzah! It’ll last a while before getting soggy or stale or sad, so if you need to do them in batches—or one at a time, even—not a huge deal.
Tofu bits: I started with pressed firm tofu. Some folks, including myself, prefer tofu that’s been frozen and thawed, for that neato texture, but I didn’t have time and just pressed it. The breading I use is a cornmeal Cajun fish-fry off-the-shelfer. I like the heat in it and the texture. Note: If you’re looking at fish-fry mixtures, keep your eyes peeled for milk ingredients! To coat, I just dunk the tofu pieces (fingers, cubes) in soymilk thickened with apple cider vinegar, then the Cajun breading. Depending on how thick your milk and breading are, you might want to do a second round of both—if you do, you need to be a lot more delicate, so as to not scrape off your first layer. Then just pan-fry in about ¼ inch of canola or peanut oil. Boom: spicy, crunchy, corny tofu bits!
While we’re talking about tacos (which I could do all day, every day), if you’re in Portland, Vegan Iron Chef is putting on a taco party: The Pop Up! Taco Shop! next Sunday, July 21. Advance tickets are sold out, but they’ll have a few at the door, and they’re still looking for some volunteers and competing chefs. Got what it takes?