As good, competitive vegetarian tacos go, options are pretty limited: there's beans, and then...there's beans. I love a bean taco, but I can only eat so many. And as a meat eater, I'm not going to fall for a tofu taco. Granted, it may be pretty tasty—but why eat a vegetarian dish full of proteins that are designed, in this case, to mimic meat? So as I was flipping through the book that I often turn to first when I'm jonesing for some Mexican—Rick Bayless's Mexican Everyday—this recipe stood out. I'm always looking for new ways to prepare the countless bundles of winter greens that end up in my grocery cart every week—collard, kale, all colors of chard. The fact that this was a brilliant new idea for a meatless taco was even more incentive.
It's also not a modern twist—hearty greens in a corn tortilla is a traditional preparation in Toluca in the highlands of central Mexico. Who knew? Bayless's recipe calls for some sliced onions first, which go into a big skillet to soften and caramelize, followed by garlic, a dash of chili flakes, and the greens. In the meantime I steamed the corn tortillas and made up a small batch of salsa with a handful of cherry tomatoes (the most flavorful tomato option this time of year) blistered in a dry skillet, then pureed in a food processor with a chipotle chili in adobo from the freezer (a good place to keep them, as I never use a whole can). The resulting taco was delicious—earthy and rich because of the greens, sweet from the caramelized onions, smoky from the chipotle. Crumbled queso fresco gave it all a salty twang.
- 1 12 ounce bunch Swiss chard, washed (or collard greens, kale, etc.)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 large white or red onion, sliced 1/4 inch thick
- 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/2 cup chicken or vegetable broth, or water
- 12 corn tortillas, warmed with a bit of water in a kitchen towel in the microwave
- 1 cup crumbled queso fresco (or feta, or goat cheese)
- A large handful (6-10) cherry tomatoes
- 1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce
- (Alternatively, a store-bought salsa or hot sauce will work)
Heat the oil in a large (12 inch) skillet over medium high, add the onion and cook until golden but still a bit crunchy, 4-5 minutes.
Meanwhile, slice the greens crosswise into 1/2 inch slices.
Add the garlic and chili flakes to the onion and cook for an additional minute, then add the broth or water, a large pinch of salt, and the greens. Reduce heat to low and braise, covered, for about 5 minutes or until the greens are nearing tender, but not quite finished.
Meanwhile, put the cherry tomatoes into a dry skillet over medium-high heat until blistered, transfer to a small food processor with the chipotle pepper and a large pinch of salt, and blend until smooth.
Remove the cover from the greens and cook off the moisture until it is nearly dry. Season with salt if necessary. Fill each taco—two tortillas thick—with a tongful of the greens, a spoonful of salsa, and the queso fresco.