This taco, featured in Sara Deseran and Joe Hargrave's new cookbook of recipes from their San Francisco restaurants, Tacolicious, only goes to show how versatile and inspiring a waiting tortilla can be. Sure, you could fill it with braised pork or charred chicken, but it can be equally good piled with well-seasoned veggies. It seems the trick is to be thoughtful about the flavors, of course, and also the textures. There's only a few bites to a taco, and you get all the components in each one, so you don't want a messy jumble. What you do want is sweet squash and kale, creamy, tangy cashew crema, and toasty, spicy pumpkin seeds, each element distinct but harmonious. It's a vegan taco, but only incidentally.
Why I picked this recipe: It seemed so California, and a nice respite from all the meaty fillings in the book.
What worked: I loved the interplay of flavors and textures, and appreciated how healthful and nourishing it was.
What didn't: The instructions read to cook the squash a minute beyond the point of when it begins to soften. This left too much crunch for my taste. I understand they don't want it mushy—a little firmness should remain—but it just felt a tad undercooked. I also found the crema to be aggressively tangy.
Suggested tweaks: I would cook the squash until it is just soft throughout, then proceed with the recipe. I'd also dial back the lime juice in the crema to 1/4 cup, and add more to taste. And just to note: the recipe calls for chile powder, which is referring to ground dried chilies, not the seasoning mix labeled chili powder.
Reprinted with permission from Tacolicious, by Sara Deseran and Joe Hargrave, copyright © 2014, published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Random House LLC.
- Yield:Makes about 12 tacos; serves 4 to 6
- Active time: 45 minutes
- Total time:1 hour 20 minutes
- Cashew Crema
- 2/3 cup raw cashews
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 6 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice (from about 3 limes)
- 1/4 cup water
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- Pumpkin Seeds
- 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
- 1/3 cup raw hulled pumpkin seeds
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 3/4 cup finely chopped yellow onion
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 3 cups 1/2-inch-diced butternut squash
- 1 teaspoon chile powder
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 4 cups finely chopped kale
- Corn tortillas, warmed, for serving
- Chopped white onion, chopped fresh cilantro, and salsa of choice, for serving (optional)
To make the crema, soak the raw cashews in room-temperature water to cover for at least 1 hour. Drain and reserve.
Toast the cumin in a small, dry, heavy skillet over medium heat for about
1 minute, until fragrant. Transfer to a spice grinder, let cool, and grind finely.
In a blender, combine the cashews, cumin, lime juice, water, and salt. Start the blender on the lowest speed and gradually increase to the highest speed.
Blend for at least 1 minute, until a creamy consistency. Pour into a serving bowl and set aside.
To make the pumpkin seeds, heat the oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the pumpkin seeds and sauté for about 2 minutes, taking care that they do not burn. The seeds will begin to puff up and pop. Once they appear toasted, immediately pour them into a bowl. Toss with the cayenne and salt and set aside.
To make the filling, heat the oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for about 3 minutes, until softened. Add the garlic and sauté for about 1 minute more. Add the squash and sauté for 6 to 7 minutes, just until the squash begins to soften. Season with the chile powder and salt.
Add the kale and cook, stirring, for about 1 minute, until it begins to wilt.
Remove from the heat, taste, and adjust the seasoning with salt if needed.
Serve with the tortillas, crema, pumpkin seeds, onion, cilantro, and salsa. To assemble each taco, invite guests to spoon about 1/2 cup of the warm filling into a tortilla and top with some crema and pumpkin seeds. If guests want more toppings, they can finish off their tacos with onion, cilantro, and salsa.