Cauliflower tacos with lentils and quinoa
Part of my modus operandi (MO) in the kitchen is to have various foods already cooked in the fridge that I can pull together to create a flavourful and hopefully fun and nutritious meal. Running a vegetarian kitchen means that I often cook with grains and legumes and almost always have a couple of containers with these items on hand. Last week I went for lunch at the Eldorado Hotel and I had their cauliflower tacos. If I remember correctly they served the tortillas topped with fried (not battered) cauliflower, apple slivers on top and perhaps an avocado sauce on the bottom. I made a mental note to make cauliflower tacos (I have made them before but not in a while) and today got around to doing it. I had cooked quinoa and lentils in the fridge so I was going to incorporate them as a base for the tacos. I also had the Tex Mex spice mixture already made so I could use it to flavour the grains and legumes.
Tacos are wonderful for vegetarians . The shell serves as a container into which you can spoon a wide variety of fillings, from beans to grains to vegetables, and it’s always fun to top it with some shredded crispy lettuce and a spoonful of salsa to bring it all together. If you have heard the expression of “layering flavours” as a culinary term where layers of flavours are built into the dish, tacos allow you to literally build flavours layer by visible layer. You can get pretty creative building a taco.
In Mexico, where we often spend part of the winter, tortillas are used almost like plates. You pile whatever food you are eating on it, fold it in half and hola, taco in hand. Mexican taco masters (“taqueros”) are highly respected and if you get to have a taco prepared by one of them you are in for a treat both visually and flavour-wise. They have the ingredients ready and quickly pick from this pile or that pile and in no time you are handed a beautiful taco full of flavour and topped with some amazing fresh salsa.
You probably want to top the taco with some salsa, a condiment or sauce. These can range from a simple fresh tomato salsa to more complex preparations that involve cooking or roasting. I like a little hot pepper sauce drizzled over and either buy a certain brand or make my own.
For the taco here you can either use corn tortillas that need to be cooked in a little oil in a skillet, or use flour tortillas that do not require cooking (same as for burritos but smaller). If you have access to home made fresh tortillas they would likely be best. In Kelowna’s Farmers Market we have a vendor that sell homemade corn tortillas. I buy a stack or two and keep them in the fridge (not the freezer) where they keep a long time. In Mexico you can get a stack that is several inch tall, still warm from the tortilla press. I have made tortillas myself before but find it easier and just as good to buy them from an authentic source.
8 corn or flour tortilla
Oil for frying if using corn tortillas
The Quinoa and lentils:
1 cup quinoa + 1.5 cups water
1 cup green lentils + 3 cups water
1/2 head of cauliflower
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups shredded romaine lettuce
Hot sauce of your choice or fresh salsa
2 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne, optional
Combine all the ingredients in a small jar and mix well.
Rinse quinoa in cold water, then place in a pot, add 1.5 cups water and bring to a boil. Cook at a steady simmer covered until water is absorbed and quinoa is cooked. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes to allow grains to fluff up.
Rinse the lentils and then soak in cold water for 20 minutes. drain, place in a pot, cover with water by about an inch and bring to a boil. reduce heat to a simmer and cook until lentils are cooked but not mushhy. Drain and set aside.
Cut the cauliflower into florets and toss with a little olive oil. Place on a foil lined baking sheet and roast at 400℉ until golden in spots.
Heat up the oil in a skillet, add the quinoa and lentils and warm it up on low-med heat.
Add about a tablespoon of the spice mix or to taste and stir to distribute.
Cook on low heat until grains are heated through.
If you use corn tortillas you may want to fry them briefly in a little oil in a skillet. Flower tortillas do not need to be cooked but you can heat them up in a dry skillet for a few seconds on each side.
Spoon a little of the grain mixture into the center of each tortilla.
Top with a few pieces of roasted cauliflower.
Add shredded lettuce and spoon some fresh salsa, hot sauce or a condiment of your choice.
Fold and enjoy.