Thursday, June 25, 2015

Recipe: Mushroom Street Tacos


I've been trying to get my mom up here to visit for over a year and a half, and last weekend we were finally able to make it happen. Despite my exceedingly uncomfortable "couch", it was fun to show her all the progress I've made on my apartment (I may have 5 days left to come up with something for this month's rent, but I'm nesting, I tell you! I refuse to be defeated!). Being the supermom that she is, she came armed with extra supplies that she knew I didn't have (it's hard to start a business without any capital for supplies, lol) and the energy to jump right in and help me with a few of my shop orders.

Normally, I have no problem whipping up breakfast, lunch and dinner for my lovely guest and I, since mom's my most willing guinea pig. But since her surgery nearly three years ago, and all the new tummy issues that came along with it, it's been... an adventure (to put it nicely) to figure out what we can both have. I may be a bit more sensitive than most about this, but it really bugs me when I'm ready to enjoy a delicious meal and my dining buddy has to sit and watch for one reason or another. I'd rather make something totally opposite of what I'd hoped to have for myself, so we can at least enjoy the meal together.

Anywho, I was fine for the first couple of meals, but by the time Day 3's lunch came around, I was stumped. I've always had mad respect for those who have to deal with medically necessary dietary restrictions (or those of their family members), because it really does make meal planning a challenge. But now that this sort of thing has taken away my favorite dining buddy (I swear, she can have like 10 things at this point), I'm left near tears. I mean, I could make us separate meals, but A) that means using up extra ingredients that I might have saved for other dishes, therefore costing extra money at a time I  can't afford to waste even the smallest scrap; and B) where's the fun in that? I like to see that eye roll when the person I'm feeding takes her first bite of goodness. I'm sure I could make that happen with an alterna-meal, but I like seeing it happen while I take my own first bite. (Yes, I'm weird. But you knew this.)

After declaring my extreme displeasure with her gastrointestinal tract, I left my mom to do her thing in the living room while I got to work in the kitchen. My original plan was some sort of sexy shrimp quesadilla variation that wouldn't be too spicy for her, but that plan had to be scrapped. I still wanted to stick with the Mexican food theme, so I did some ingredient shifting, soul searching and a little bit of chopping, and eventually came up with this lovely little meal.

Now, this doesn't follow any sort of authentic spice mixture for the mushrooms - the goal here isn't to try making faux carne asada or anything. These tacos aren't pretending to be anything other than mushroom tacos. What makes this dish special is the different toppings that go along with it: basically, everything you'd find available at your favorite local street taco vendor (or truck). Of course, the mushrooms are well seasoned, lest you become bored with bland shrooms. But for the most part, it's the chopped fresh onion and cilantro, the wedges of key lime, heck, even the baby corn tortillas that make this feel like you're hangin' at some Off the Grid round up, or a kickass taco stand in LA.

I may sound like a broken record, but this is yet another way to make use of any vegetable scraps in your fridge - particularly the onion and herb kind. I know there are some who are (unfortunately) genetically predisposed to think cilantro tastes like soap, but if you're not a cilantro-phobe, this is something to consider when you're not quite sure what to do with those last few pieces in the bunch. Same thing goes for the chopped yellow onion, and the mushrooms too, actually. All those little bits and pieces can be a bit vexing when you don't have a plan for them, but with the new reports of the staggering amount of food waste in this country, it's essential to think outside the box and use everything you can. Chopped salads are a big one for me, but making soup, pestos and other sauces, or a big ol' frittata are all wonderful ways to make the most of your veggie leftovers.

And tacos. Don't forget tacos.

To keep the "street" feel for these, I highly recommend sticking to the tiny corn tortillas you'll find way at the bottom of your grocery store's tortilla aisle (beneath all the flour and gimmicky ones). Keep them soft rather than crunchy, but a crunchy tortilla won't be the end of the world. Just make sure you have those toppings handy: chopped cilantro, chopped onion, avocado slices (if you have 'em), lime wedges (preferably Key lime), and even some cotija cheese... all of these will turn these basic little tacos into something sensational.
And my mom's verdict? She handed me an empty plate and asked where she could get more. Guess I did something right! : )


Mushroom Street Tacos (makes two 3 taco servings; average cost per serving: $2.00)

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups chopped mushrooms (bite size, but not so small that they'll be invisible in your tacos)
1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
1 T cooking oil
Pinch each of: salt, cumin, cayenne pepper and paprika
6 small corn tortillas
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 cup chopped white or yellow onion
Avocado slices
Key lime wedges (one lime will yield about 6 wedges)
Cotija cheese or other queso fresco (optional)
Your favorite salsa roja or salsa verde (optional)

Directions:
1. In a medium fry pan or skillet, heat the oil. Add the onion and allow to cook until just translucent and fragrant. Next, add the mushrooms and seasonings. Mix well and cook until the mushrooms are tender and have released some of their juices to create a small amount of "sauce". Check for flavor and adjust according to taste with more salt or cayenne (if you like a little kick).

2. Heat the tortillas in a separate skillet over very low heat (about 2-3 minutes tops). You want them to be warm and soft, not crispy. Put on plates and prepare to assemble your tacos.

3. Spoon equal amounts of the onion and mushroom mixture onto each tortilla. Top with the fresh cilantro and onion, and sprinkle with cotija cheese. Serve with avocado slices and lime wedges, along with your favorite hot sauce on the side, and enjoy!

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