Food Friday : Vegetarian Chili Tacos

Lately, Nick has added a new meal to his repertoire, which he has now perfected after several tries throughout the past few months. These are soft-shell vegetarian chili tacos. His inspiration came from a delicious meal we had this summer at Milagro, a new-to-us Mexican Cantina. He liked the idea of buying fresh corn tortillas and forming them into taco shells. And since we don’t eat much meat and always have a pot of vegetarian chili on the go, he fills them with chili and an assortment of toppings, that varies every time he serves them.

First you make a vegetarian chili: Chop a small onion, one or two cloves of garlic, about an inch of fresh ginger, a fresh jalapeno pepper (if you like it spicy). Saute in about 2 teaspoons of olive oil. Add either 3 cups of chopped fresh tomatoes or 1 can of chopped stewed tomatoes including the juices. Add 1 teaspoon each of cumin (if your family likes this flavour), dried oregano, and chili powder. Simmer until liquid is reduced (for about 1/2 hour), stirring occasionally. Then add your preferred amount and type(s) of bean, either ones you’ve cooked yourself by boiling dried beans, or canned, drained and rinsed. Some suggestions are kidney beans, black beans, chick peas. Heat through and continue cooking if the mixture requires further reducing. (Chili may be served as is, over rice, or keep going for tacos.)

You’ll want your mixture pretty thick for tacos, otherwise you have a real mess on your hands when eating them! Keep in mind that these are pretty messy regardless, but a thicker chili makes them less so.

For the shells: We found fresh corn tortillas at a shop specializing in Mexican ingredients in Kensington Market but I’m sure they’re available at most grocery stores. Then, through trial and error, he achieved the perfect level of soft versus crispiness by quickly frying each side in a hot oiled pan. This will soften them so they will bend into the taco shape, which is achieved by immediately hanging them over two spokes (or whatever they’re called!) on a rack to form the desired shape. Then pop the whole rack (fitted over a pan as pictured) into the oven at 275 degrees for 10 minutes. They should be slightly crispy but still pliable and soft. (Note: they won’t be crispy like chips or the prepared shells in Taco kits.)

To serve: Spoon the chili into prepared shells and add a bit of grated cheese. Pop them back into the oven to melt cheese. Them put them on a platter with a variety of toppings and some sour cream, and let your family dress their taco as they please. Toppings can include chopped olives, sweet or hot pepper slices, lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, shredded cabbage (it’s good!), green onions. And some might like a dash of hot sauce over-top.

Hope you try this tasty recipe!