These tacos defied all my attempts at food styling. I thought I’d gotten better at shooting food since the early blog days of dreary lighting and blurred images, but as the sun set on the windowsill where I take photos for BGSK, I could not pull off a single half-decent image of the tacos I’d just admiringly created out of the finest heirloom beans, artisan cornmeal, and organic multicolored peppers.
It didn’t help that the assemblage of all those ingredients was ridiculously messy. Piles of sautéed farmers’ market peppers in red, green, white, and purple slipped around beneath scoops of neutral-colored beans from Rancho Gordo and schmears of herbed avocado threatening to turn brown before we got a chance to eat, let alone photograph. Did it help the composition that my vegan tacos were wrapped up in yellow-ish-brown corn tortillas? Nope.
I climbed up on the Ikea stepstool and balanced one foot on the garbage can, like I often do. I upped my ISO, opened my lens all the way.
My arms shook. My images blurred. Finally, I called in the big guns. Alex has steady arms, and he pulled off a shot. Only then could we eat.
What a difference twenty minutes makes! In twenty minutes, you can go from pulling off a crisp shot of your sliced peppers to not being able to capture an image of tacos without the beans blurring into a muddled ochre mess.
Now I realize that these are not your woes. But hidden inside this sob story of photographic failure is the fact that these tacos take twenty minutes start to finish.
Yes, in the same third of an hour that it took the sun to melt below the Brooklyn brownstones, I sliced and sautéed peppers with shallots, seasoned pinto beans, blended avocado with garlic and herbs, and toasted corn tortillas in my cast iron skillet. That’s all that these vegetarian tacos require.
In spite of my taunt at tacos, I love how flexible and healthful they can be. Especially these, which are gently spiced, relying on the freshest ingredients instead of an overload of spices, on oils and avocado for richness instead of cheese and sour cream.
Which makes sense, as this is another Summer Fest recipe, a recipe meant to celebrate summer’s produce. Here’s last week’s post about tomatoes, and one about plums. When you scroll down to the bottom of this post, you’ll see lots more pepper recipes from the other food bloggers taking part in Summer Fest.
Vegan Seared Pepper Tacos with Pintos and Avocado Crema
Makes 6 tacos
I used Rancho Gordo Goat’s Eye Beans, cooked up from scratch, which takes about thirty-five minutes if they’ve soaked all day. The beans have amazing flavor and texture all on their own, so I just added some onion, garlic, salt, and hot pepper. If you’re opening a can of beans, you may need to add a bit more flavor with the optional spices. But if you can pull off cooking up Rancho Gordos from scratch, by all means do!
These are vegan. They’re also gluten-free so long as you use corn tortillas.
For the beans:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 dried hot pepper
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon cumin, coriander, chili powder, or a mix (optional)
about 2 cups cooked pinto or pinto-type beans with their liquid, or one 14-ounce can
salt as needed
For the avocado crema:
1/2 cup cilantro
1 small clove garlic, smashed
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 avocado, pitted and peeled
juice of 1 lime
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon olive oil
slightly larger pinch coriander
For the peppers:
2 tablespoons olive or safflower oil
3-4 peppers of various colors, trimmed and sliced thin (about 4 1/2 cups or so)
2 shallots, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon coriander
For the tacos:
6 corn tortillas (I used Hot Bread Kitchen‘s – they’re delicious)
Cilantro for garnish
In a large saucepan over medium heat, heat the oil for the beans. Add the onions and the hot pepper, and cook, stirring, until very soft, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and spices if using. Cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the beans with their liquid and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 5-10 minutes, so the beans absorb the flavor. You don’t want them to become too soft though. Salt as needed – go slow, as canned beans may have been salted. Remove the hot pepper and keep warm while you make everything else.
Make the avocado sauce: combine the garlic, cilantro, and salt in a mini food processor. Pulse to break up the herbs. Add the remaining ingredients and pulse until very smooth. Taste for salt, adding more if needed.
Heat a cast-iron skillet, large frying pan, or wok over high heat for about 5 minutes. Add the oil and swirl it around – it should ripple almost immediately. Add the peppers and shallots and stir and fry, making sure to expose all the veggies to the heat. Add the salt, chili powder, and coriander, and continue cooking until the shallots are soft and the peppers have wilted but not gotten completely soft, about 4 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Toast the corn tortillas in the same pan, wiped out, or right over the burner. You can also heat them in the microwave, wrapped in a damp towel.
To assemble, spread one side of each tortilla with the avocado crema. Pile on about 1/3 cup of the cooked peppers, topped by 1/4 cup of the beans, leaving any liquid in the pan. Top with dollops of the avocado crema and some cilantro leaves.
I’ve teamed up with Food Network and a host of other great bloggers to bring you Summer Fest, a season-long celebration of summer produce. Follow the links below to check out what everyone else has cooked up with their peppers this week!
Jeanette’s Healthy Living: Stuffed Peppers With Quinoa Grilled Vegetables and Pesto Sauce
Cooking With Elise: Roasted Red Pepper Hummus
What’s Gaby Cooking: Oven-Roasted Peppers With Herbed Breadcrumbs
And Love It Too: Roasted Red Pepper Paleo Hummus
Delicious Lean: Peppery Kung Pao
Daily*Dishin: Shrimp and Chorizo With Red Pepper Chermoula Sauce
Napa Farmhouse 1885: Spicy Roasted Red Pepper Dip With Baked Corn Tortillas
Thursday Night Dinner: Black Bean and Sweet Pepper Salad
Cooking Channel: 5 Stuffed Pepper Favorites
HGTV Gardens: Garden to Table: Peppers
Sweet Life Bake: Rajas de Poblano con Elote y Crema
Dishin & Dishes: Bacon, Onion and Green Chile “Jam”
Healthy Eats: Peppers for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
FN Dish: Meat and Peppers