Seared Pepper Tacos with Pintos and Avocado Crema

Posted by on Wednesday Aug 8th, 2012 | Print

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.

**Recipe**

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.

Ingredients

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
pinch cumin
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.

**Summer Fest**

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

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  • http://twitter.com/JeanettesHealth Jeanette Chen

    I love these veggie tacos. All the components in these tacos sound fantastic – those beans sound fantastic, as does the avocado crema, and the sauteed peppers.

    • http://www.biggirlssmallkitchen.com/ BGSK

      Thanks, Jeanette! They really were delish.

  • http://twitter.com/EclecticUnions Jessie Blum

    Ooh, the pinto bean and avocado crema just sounds delicious.  I’m making enchiladas for dinner, but this has me rethinking my plan.

    • http://www.biggirlssmallkitchen.com/ BGSK

      Oooh or incorporate the flavors into the enchiladas and top with the crema at the end?

      • http://twitter.com/EclecticUnions Jessie Blum

        You are so smart.

  • Elise Johnson

    Am so making this avocado crema, Cara!

    • http://www.biggirlssmallkitchen.com/ BGSK

      I think you’ll love it! Can’t wait to check out your pepper recipe later today.

  • http://www.insalatadisillabe.blogspot.com/ Elisa @ Insalata di Sillabe

    They look delicious and so healthy! Definitely a great idea to substitute the usual – often too spicy- ones we eat! Plus, the fact that they can be made in 20 minutes sounds perfect when you want to spend a little time in the kitchen during summer :)

  • http://twitter.com/Katrinadingle Warm Vanilla Sugar

    That crema looks unreal!

  • http://www.napafarmhouse1885.blogspot.com/ napa farmhouse 1885/diane

    can’t wait to try this recipe…and i think the photos are terrific!

  • http://threemorebites.com/ Tawcan

    The idea of veggie tacos is an interesting one. I usually prefer meat tacos but will give this a shot to see how I like it. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/TerryMontana777 Terry Salah Haddin Charles

    I love Mexican and Spanish food. Check us out http://www.fohmat.com

  • http://www.tunisianpastry.com/ TunisianPastry.com

    Very healthy and delicious recipe! 
    Thanks  for sharing :)

  • http://cookieandkate.com/ Cookie and Kate

    Despite your lighting difficulties, these tacos still look crazy delicious! There is a gourmet cheese shop right down the street from me now (danger!) that sells Rancho Gordo beans. Can’t wait to try some!

    • http://www.biggirlssmallkitchen.com/ BGSK

      You are going to adore Rancho Gordos, lady! Go buy some, and try not to come home with 10 pounds of cheese!

  • Marianne

    Did this yesterday (adding chicken for the bf) and we loved it :) They were colorful and the flavors combined toguether were great! Thank you ^^

    • http://www.biggirlssmallkitchen.com/ BGSK

      So glad you enjoyed!

  • Emily: RainbowDelicious.com

    You seriously have the best recipes, I love every single one I try. These tacos were super easy and really yummy! I’ve been trying to incorporate more beans into my diet and this was the perfect dish, I included this recipe in my most recent meal plan on my blog, thank you!

    • http://www.biggirlssmallkitchen.com/ BGSK

      Emily, you’re so sweet! I’m glad you like this recipe. I’m always trying to eat more beans, too, and this recipe is a painless way.