With Cinco de Mayo this week, Mexican recipes have been on my radar. Particularly a tomatillo pineapple salsa in New York Times Cooking from an organic farmer who operates just down the road from us in Stillwater, MN.
The only ingredient I was worried might be hard to find was the padrón or shishito peppers. Not sure what either type looked like, I relied on the signs at the best-stocked grocery store near me. No padrón peppers, but there was a good supply of peppers with a sign that said shishito on the bin. The cashier had trouble finding the code for the habanero pepper so she had to call a manager. The manager then told her the other peppers were anaheims. I said no, the sign said shishito. He then broke the news to me that they were out of shishitos and replaced them with anaheims and hadn’t changed the sign. Disappointed, I said I couldn’t use the anaheims, and asked if they could put them back. Sure, they said.
On my way out the grocery store door, I was trying to figure out where to go for the peppers and the produce guy comes running out with the bag of anaheims saying that for the inconvenience of having the peppers labeled wrong, I could have the peppers I had bagged up, at no cost. He said they would make a suitable substitution for padrón or shishito peppers. Not one to turn down free produce, I accepted the offer and thanked him.
Turns out I couldn’t find the right peppers after checking two other stores, so I decided to go ahead with the salsa using my free anaheims. It’s delicious and I’m not so sure it would be better had I found the right peppers.
To incorporate the salsa into a full meal, I pan-fried some tofu and simmered it in orange juice before adding some of the salsa to make a flavorful “meat” for some vegan tacos that had a lot going on. But all the components came together for the best tofu dish I’ve had in years.
The salsa was the only putzy part of the process, but if you make it a day or two in advance, dinner will come together fast enough for a weeknight. The recipe makes a lot more than you will need for this one meal, so feel free to half it. I’ve also found tomatillo salsa freezes well.
While the tofu is frying/simmering, you can get your taco accompaniments ready, using whatever you prefer or have on hand.
A few days ago I used up some macadamia nuts and cashews lurking in the back of the freezer and made this macadamia nut ricotta and a vegan parmesan cheese from the awesome Minimalist Baker blog. Great vegan substitutes and believe me, you won’t miss the dairy.
I rounded things out with whole wheat flour tortillas and lettuce, radicchio, scallions, tomato and radish. Avocado would be great too. Enjoy! And happy Cinco de Mayo!
Orange Tofu Tacos with Tomatillo Pineapple Salsa
Salsa recipe from Eduardo Rivera, as published in the New York Times
1 pound tomatillos (about 6 medium)
6 Padrón peppers or shishito peppers), stems removed, or 3 anaheims, cut in chunks
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup diced pineapple
1 habanero pepper, stem removed
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon salt, more to taste
1 cup diced onion
½ cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
Juice of 1 lime
Remove the husks from the tomatillos and rinse well. Halve the tomatillos and Padrón or shishito peppers (if using anaheims, cut them in big chunks).
Set a skillet over medium-high heat and add olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the tomatillos, peppers, pineapple, habanero pepper, garlic, oregano and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally until everything starts to char, 6-8 minutes.
Once charred, transfer the contents of the skillet to a blender or food processor and add 1/2 cup water. Blend until almost puréed. Pour mixture into a bowl and chill for 1 hour.
Stir in onion, cilantro and lime juice. Season with salt to taste.
1 pound extra-firm tofu
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup orange juice, fresh squeezed, if possible
Whole wheat flour tortillas or corn tortillas for a gluten-free version
Toppings such as lettuce, radishes, tomato, scallion, vegan or dairy cheese, avocado
Unwrap and place block of tofu on a plate lined with several layers of paper towels. Put more paper towels on top of tofu place a small cutting board on top. Weigh down the cutting board with a large can or books for 20-30 minutes. After tofu has been pressed, blot it dry and cut it into bite-sized cubes.
Heat olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Toss in the tofu and cook for about 10 minutes, turning occasionally for even browning. Reduce heat to medium and add orange juice. Let simmer for several minutes until orange juice has mostly simmered away.
Stir about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of the salsa into the tofu. Let simmer for several minutes until it thickens up a bit.
Warm your tortillas in a damp tea towel in the microwave or, in batches, over low heat in a medium pan.
Place orange tofu mixture on warm tortillas and add toppings of your choice. Makes 3-4 servings.