Vegan Chorizo and Crispy Potato Tacos

Yesterday was National Taco Day. Seems like there are more and more of these “holidays” I’ve never heard of before, Siblings Day, Pet Day, Popcorn Day, etc. Today is National Kale Day. I kind of like them—it’s actually rather fun to have a theme for the day.

I hadn’t really given Taco Day much thought until I remembered I had some Trader Joe’s vegan chorizo in the fridge and some fresh corn tortillas. A quick google of chorizo tacos brought up a number of recipes, but the one that caught my eye had “crispy potatoes” in the title. My potato-loving husband would definitely approve.

I had all the ingredients or suitable substitutes on hand and this all came together quickly for an easy, filling, and delicious weeknight meal. And there were plenty of leftovers for Day After Taco Day lunch. Enjoy!

Vegan Chorizo and Crispy Potato Tacos

Adapted from this Serious Eats recipe

One pound russet or gold potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch dice

Kosher salt

1 tablespoon white vinegar

4 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided (grapeseed works well)

12 ounces fresh vegan chorizo sausage (Trader Joe’s is my favorite)

To serve:
10 warm corn tortillas

Sliced yellow onion

Fresh arugula

Chopped fresh tomato

Homemade or all natural store-bought salsa verde

Lime wedges

Place potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold water by 1 inch. Add vinegar and 2 tablespoons salt. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook until potatoes are just cooked through, about 5 minutes after coming to a boil. Drain potatoes and let rest over sink until mostly dry.

Meanwhile, heat a tablespoon of the oil in a cast-iron skillet over medium heat, add chorizo and break it up with a spatula. Cook until just beginning to crisp. Remove chorizo from pan to a bowl and set aside. Wipe pan clean.

In the same pan, heat 3 tablespoons vegetable oil over medium-high heat until lightly smoking. Add potatoes, shake to distribute around the pan, and cook, tossing and stirring occasionally until very crisp and golden brown on all sides, about 15 minutes.

Add cooked chorizo to pan with potatoes. Toss to combine and season to taste with salt, if needed (mine didn’t need additional salt). Serve chorizo and potato mixture immediately in warm tortillas with onions, tomato, arugula, salsa verde, and a squeeze of lime.


Vegan Sweet Corn Farro Risotto

On a day of spectacular weather at a crowded rooftop brewery space, tables are shared with other beer lovers out of necessity, even if it’s not in your somewhat introverted nature (that’d be me). You discuss beer, but sometimes you unexpectedly discovered other shared interests.

While enjoying a weekend at the cabin recently, we stopped by the Voyageur Brewing Company in Grand Marais for a beer on their upstairs deck that has a stunning view of the harbor (I can’t get enough of their Trailbreaker Belgian Wheat Beer—yum!). Sharing a picnic table, we met a friendly young couple from Minneapolis and their cuter than cute dog Brew (yes, really!). As they enjoyed the vegetarian pho new to the menu (they are vegan), we got to talking about vegetarian and vegan food. I pulled up my blog on the iPhone and showed them a photo of my vegetarian pho and they quickly pulled my blog up on their phones. We also talked football, dogs, hiking spots, the Herbivorous Butcher, and the best Grand Marais restaurants.

Our lives intersected briefly, and we’ll probably never see them again, but they will stay fondly in my memory. While mulling over a new recipe to blog, as a nod to Brew’s vegan mom and dad (got the dog’s name, but not theirs), I decided to try something I’ve never made before, vegan risotto.

The Minimalist Baker’s vegan parmesan has graced dishes from salads to pizza to garlic bread lately in my kitchen, so why not risotto? And with the weather ever so slightly hinting of fall, why not make it a little heartier and use farro instead of rice? Oh, and corn would be delicious in a hanging-on-to-the-last-vestiges-of-summer sort of way. Farro is an ancient grain in the wheat family and contains much more protein, fiber and nutrients than white rice and has a great nutty taste. You can find it in well-stocked grocery stores, co-ops, and online.

The resulting recipe is a riff on two risottos, my Mushroom & Spinach Farro Risotto with Roasted Cauliflower and a corn risotto from Minneapolis’ wonderful Birchwood Café’s cookbook. I copied the cookbook’s pairing suggestions and the resulting dish was as pretty as it was delicious. The risotto is great on its own too. Enjoy!

Vegan Sweet Corn Farro Risotto

1 cup farro, soaked in cool water for 1 hour, then drained

2-3 ears sweet corn, husks and silks removed

5 cups vegetable broth or stock

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or vegan butter

1 medium onion, chopped

1/3 cup dry white wine

1/3 cup vegan parmesan (quick and easy recipe follows; you will have lots leftover for other uses)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

If desired, pair with garden fresh goodies such as tomatoes, melon, green onions, green beans and a drizzle of balsamic reduction and hot chili oil (balsamic reduction and chili oil can be found at Trader Joe’s or you can make your own)

Scrape kernels from cobs and set corn aside. Break cobs in half and place in a medium to large saucepan. Add vegetable broth and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Lower heat so that stock remains at a simmer for about 15-20 minutes. Discard corn cobs—no need to strain the broth.

If making the risotto right away, keep broth simmering. If not, broth can be cooled and refrigerated for several days. Bring back to a simmer before starting risotto.

Heat olive oil or vegan butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook until slightly translucent, 2 or 3 minutes. Add drained farro and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 or 4 minutes. Add the wine and cook until the wine is absorbed. Add broth, 1 cup at a time, and cook, stirring occasionally until broth is absorbed before adding the next cup of broth. After adding the third cup of broth, stir in the corn kernels. Continue until broth is gone and farro is cooked. Reduce heat to low and stir in the vegan parmesan. Add salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste.

Serve alone or with any or all of sliced garden fresh tomatoes topped with a drizzle of balsamic reduction, melon balls, green beans, scallions and a drizzle of chili oil. If you don’t want to or don’t have time to make  your own balsamic reduction or chili oil, Trader Joe’s has them already made.

Vegan Parmesan
¾ cup raw cashews

3 tablespoons nutritional yeast

¾ teaspoon sea salt

¼ teaspoon garlic powder

Add all ingredients to a food processor and mix/pulse until a fine meal is achieved—be careful not to mix too long, or you’ll end up with cashew butter. Store in the refrigerator to keep fresh. Lasts for several weeks.


Vegetarian Pho

I’ve been musing about soup as seasonal comfort food ever since the weather turned chilly, but after having pho (pronounced “fuh”) tonight for the first time in my life, I now realize you truly don’t know soup as comfort food until you experience this Vietnamese rice noodle and broth concoction. On the day of our first snowfall, which was accompanied by sleet and icy winds, this recipe could only be more apropos if one had a cold—it would be the perfect food-as-medicine meal!

In the past, I’ve just skipped over the pho section on the menu at Vietnamese restaurants because it’s always been made with meat and meat broth. But a few weeks ago when I was reading 101 Cookbooks’ most recent favorites list, it included a “to cook” link that brought me to a vegetarian pho recipe from, a new-to-me blog. Upon reading the ingredients, I could practically smell the fragrant broth. And vibrant fresh veggies and herbs, plus brown rice noodles (pasta—yay!) had me moving this recipe to the top of my “to cook” list.

I made the recipe pretty-much as written with the exception of using baby bok choy in place of the called-for head of bok choy because the co-op didn’t have it. You’ll like this any time of year, but it will be an especially welcoming meal if you’re having weather like we are. In addition to being vegetarian, it’s vegan and gluten-free, and after seeing how much my non-vegetarian husband loved it, you’ll likely satisfy just about anyone. Enjoy!

Vegetarian Pho

From, as adapted from Green Kitchen Travels by David Frenkiel and Luise Vindahl

2 large onions, peeled and halved

A nub of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced

4 cinnamon sticks

4 star anise

4 cloves

4 cardamom pods

1 tablespoon coriander seeds

4 large carrots, peeled and chopped

1 fennel bulb, quartered, stalks removed

1 tsp minced garlic

1 tablespoon tamari soy sauce (tamari is a gluten-free soy sauce)

8 cups vegetable stock

4 heads of baby bok choy, halved

Fresh basil

Fresh mint

2 cups beansprouts

Sliced jalapeño peppers

Several limes, quartered

Thin sweet onion slices

1 pound brown rice noodles

Sriracha sauce (optional)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Place onions and ginger slices onto a baking sheet and roast in the oven for 10-12 minutes until the edges are starting to brown.

Place spices in a stock pot and dry roast until fragrant, stirring to prevent from burning. Add vegetable stock, tamari, carrots, fennel, and roasted onions and ginger. Bring to a boil and reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

Strain soup base through a fine mesh strainer to remove vegetables and debris, then return strained broth to the pot and reheat. Cook noodles according to packet instructions. Prepare serving bowls with cooked noodles, bok choy, beansprouts, onion, fresh herbs, jalapeño, and lime wedges. When ready to serve, pour over hot broth and serve immediately. Garnish with sriracha, if desired. Makes 6-8 servings.


Chickpea Salad Sandwiches

Chickpea salad with tomatoes and avocado
On Wednesdays there’s a small farmers’ market in our neighborhood. Right on my way home, it has become a regular stop after work. A couple of firsts of the season today, sweet corn and tomatoes. Although we’d been patiently waiting, I was a bit surprised to see both. The tomatoes were deeply red and quite large, which made me question how they could be local. The friendly vendor explained they certainly were, but greenhouse-grown; in soil, as opposed to hydroponically. She assured me they’d be just as flavorful as the ones grown outdoors we’d be seeing at the market next month. A sample proved she wasn’t exaggerating! Tomatoes bursting with that taste of late summer I wasn’t expecting in July.

My wheels were spinning and in my mind those tomatoes were sliced, salted & peppered, and topping off a splendid summer sandwich. How convenient that right in front of me was the Grateful Bread stand! Out of River Falls, Wisconsin (with no website I could find to link to), they make delicious breads with unique ingredient blends. Last time I bought a loaf that included spent grain from the beer brewing process at River Falls’ Rush River Brewing Company. Today it was a whole wheat that included quinoa, amaranth, millet, buckwheat, flax seed, oats, rye, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds. Fresh and soft, perfect for a sandwich.

Lately I’ve been putting lots of farmers’ market veggies to use in a chickpea salad. It’s sort of tuna salad’s hippie vegetarian cousin. Mashed chickpeas, onion, radishes, garlic scapes (when I can get them), fennel, hot peppers, cabbage, and celery seed. A versatile salad, you can use whatever you have on hand beyond the chickpeas. It’s all mixed together with salt, pepper and a little mayo (once again, I’ll mention the outstanding and vegan Earth Balance Mindful Mayo—so, so good!), but, if you’re mayo-averse, you could use Greek yogurt or a mixture of mashed avocado with a little lime juice in its place.
Chickpea salad on crusty roll

On a crusty roll or good quality bread with peppery arugula and sliced ripe tomatoes, this is a meal of a sandwich. Or for a gluten-free option, spoon some chickpea salad on top a bed of wild rice. Finish it off with avocado slices or maybe some micro greens. Enjoy!
Chickpea salad on wild rice

Chickpea Salad Sandwiches

1 ½ cups cooked chickpeas (garbanzo beans) or 1 can, rinsed and drained

½ cup chopped white or sweet onion

2-3 garlic scapes, chopped

3 radishes, diced

1-2 fennel stalks, chopped (or one celery stalk, chopped)

½ cup shredded green cabbage

1 tablespoon chopped hot pepper (jalapeño or hot cherry peppers work well)

¼ teaspoon celery seed

A couple tablespoons mayo, Greek yogurt, or mashed avocado sprinkled with fresh lime juice

Salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Topping options: Arugula, lettuce, avocado, tomato, micro greens, sunflower seeds

Place chickpeas in a medium bowl and mash with a potato masher or fork. Add onion, scapes, radish, fennel, cabbage, hot pepper, and celery seed. Mix to combine. Stir in mayo. Season with salt and pepper and mix again.

Serve on crusty rolls, good quality bread, or a bed of wild rice. Makes about 4 servings.



Sikil Pak, Mayan Pumpkin Seed Dip

Sikil Pak
It’s that time of year again when we Americans celebrate Cinco de Mayo, the anniversary of the 1862 Battle of Puebla where the Mexican army defeated a better-equipped and much larger French force led by Napoleon III. What it’s not, is Mexican Independence Day—that’s in September when Mexico celebrates its liberation from Spain secured in 1810. Now ya know!

Cinco de Mayo reportedly is little celebrated in Mexico. It started in the Southwest US during the post-civil rights era when students of Mexican origin sought and found a source of pride in their heritage. Regardless, it gives the US another food holiday. From tacos to tortas, guacamole to gorditos, margaritas to molé, we partake either by frequenting our favorite Mexican restaurant or whipping up a feast in our own kitchens.

Not one to let a food holiday pass me by, I was ready to stock up on avocados and jalapenos, with big batches of guacamole in mind. That is, until I stumbled upon a recipe for Sikil Pak, Mayan pumpkin seed dip—a dish I had never heard of. Delicious, with a mix of both toasted and raw pumpkin seeds, roasted vegetables, habanero heat, and a squirt of citrus. And it’s addicting. Served with tortilla chips (from the bag or make your own with corn tortillas), you’ll probably make a meal if it—it’s that hard to stop once you start. Me thinks it would also make a great sandwich spread or a tasty topping for an omelet or frittata.

The authentic way to prepare Sikil Pak is in a molcajete, the Mexican equivalent of a big mortar and pestle. And I happened to have one—it’s what I use for making the aforementioned big batches of guacamole. If you don’t have one or don’t feel like breaking a sweat, a food processor will do just fine. In fact, I think that’s what I’ll use next time, at least to pulse the veggies after they’re roasted. Kind of a combo of this recipe and that recipe, many other versions can be found with a simple Google search. Enjoy! And happy Cinco de Mayo!!
Roasted VeggiesGround Pumpkin Seeds

Sikil Pak, Mayan Pumpkin Seed Dip

2 cups raw, hulled pumpkin seeds, divided
1 onion, sliced ½ inch thick
3 plum tomatoes, quartered
4 large (6 medium) tomatillos, husk removed and quartered
2 cloves garlic, kept in skin
1 fresh habanero chile pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
A couple pinches of sea salt
2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lime juice
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed orange juice
A little water

Chopped cilantro, for garnish (or Italian parsley if you’re cilantro-averse)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Place one cup of the pumpkin seeds on a baking sheet and toast on a low oven rack for about 10 minutes. Watch closely so they don’t burn. Remove and let cool. Reserve a couple tablespoons of seeds for garnish.

Mix sliced onion, tomatoes, tomatillos, garlic, and the habanero in a large bowl. Drizzle with the olive oil and stir until the veggies are coated. Place on a baking sheet and roast in the upper third of oven for 20-30 minutes, turning once or twice, until soft and dark in spots. Remove from oven and let cool. When cool, remove garlic cloves from the skin. Using food service gloves or a plastic bag over your hand, remove the seeds from the habanero (it will still pack a punch ‘o heat).

Either place both toasted and raw pumpkin seeds in the bowl of a food processor and process until ground, or put seeds (in batches) in a large mortar and pestle, and smash and grind until ground. If using food processor, remove seeds to a medium bowl once they’re ground.

Put cooled veggies in bowl of a food processor and pulse until mixed, but still a little chunky. Add to bowl with ground pumpkin seeds and mix. Stir in lime and orange juice, adding a little water, a tablespoon at a time, if too thick. Taste and add more salt, if necessary. Serve with tortilla chips and garnished with chopped cilantro and reserved toasted pumpkin seeds. Makes about 8 appetizer servings.

Thanks for checking out my blog!

Dip and chips