There was a time when I thought tacos needed to contain meat to be satisfying. Tacos without meat? I’d wonder. How can you call that dinner? Certainly, grilled beef, shredded chicken and deep-fried fish all make first-class tacos, but now, thanks to the creativity of restaurants like Tacolicious, my eyes have been opened to the endless, creative fillings for satisfying meatless tacos.
As a result of this revelation, veggies have been the star players in our homemade tacos this summer: slightly charred zucchini spears seasoned with chili powder and oregano; sweet corn sautéed until molasses brown in color; red onions caramelized in olive oil. Sometimes I roast cubes of cayenne-dusted potatoes to fold into the tacos; other times black beans make it into the mix. The type of salsa may vary (roasted tomato? tomatillo?), but cilantro, jalapenos and lime are the constants crowning these babies. Mexican cheeses such as queso fresco or cotija add an authentic touch while tempering the heat of the chiles. A crema of yogurt and chipotle provides a simultaneously cool and spicy component. Zucchini tacos like these have been making their rounds on the web, and it’s easy to see why: they’re tasty, healthy and are a creative use of summer’s bounty of zucchini. Oh yeah, and they’re pretty darn satisfying. Salud!
For these tacos, I broiled the zucchini and sautéed the onions and corn. Alternatively, you could grill the zucchini, onions and corn, which would make for quick cleanup.
Makes about 6 tacos, recipe doubles easily
1 small red onion (about 6 oz)
3 medium zucchini (about 1 lb 4 oz)
1 ear of corn
1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
2 teaspoons chili powder (I use this homemade version)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 cloves garlic, minced, divided
½ jalapeno, minced
¼ cup yogurt or sour cream
2 teaspoons minced chipotle in adobo sauce
1 lime, cut into wedges
¼ cup cilantro leaves
1 cup crumbled queso fresco
6 corn tortillas
Make the Zucchini, Corn and Red Onion Tacos
Sauté or grill the onion. Thinly slice the red onion. Heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil in a heavy-bottomed skillet over low heat. Add sliced onions and sauté until tender and beginning to brown, about 15 minutes. Stir every few minutes so the onions don’t burn. Alternatively, slice the onion into thick discs, slather with olive oil and grill over medium heat until soft and slightly charred.
Broil or grill the zucchini. Meanwhile, place an oven rack in the highest position and preheat the broiler. Slice the zucchini into roughly 3-inch spears and place on a heavy-duty baking tray or in a glass baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with 2 teaspoons chili powder, 1 teaspoon dried oregano and 1 minced garlic clove. Use your hands to evenly distribute the oil and seasonings over the zucchini. Place tray of zucchini under the broiler and broil until cooked through and blackened along the edges, about 16 minutes. Check the zucchini every few minutes and flip the zucchini to ensure even browning. Alternatively, grill the seasoned zucchini over medium heat until it reaches desired doneness.
Sauté or grill the corn. Remove the corn kernels from the cob with a sharp knife. (Standing the cob upright in a tall-sided bowl as you do this keeps the corn kernels from spilling all over the counter) Heat a heavy-bottomed skillet (it’s easy to use the same skillet that the onions were cooked in) over high heat with a teaspoon of olive oil. When the pan is hot, add the corn and 1 clove minced garlic. Do not stir the corn immediately; rather allow the corn to brown before stirring. Once the corn is deeply browned, remove the corn from the pan, place in a bowl and stir in minced jalapeno and juice from 1-2 lime wedges. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Alternatively, slick the corn cob with olive oil and grill until deeply browned. Slice the kernels off of the husk and stir in garlic, jalapeno, lime juice, salt and pepper.
Prepare condiments and assemble tacos. Make the chipotle crema by mixing the yogurt and chipotle in a small bowl until smooth. Heat the tortillas until warmed. Arrange tortillas, zucchini, corn and onions as well as the condiments (chipotle crema, queso fresco, chopped cilantro and lime wedges) so diners can easily build their own tacos.