I never thought of myself as a cook. Sure, I made spaghetti now and then, maybe grilled vegetables on occasion - but a full-fledged toque rockin' chef with an exotic spice cabinet and a rack of trusty knives? Naw. No way. That wasn't me.
I was too busy. A sandwich was about as adventurous as I got.
Over the last half-year, however, I've found myself in a strange, new position: homemaker. I was laid off from my bookstore job (go figure) in February. Not long after that, my fiancée took a job as a traveling occupational therapist. We're making our way across the country one 3 month stint at time, a bold, eye-opening adventure, a 100% basically responsible and mostly sober take on Jack Kerouac's On the Road.
And it's been really awesome. I'm truly, truly blessed. The only downside is that I'm alone for most of the day in thoroughly unfamiliar towns and states, jobless and purposeless. I have a lot of time on my hands. Too much, really. I've yet to find a good career niche for an itinerant college dropout that doesn't own a car, so I've mainly busied myself with domestic chores and writing. I even tried to blog. Anything to combat the feeling that I'm just a waste of space.
In the meantime, I've learned I can clean almost anything with varying combinations of baking soda, vinegar, lemon juice, dish soap, and water. Heck, give me enough time and I could spontaneously synthesize a living organism from those miraculous, time-honored components.
I've also upped my cooking game. I pride myself on delicately balancing flavor with convenience, freshness with cheapness. There are days when I go nuts and make - say - an acorn squash soufflé from scratch. But today isn't one of those days. No, today we make tacos. Vegetarian tacos, actually, as neither the fiancée or I eat meat.
The taco is a very misunderstood food in America. That goopy crap they sell you at Taco Bell or your typical Mexican restaurant isn't a real taco any more than General Tso's chicken is an authentic Chinese dish. A real taco is simple. Take a corn tortilla and top it with meat, diced raw onions, and fresh cilantro. That's it. That's a real taco.
My taco isn't authentic, but it's directly inspired by the Mexican food trucks that first turned me on to true Mexican cooking. Here's what you'll need:
Fresh button mushrooms
Tofurky chorizo or an equivalent brand of ground vegetarian chorizo
"Slap Ya Mama" Cajun seasoning (a mixture of salt, red pepper, black pepper, and garlic)
Adobo seasoning (a mixture of salt, onion powder, garlic powder, black pepper, oregano, chili powder, cumin)
Kraft Taco Bell Southwest Ranch, or an equivalent spicy ranch
Here's what you'll do:
1. Chop 8 ounces/one container of mushrooms, sprinkle with Slap Ya Mama on a pan and cook on medium-high heat until nice and juicy. Remove from pan.
2. Chop a couple stalks of kale, sprinkle with adobo on pan and cook on medium-high heat until nice and juicy. Be careful not to burn kale. Remove from pan.
3. Heat Tofurky chorizo in pan on medium-high heat until steaming. Remove from pan.
4. Heat corn tortillas in pan until warm. You may want to rinse the pan off before this step if you want nice and clean tacos. I like cooking the flavors into the tortilla. In Mexico, sandwich bread is sometimes dipped in a chili sauce (the torta ahogada being one such example), and the final result here has a similar effect.
5. Throw a few spoonfuls of chorizo on tacos, followed in order by mushrooms and kale.
That's it. To jump into Guy Fieri territory here, you just made some bomb ass tacos. I don't add any ranch to mine, but the fiancée loves it. Also, if you don't own either of the above seasoning mixes, feel free to experiment with listed ingredients. You can't go wrong, unless you use way too much salt.
Note: The quantities used in my recipe should yield 6-8 tacos, at least, and you'll probably be done cooking in maybe 20 minutes if you're diligent.
As a bonus, I'll give you a recipe for an incredibly lazy but effective side dish. Here's what you'll need:
Can of black beans
Can of diced tomatoes with onion and garlic (your local supermarket should carry it)
Chili powder (chili pepper, cumin, salt, garlic, and oregano)
Here's what you'll do:
1. Empty can of black beans in pan.
2. Empty 1/2 can of diced tomatoes in pan, including a proportionate amount of the juice.
3. Sprinkle with chili powder and simmer until water is mostly evaporated.
You'd almost swear that there was chicken stock in the black beans. But no, this is again a 100% vegetarian dish. Serve this with the tacos and you have a delicious, very simple to prepare meal.
Bon appétit, motherfucker!