Fried Puffy Tacos – Seitan Chorizo & Black Bean

Vegan chorizo & black bean puffy tacosA month of foods that make me feel like coming home - Cadry's KitchenThis month I’m sharing recipes that feel like coming home.

I still remember the first time I ever had a flour taco from Tasty Tacos, a Des Moines institution. I was a preteen visiting one of my aunts and cousin. My cousin was older, and he’d just gone to pick up tacos. I looked at his bag of them, and they were unlike any tacos I’d ever seen before. They had fluffy, puffy shells that were entirely different from the hard corn shells or floppy tortillas I was used to seeing.

Noticing my increasing interest, he asked if I’d like to have one of them, and I quickly agreed. The warm, soft bread, fried and packed with taco fillings was an instant hit. It was love at first bite.

Now like I said, I was a preteen at that time. I didn’t have any access to a car, and furthermore, I didn’t even know the name of the restaurant where he’d purchased them. We didn’t see that cousin often, and so I began a blind search to find them again. I went to Taco John’s, Taco Bell, Taco Time… Nada. My parents hadn’t tried the tacos, and they were no help in getting me any closer to taco glory. If only Google had existed back then. I kept explaining the tacos to anyone who would listen… “See, it’s made of thick, fried bread…” But it was no use.

Vegan fried flour tacos - chorizo & black beanIt literally took years until I found them – at a location just a few blocks from my high school. Inside, there were simple booths, and you paid at the counter. On all of their styrofoam cups were the words, “Nada es imposible.” During last year’s MoFo I wrote about their nachos, but this time I’m sharing a vegan version of the food for which Tasty Tacos is known – the flour taco.

By the time I was a high school upperclassman, I was visiting Tasty Tacos multiple times a week to get my fix. My senior year, I was the food columnist for our school newspaper. My column was called Always Use a Condiment, and Tasty Tacos earned a four star rating. I’d become friendly with the owner, and he cut out my review and taped it to their window. I loved seeing it hanging every time that I visited. On my last day of high school, he treated me to lunch – two flour tacos.

Fried flour taco like Tasty Tacos - vegan chorizo & black beanAfter I moved away from Des Moines, Tasty Tacos was a must visit on every return trip. If I was in the area for a week, I’d always go at least twice on a visit – once for the nachos and once for the flour tacos.

I am so excited to share this recipe with you today. When I stopped eating meat (9 years ago this month!), Tasty Tacos was one of the things I felt most concerned about giving up. (They fry their shells in lard and have lard in the beans, and so even a bean flour taco isn’t an option.) I wouldn’t say these shells are quite as puffy as those from Tasty Tacos, but they’re pretty darned close.

How to make fried puffy tacos - with a recipe for vegan chorizo & black bean tacosYou start by making a simple dough, forming it into balls, and then pressing them in a tortilla press between two sheets of parchment paper. (I like to press them a couple of times, moving them slightly between presses, for a larger taco.) If you don’t have access to a tortilla press, just use a rolling pin and make them between 4 and 6 inches. Then put a couple tablespoons of taco filling inside. I used a combination of Upton’s Naturals chorizo seitan and black beans. I tried it first with beans alone, but the seitan gives a wonderful chewiness and bite. If you’d prefer to do a bean-only version, just omit the seitan in the recipe and add another ½ cup of beans and a pinch of salt, keeping everything else the same.

Fried puffy flour tacos - vegan chorizo & black beanThe shells are then folded and lightly pinched closed, like an empanada, and fried. After both sides are brown, remove the shells to a towel to let them drain and cool.

Fried puffy flour tacos - vegan chorizo & black beanOnce a few minutes have passed, open the pinched area of the tacos and fill them.

Now obviously a meal of fried bread is an indulgence, but I highly recommend giving into the joy of it and doing it all with these – the seitan and beans, the non-dairy cheese, plenty of crunchy green leaf lettuce, and tomatoes. All of the components come together to recreate the experience so beautifully. Eating them made me feel all warm and squishy inside.

A vegan Tasty Taco? Aaah… Like the cup says – nada es imposible.

Vegan chorizo & black bean fried puffy tacos

Fried Puffy Tacos – Seitan Chorizo & Black Bean

Serving Size: Makes 4 tacos (with extra filling)

Ingredients

    Flour shells
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon organic canola oil + more for frying
  • ¼ cup + 1-3 Tbsp cold water (add more splashes as necessary)
  • Taco filling
  • 1 teaspoon organic canola oil
  • ½ cup yellow onion, chopped small to medium
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 package Upton’s chorizo seitan
  • 1 cup black beans, drained & rinsed
  • ½ teaspoon ancho chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika
  • 2 Tablespoons water
  • Toppings: Chopped tomatoes, green leaf lettuce, non-dairy cheese (I used shredded Follow Your Heart cheddar. Daiya cheddar would also work.)

Instructions

    For the flour shells
  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, salt, and baking powder with a fork until evenly mixed. In a small separate bowl, combine 1/2 teaspoon canola oil and 1/4 cup + 1 Tablespoon of water.
  2. Pour the water mixture into the mixing bowl, and combine with a fork until a dough begins to form. Then use your hands to fully combine the dough. The dough should be dry with no additional leftover flour at the bottom. If needed, add one to two more tablespoons of water to form the dough. Remember, you don't want it to be wet and soggy, and so splash lightly.
  3. Break the dough apart and roll into four even-sized balls and set aside while you make the taco filling.
  4. For the taco filling
  5. In a large skillet, bring oil to a medium heat. Sauté onion and garlic a few minutes, until soft, translucent, and fragrant.
  6. Add seitan to the pan and sauté for a couple minutes more.
  7. Add the beans to the skillet along with the ancho chili powder, cumin, paprika, and water. Fully combine until the spices are spread evenly throughout.
  8. Putting it all together
  9. In a large, deep frying pan, fill the pan with at least a half inch of oil or more. It needs to be deep enough to immerse at least half of the taco. Bring the oil to a medium-high heat.
  10. While the oil is heating, between two sheets of parchment paper, press each dough ball one at a time in a tortilla press. (I like to press each tortilla twice - picking the tortilla up and moving it slightly between presses.) If you don't have a tortilla press, roll each tortilla with a rolling pin until it's 4 to 6 inches in diameter.
  11. Put 2 tablespoons of taco filling in the center of each tortilla and fold it closed, as if you were making the letter D (like the shape of an empanada). Lightly pinch the edges of the taco to seal it. Once all four taco shells are filled, move onto the next step.
  12. Test the oil to see if it's hot enough. Pinch off a little piece of dough from one of the tacos and put it into the oil. If bubbles immediately form around it, the oil is ready.
  13. Put all four tacos into the oil and fry until toasty brown, flipping once when necessary.
  14. Once both sides are brown, remove from the oil and onto a towel-lined plate to drain. Allow the tacos to cool for a couple of minutes.
  15. Carefully open the closed off section of the tacos and fill with toppings. Serve immediately.

Notes

You will definitely have extra filling leftover, easily enough for 8 tacos. So you can either double the shell recipe and make 8 tacos, or save the filling to use later in the week for more tacos or nachos.

http://cadryskitchen.com/2014/09/18/chorizo-black-bean-puffy-flour-tacos/

Vegan puffy flour taco - chorizo & black bean

A Picnic on Liberty Island

Picnic on Liberty Island - Statue of LibertyI’m taking a little break today from my tastes of home theme to post my first recap of the NYC trip I took earlier this month. I’ll be posting recaps sporadically, covering various parts of the city. First up, Liberty Island.

I’ve been to New York three times in my life, and all three times I’ve visited the Statue of Liberty. For people who grew up around it, it may be a no-big-deal tourist site, but as someone who grew up in the landlocked center of the country, it was something I only knew by way of history books, photographs, and movies. Standing large and majestically, it was the stuff of storybooks.

Hopping on a ferry and riding across the water from Battery Park as the statue comes closer into view fills me with a kind of awe. Imagining all of the people who have found their way to it – from all around the globe – and the feelings they were experiencing makes it a must-see celebrity of the trip. As the Statue grows ever larger in sight, people crowd around the edges of the boat, speaking a myriad of languages, and taking photographs with the statue hovering behind them. With excited smiles, they beam, capturing the moment.

Statue of Liberty - a picnic on Liberty IslandAfter making one’s way off the boat, there are picnic tables, a gift shop, and bathrooms, and a huge lawn with a magnificent view of the New York City skyline.

New York City skylineNYC skylineOn my first trip to NYC when I was in high school, I made the long trek up the inner spiral staircase to the crown. I remember peeking through the tiny windows as more tourists waited behind me, quickly taking a photo as we passed. The second time I visited, it was just a few months after 9/11, and the crown was closed to visitors. This time the trip came up with fairly short notice, and the crown tickets had already been snatched up. (You have to buy them about three months in advance.) By the time I was ordering, there was just one ticket left to get to the statue’s pedestal. So I purchased one pedestal ticket and then just a general boat ticket to get to Liberty Island.

David and I were joined on the trip by our friend, Katrina, from Suburban Snow White. Katrina also was only able to get a boat ticket. However, when we got to the Will Call ticket booth, since one member of our party had a ticket for pedestal access, they freely gave additional pedestal tickets to the rest of the group. It was a really lovely surprise.

Picnic on Liberty Island Picnic by Statue of LibertyWe were going to be getting there around lunchtime, and I’d read online that the food options on Liberty Island were of the fast food variety and pretty uninspiring. So the night before, we all went to Whole Foods and picked up some picnic-worthy lunch items: a couple packs of baked tofu (that I opened with scissors before leaving since you have to go through an airport-style metal detector), roasted red pepper hummus, grapes, raspberries, crackers, and Cassucio, a nut-based cheese by Kite Hill. I’d tried their White Alder in the past, but this was my first time sampling that particular flavor.  It’s a squishy, mild cheese that was a tasty indulgence since it isn’t sold where I live.

After filling our bellies, we made our way to the pedestal entrance. Bags have to be checked and put into lockers, and no food is allowed inside of the Statue. We locked up our bag and headed up the 215 steps to the pedestal.  (There’s also an elevator option available, but we decided to skip the line.)

Statue of Liberty pedestalWhile the view is better from the bottom of the statue where you can take it all in, there’s something so bucket list-worthy about seeing it from the inside. It brings it all home that you’re really there. The area around the pedestal is a tight squeeze, and so I can see why they have to limit the amount of people who are allowed at one time. One high school girl was having a rough time of it because of the height and was sitting on the floor with her back up against the concrete looking positively ghostly.

Statue of Liberty face replicaWe headed back down to the base to walk around the museum inside. They have drawings and pictures of the statue being made, a life-sized replica of her face, and an area that features the responses of early visitors to the statue.

Finally, we walked around to the front of the Statue for more photos, waved goodbye, and took the ferry back to where our trip began.

Statue of Liberty