Many people are shifting their focus to a more plant-based diet. Even those of us, like me, who are omnivores, are incorporating a more regular rotation of vegetarian eating, such as “meatless Mondays,” into meal planning.
Although you may not be vegetarian or vegan, if you are cooking for friends these days, it’s always right to ask whether anyone has food restrictions of any kind. And, it’s helpful to have more options in your repertoire. Even within some families there can be a range of eating practices, so adaptable recipes are essential.
This recipe allows for just that flexibility. While it is a fully vegan dish, diners can add meat if desired, or include dairy products such as cheese or sour cream as fairly typical taco condiments. It matters not whether you choose to use flour or corn tortillas, the latter of which will also accommodate anyone who eats gluten-free.
I will confess, it is a bit of a production if you also make the charred vegetable slaw. You could omit that and just use store bought condiments. (But my husband likes this slaw so much that he also likes it as a side dish!) Also, keep in mind your heat tolerance. I’ve listed chili powder here, as it’s the most common option in most people’s spice cabinet, and the spiciness will depend both on the brand itself and on how much you use. Or you can get a smoky flavor with less heat if you use smoked paprika and cumin instead.
As the summer winds down, try this delicious plant-based dinner to enjoy the last few weeks of this season’s produce.
GRILLED ZUCCHINI TACOS WITH CHARRED VEGETABLE SLAW
Makes 8 tacos or more depending on tortilla size
3 medium zucchini
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided, plus more to taste
1 small head green cabbage
4 ears corn, shucked
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, or more as needed
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (about 1 lime)
1/8 teaspoon fresh ground pepper, plus more to taste
1 tablespoon (approximately) chili powder, or combination of smoked paprika and cumin
Tortillas, flour or corn
Condiments, such as avocado or guacamole; salsa; sour cream; shredded cheese
Prepare the vegetables. Trim the ends off the zucchini. Cut a thin slice lengthwise from opposite sides of each zucchini to expose the flesh, then cut each zucchini lengthwise into 3 to 4 slices about a 1/2-inch thick. Layer the slices on a plate, sprinkling with salt, with paper towel in between the layers, about 1/2 teaspoon salt total. Cover the stack with another sheet of paper towel and weight the pile. (I usually use a large sauté pan with a heavy can on top.) Let sit for 15 to 20 minutes while the paper towel absorbs moisture.
Meanwhile, cut the cabbage head into 6 to 8 wedges making sure each wedge includes part of the core so each piece holds together. Trim the roots of the scallions so they likewise hold together and remove the toughest dark green top portions. Brush olive oil on the cut edges of the cabbage, the corn on the cob, and the scallions and sprinkle about 1/2 teaspoon salt over all the vegetables.
Preheat the grill to high. (If using charcoal, start the fire early enough to reach a high temperature when you want to cook.) Grill the scallions (3-4 minutes), cabbage wedges (5-6 minutes) and ears of corn (10-12 minutes), turning until lightly charred all over. (If using a gas grill, you may want to turn it off and restart it later for the zucchini.)
Allow the scallion, cabbage, and corn to cool until easy to handle. Carefully cut the corn off the cob; the cabbage into strips; and the scallion into small pieces. The vegetables will be a bit slippery from the oil, so be careful. Combine in a bowl and add the lime juice, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper as needed. Set aside.
Remove the weight from the stack of zucchini slices and brush olive oil on both sides of each slice and sprinkle with chili powder or a smoked paprika and cumin combination. (I sprinkle this right from the jar.)
Return the grill to high heat and grill the zucchini slices for about 2-3 minutes on each side until softened with nice grill marks.
Warm the tortillas according to package directions or your favorite method (skillet, grill, microwave). Allow diners to build their own tacos with slices of zucchini and charred vegetable slaw, plus whatever condiments you want to offer.