Los Angeles is a city of new ideas. Trends start here. And I’ve been noticing a trend. Actually, it seems to be well past a trend and entering the mainstream. If you’ve been out to eat lately, chances are you see what I see: vegetables getting the star treatment. Dishes we typically think of as meat-centric often feature far less flesh than you’d expect. In fact, many traditionally meaty choices have gone vegetarian. There’s beet tartare and cauliflower steak. Bolognese is getting jazzed up with veggies too. There are even plenty of exciting choices for something I once considered taboo— vegetarian tacos.
Los Angeles is known for a lot of things. I’d smugly offer that our thriving taco scene is one of them. That’s because Mexican food is the heartbeat of so much of what we eat here. We’re also a city on-the-go. Tacos were actually invented for an on-the-go lifestyle. At the same time, you simply cannot find better produce anywhere in the world. I guess that’s why there’s always been a large vegetarian scene sharing the same street corners with our ubiquitous taco stands. Naturally, these two worlds have melded. From Tacos de Calabacitas at Guisados to Danny Trejo’s Roasted Cauliflower Tacos with Grilled Corn and Cashews. Chefs aren’t just trying to come up with meat substitutes but are actually rethinking tacos to create something new and altogether satisfying. This type of culinary creativity means I’ve become a big fan of vegetarian tacos and find myself experimenting whenever I can.
That’s because vegetarian tacos aren’t as much of a stretch of the imagination as you might think. Dishes made with mushrooms, corn, peppers, eggplant, and cauliflower all have some traditional regional Mexican roots and taste right at home tucked into tortillas.
Grilled Broccolini and Shiitake Tacos
Even something as untypically Mexican as broccolini works well when layered with the flavors of char and chipotle. That’s because tacos, in their purest primal form, are guided by one simple rule: tacos take care and pride but not much fuss. As long as they’re built on warm, supple corn tortillas that fit in the palm of your hand, just about anything can be folded inside and minimally adorned with onion, cilantro, and hot sauce. GREG