A Post-Modern Cinco de Mayo Menu

Beet, arugula and crunchy tofu tacos, lentil chili with chocolate and a tall glass of cold horchata.

Cinco de Mayo is coming and we are going to go full-on with an off-the-meter, crowd-pleasing menu that’s surely a combination your friends have never had before. A taco and chili redux and a drink made with.....rice. Eat your salad with your hands, put chocolate in your chili and drink your rice. What?

Let’s start with tacos.

If greens are the new black then tacos are the new cupcakes. You remember. That seminal “Sex and the City” episode with Magnolia Bakery was an auspicious moment in cupcake history. Spawning ultra-expensive designer cupcake stores culminating in New York City's Babycakes – which in itself is a vortex of food trends (Cupcakes! Vegan! Gluten-free! Indie film stars!) I remember the lines snaking around the block at 10… p.m. ... on Fridays. Who knew cupcakes would ever be a legitimate stop on a weekend night crawl? I'll admit — I was a participant, too. A lemming paying $3 for a sugar high. And I look back with the same swell of pride I get when I remember my hair in the '80s. Food trends can be absurd. Many come and go. But the truly tasty will survive.

Now, next in the trend line are tacos. Taco shacks are all over the place now. If urban planners use bars as indicators of the “cool potential” of neighborhood blocks, pretty soon, taco joints will be a barometer for oncoming hipster onslaughts. Japanese tacos. Adobo tacos. Spaghetti tacos. Beer battered avocado tacos. Jackfruit tacos. I could go on.

What’s more, the proliferation of taco iterations has been buoyed by the concurrent upswell of food trucks (which I wholeheartedly support!) In fact, Pittsburgh already has one roving taco truck with another one coming in September. And if Kevin Sousa’s tweets are to be my local food oracle, then there may actually be a food truck court beyond the CMU and Pitt radius. It will take a MOVEMENT to circumvent our fair city’s arcane food truck laws. I’m in. (Get with it, city ordinance.)

I’m anteing up my contribution before "taco" becomes a four letter word. This was another one of those necessity-is-the-mother-of-invention concoctions that turned out so amazing that it graduated from leftover parfait status to a place on the Cinco de Mayo menu: A vegan taco that's just as good as a quick weekday lunch to an amazing handheld salad in a celebratory buffet. (Ooooh. Note to self: “handheld salad”: next food trend?)

This concoction was born from a beet salad recipe from my Turkmen friend Jennet, which I usually eat with Plov (a recipe featured on Oprah.com). Therefore, I call it Turkmen Tacos. I have to keep up with all this fusion.

Now what is up with putting chocolate in your chili? It's not new if you’ve had mole poblano, a very popular sauce in Mexico. Here we use it in chili to add depth to the flavors. Trust me, you will be surprised. It's guaranteed that anyone who tries it will try to figure out “what’s in it” that makes it so deliciously unique. But it'll be our secret.

You can finish your meal with some Horchata — a cinnamon-scented, sweet rice drink that's popular in Latin America. It's so light and refreshing you’ll wish you could have it everyday in the summer.

 Beet Tacos with Arugula and Crunchy Tofu

Serves 1 – can definitely be multiplied

1 medium cooked beet, small dice

1 clove garlic, pressed

1 tsp. mayonnaise or vegenaise

pinch of salt
pinch of pepper

Handful of arugula

1 tsp lemon juice

1 tsp olive oil

pinch of salt
pinch of pepper

4 oz. tofu cut into batons (smoked tofu would be great)

Olive oil – just enough to coat the bottom of pan
sliced green onions

2 soft taco shells or small tortillas, warmed

1. Prepare the beets – mix all ingredients together

2. Prepare the arugula – mix dressing ingredients, emulsify. Then toss with arugula.

3. Prepare the tofu – fry the tofu in the oil*

4. Compose – lay the the tortilla on a plate, place half the arugula, then the beets, tofu and green onions. Fold. Repeat with the other shell.

5. Yum

*Quick trick to make your pan “nonstick” – sprinkle some salt over the oil before you put in the tofu.



The recipe for Lentil Chili with Chocolate can be found here.

And David Lebovitz’ recipe for Horchata can be found here.

More from Brazen Kitchen:

How to Fancify Your Everyday Pasta

How to Fancify Your Everyday Pasta

Brazen Kitchen: Elevate your prepared marinara sauce with other pantry staples, plus enter to win free Giovanni Rana pasta sauce and tickets to the Pittsburgh Home Show!
South Side’s Amazing Café is Exactly That

South Side’s Amazing Café is Exactly That

The spot for “real food” shares its recipe for Bliss, a cinnamon-spiced chocolate cake.
How to Make a Mother’s Day Breakfast Fit for a Queen

How to Make a Mother’s Day Breakfast Fit for a Queen

Start her day right with pink pancakes, crepes, cakes and caramelized corn flakes. In bed.
Have Your Beer ... and Eat It, Too

Have Your Beer ... and Eat It, Too

Learn how to make beer battered onion rings and The Drunken Sandwich to commemorate the first Pittsburgh Craft Beer Week.

Hot Reads

Review: Sienna Mercato

Review: Sienna Mercato

Matthew Porco, one of our Chefs of the Year, designs the menus at Sienna Mercato's downtown establishments.
Film Noir Fall Fashion

Film Noir Fall Fashion

Fall into autumn with a fashion landscape awash in black, white and nifty shades of gray.
An Open Letter to Local Sports Reporters

An Open Letter to Local Sports Reporters

PittGirl has had enough of the criticism of fanatics and asks the media to stop labeling everyone.
8 Foodie Day Trips (and a Few Weekends, Too)

8 Foodie Day Trips (and a Few Weekends, Too)

Hoping to take a leaf-peeping road trip? Keep food at the top of your priority list and consult our lineup of eight destinations, most within 150 miles of the city.

On the Blogs


Everything That's Awesome About Pittsburgh Today
Pittsburgh is One of the Most Cycling-Friendly U.S. Cities

Pittsburgh is One of the Most Cycling-Friendly U.S. Cities

Bicycling mag ranks the Steel City at No. 21 on its list of 50 metropolises.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
The 8 Best (Not) Restaurants in Pittsburgh

The 8 Best (Not) Restaurants in Pittsburgh

Food trucks. Pizza boats. Bagel Clubs. The best on-the-run food in town.

Comments


Pittsburgh, only cooler
PittGirl Declares She's Breaking up with the NFL

PittGirl Declares She's Breaking up with the NFL

Given recent developments, our resident fan of Pittsburgh — and football — says enough is enough.

Comments


Award-winning sports commentary by Sean Conboy
R.I.P. Corporate Penguins, 2009-2014

R.I.P. Corporate Penguins, 2009-2014

Fire Bylsma? Fire Shero? The Penguins' problems run deeper.

Comments


The Last Plate of Summer: Summer Squash and Chickpea Pie

The Last Plate of Summer: Summer Squash and Chickpea Pie

Roll like a domestic goddess with a slice of comfort-food queen Nigella Lawson’s savory pie.

Comments


The Thrival Innovation + Music Festival Could be Pittsburgh’s Signature Concert

The Thrival Innovation + Music Festival Could be Pittsburgh’s Signature Concert

In only its second year, the Bakery Square event hosted by Thrill Mill is becoming a cultural force.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Find Your Flair

Find Your Flair

Hit the fall chill head on with style.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
This Just In: Crested Duck Available Across the Country

This Just In: Crested Duck Available Across the Country

For a limited time, genius chef Kevin Costa will share his cured meats with the rest of the nation.

Comments


This week's buzz from the PM editors
Time to See Ballet Under the Stars

Time to See Ballet Under the Stars

This weekend, the PBT presents its annual production at Hartwood Acres under the night sky.

Comments