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:

2-Minute Blackberry Ice Cream

2-Minute Blackberry Ice Cream

It’s not click bait. Just take out your blender. You won’t believe what happens next!
Clean and Soba

Clean and Soba

A foolproof formula for easy Japanese noodles.
The 8 Tastiest Plates of the 2014 Best Restaurants Party

The 8 Tastiest Plates of the 2014 Best Restaurants Party

More than 2,000 people. 56 restaurants. And one super fun photo booth.
Farm Stand Corn Chowder

Farm Stand Corn Chowder

A simple summer soup that is simply impossible to screw up.

Hot Reads

Top 10

Top 10

Here are the 10 best things to do in Pittsburgh this November.
Review: One Thirty One East

Review: One Thirty One East

Located in the southwest suburban community of Carnegie, One Thirty One East embodies the area’s renaissance.
Grow. Cook. Drink.: Maggie Meskey of Butcher and the Rye

Grow. Cook. Drink.: Maggie Meskey of Butcher and the Rye

The charismatic Maggie Meskey had tended bar for years before landing her gig at downtown bourbon haven Butcher and the Rye.
Why Things Get Squirrely Near the Tunnels

Why Things Get Squirrely Near the Tunnels

PittGirl doesn't know why we say "warsh" — but she has figured out why we 'Burghers hit the brakes at the sight of the Squirrel Hill Tunnel.

On the Blogs


Everything That's Awesome About Pittsburgh Today
CMU’s Newest Campus-Life Venture Is Decidedly Low Tech

CMU’s Newest Campus-Life Venture Is Decidedly Low Tech

Check your laptop (and your textbook) at the door and stop by the Mindfulness Room for a little zen.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
7 Best Rising Star Bartenders

7 Best Rising Star Bartenders

Get to know the city’s next generation of savvy, ambitious ’tenders.

Comments


Pittsburgh, only cooler
What's Wrong with Having 'America's Ugliest Accent'?

What's Wrong with Having 'America's Ugliest Accent'?

PittGirl points out why we 'Burghers shouldn't hide the fact that we won Gawker's competition.

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


How to Make the Ever-Spicy, Smoky Jackfruit Carnitas

How to Make the Ever-Spicy, Smoky Jackfruit Carnitas

Verde Executive Chef Justin Lewis reveals how to make his spicy best-seller, served at last week’s sold-out “veghacker” dinner.

Comments


Bar Exam: Steel Cactus

Bar Exam: Steel Cactus

Who's up for a Yinzerita? These Shadyside and Carson Street Mexican joints are welcoming and appetizing.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Bright Ideas

Bright Ideas

Light up your space in a big way.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Pittsburgh Pierogi Fest Will Take Over Stage AE Tomorrow

Pittsburgh Pierogi Fest Will Take Over Stage AE Tomorrow

The event will offer ample activities and a variety of pierogi-inspired dishes.

Comments


This week's buzz from the PM editors
Party Like a 'Psycho' at Hitchcock Halloween

Party Like a 'Psycho' at Hitchcock Halloween

Drink, eat and be among the scary at at the event, held at the Carrie Furnace.

Comments