2 Easy Gourmet Recipes From A New Taco Bible

coverembedPhoto: Courtesy of Tacolicious by Alex Farnum.
There's one sure-fire way to win our hearts at every meal: the simple taco. For breakfast, for happy hour, for intoxicated late-night snacks, they're our round-the-clock favorite dish. Easy to prep and unfussy to serve, it's a never-fail table pleaser.
But, all are not made equal. So, our stomachs got excited over the new book, Tacolicious, by Sara Deseran. Trust us, this woman knows tacos. As the co-owner of the restaurant by the same name, editor-at-large of San Francisco magazine, and the author of three other cookbooks, Deseran knows how to craft a mean tortilla-wrapped dish like none other. The recipe book doesn't just stop at tacos either; roasted tomato mint salsa, toasted coconut salt, and mango agua fresca also caught our eye. If you can't make the trek out west anytime soon, the two recipes ahead should hold you over — until you want to try them all.
taco1Photo: Courtesy of Tacolicious by Alex Farnum.
Butternut Squash, Kale, and Crunchy Pepitas Taco
Makes about 12 tacos; serves 4 to 6

Cashew Crema
2/3 cup raw cashews
1 tsp cumin seeds
6 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice (from about 3 limes)
1/4 cup water
2 tsp kosher salt
Pumpkin Seeds
2 tsp vegetable oil
1/3 cup raw hulled

Pumpkin Seeds
2 tsp vegetable oil
1/3 cup raw hulled pumpkin seeds
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp kosher salt

2 tbsp vegetable oil
3/4 cup finely chopped
Yellow onion 1 clove garlic, minced
3 cups 1/2-inch-diced butternut squash
1 tsp chile powder
2 tsp kosher salt
4 cups finely chopped kale
Corn tortillas, warmed, for serving
Chopped white onion, chopped fresh cilantro, and salsa of choice, for serving (optional)

1. To make the crema, soak the raw cashews in room-temperature water to cover for at least 1 hour. Drain and reserve.

2. Toast the cumin in a small, dry, heavy skillet over medium heat for about 1 minute, until fragrant. Transfer to a spice grinder, let cool, and grind finely.
3. In a blender, combine the cashews, cumin, lime juice, water, and salt. Start the blender on the lowest speed and gradually increase to the highest speed. Blend for at least 1 minute, until a creamy consistency. Pour into a serving bowl and set aside.
4. To make the pumpkin seeds, heat the oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the pumpkin seeds and sauté for about 2 minutes, taking care that they do not burn. The seeds will begin to puff up and pop. Once they appear toasted, immediately pour them into a bowl. Toss with the cayenne and salt and set aside.
5. To make the filling, heat the oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for about 3 minutes, until softened. Add the garlic and sauté for about 1 minute more. Add the squash and sauté for 6 to 7 minutes, just until the squash begins to soften. Season with the chile powder and salt.
6. Add the kale and cook, stirring, for about 1 minute, until it begins to wilt. Remove from the heat, taste, and adjust the seasoning with salt if needed.
7. Serve with the tortillas, crema, pumpkin seeds, onion, cilantro, and salsa. To assemble each taco, invite guests to spoon about 1/2 cup of the warm filling into a tortilla and top with some crema and pumpkin seeds. If guests want more toppings, they can finish off their tacos with onion, cilantro, and salsa.
taco3Photo: Courtesy of Tacolicious, by Alex Farnum.
Carnitas Taco
Makes about 16 tacos; serves 4 to 6

2 1/2 lbs boneless pork shoulder, cut into 2- to 3-inch cubes
1 cup sliced yellow onion
3 cloves garlic, crushed
3 tbsp dark brown sugar
1 1/2 tbsp kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp dried Mexican oregano

1 bay leaf
2 tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice
2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup lard
3 tbsp vegetable oil
Corn tortillas, warmed for serving
Chopped white onion, chopped fresh cilantro, salsa of choice, and lime wedges, for serving

1. Put the pork in a non-reactive Dutch oven or other large, heavy pot with a lid. Add the onion, garlic, sugar, salt, oregano, bay leaf, orange juice, and lemon juice and toss to coat the meat evenly. Cover and refrigerate for at least 12 hours or up to 24 hours.

2. Bring the pork to room temperature. Heat the lard in a small pan over medium heat until it melts, then pour it over the pork. Cover the pot, place over medium-low heat, and cook the pork for about 3 hours, until the pork begins to pull apart easily when tested with a fork. Remove from the heat.
3. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pork to a bowl. Discard the cooking liquid and clean the pot. Using a couple of forks, shred the pork a bit but not completely, removing any large chunks of fat.
4. Return the pot to the stove top over high heat and add the oil. At the minute the oil begins to smoke, using tongs or a spoon and working in batches to avoid crowding, carefully add some of the meat to the hot oil and cook, turning as needed, for about 4 minutes, until crisp on all sides. (If some onions are still attached, don’t worry about it.)
5. Serve with the tortillas, onion, cilantro, salsa, and lime.
Reprinted with permission from Tacolicious, by Sara Deseran and Joe Hargrave, copyright © 2014, published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Random House LLC.

More from Food & Drinks

R29 Original Series