FIRST, A LITTLE MYTH DE-BUNKING:
Most of Denver's Mexican restaurants and burrito shops think that grilled vegetable tacos mean tortilla-peppers-onions. Throw some black beans in, and, Voila!, it's a simple vegetable taco. However, with so many vegetable options for tacos, peppers and onions may seem more like an afterthought with pork, chicken, and beef headlining most menus. It's a bit surprising that the demand for healthy eating and vegetarian options hasn't influenced the variety of vegetables offered. The fact is that making grilled vegetable tacos can be quite a challenge, for both restaurants and people seeking non-meat options.
Vegetables demand close attention, as not all vegetables can be cooked in the same manner. Even though they ultimately land on the grill, some vegetable varieties need a little extra prep before their appointed fire-time. Once on the grill, they demand a keen eye to keep them from becoming soggy, limp, and overcooked. With a plan in place, your killer grilled vegetable tacos will rival any meaty taco, any day of the week.
- When cutting your vegetables, keep in mind that larger-sized pieces are harder to eat in a taco, and smaller-sized pieces are too easy to overcook. Uniform, medium-sized pieces of vegetables are best suited for this particular dish.
- You will need to "blanch" some of your vegetables before they are grilled. Vegetables like potatoes, yams, carrots, and winter squashes will need to be pre-cooked in boiling, salted water for a brief few minutes before.
- To grill them, you will need a grill pan. Williams Sonoma carries a variety of size and shape options to choose from. "The pans keep even the smallest ingredients safely contained so they cook evenly on all sides while acquiring delicious fire-smoked flavor." You can just as easily find similar pans at Target and Home Depot, and they will likely cost a little less, too
- Cook each vegetable variety separately. Sure, it will take a bit longer but by cooking them separately, you can ensure that each variety is grilled to the right doneness. For example, zucchini will cook quicker than mushrooms and onions will cook quicker than potatoes.
- Cook your vegetables to "al dente." Whether you are taking them straight to the grill, or blanching them first, make sure not to over cook them. Keep in mind that once your vegetables have been grilled to al dente, you will want to combine them in to an oven-proof pan for keeping warm or reheating when everything else is ready to serve. From a texture standpoint, crisp-tender vegetables will make for a better taco simply because your guests may be adding cheese, sour cream, and salsa, and the al dente vegetables will make for a better complement to the condiments they will add.
- Your guests will eat more than you think. Through experience, we have found that some guests will not eat pork, beef, and even sometimes chicken. But, EVERYONE will eat vegetables. Some may not eat them in a taco, and will simply put them on their plate as a side dish, so make plenty. And besides, leftover vegetables are great in pasta, rice, or stir-fry.
HOW MANY KINDS OF VEGETABLES SHOULD YOU GRILL?
If peppers and onions seem a little simplistic, ten different kinds of vegetables is probably overkill unless food prep and grilling is therapeutic for you. Begin with a varity of five to six vegetables for your first effort: