What is a taco?
That’s the question Wesley Avila, fine-dining cook turned dyi food truck chef of Guerrilla Tacos, asks in the opening of his cookbook Guerrilla Tacos.
For Wesley, it’s a tortilla with whatever you can dream to put on top. “Savory or sweet, soft or crispy, corn or flour — as long as you can reasonably eat it with your hands.”
Dialing in the Guerrilla Tacos cookbook even further, it’s the flavors and foods he dreams about, usually on a tortilla. Excited by the freedom an possibilities this could bring about, I plunged into the book. While the book is pretty much just tacos, it is quite substantial — 36 specific taco recipes along with a smattering of burritos, taquitos, and quesadillas, as well as several traditional Mexican dishes and an impressive selection of salsa recipes.
If you’re into tacos, this book doesn’t disappoint.
There are recipes that involve ingredients you may not have heard of, or that you may think shouldn’t be hanging out together in a tortilla, but you’re up for an amazing taco … aren’t you? You would never let convention keep you from deliciousness. I know you.
The Cauliflower Taco is the first taco I made from the book, simply because I had all the ingredients on hand — and that’s what smart home chefs do (yes, you!). There is no meat in this taco, and let me pause and take a moment to tell you that NONE OF THE INGREDIENTS ARE INTENDED TO REPLACE MEAT HERE.
Sorry for yelling, but it drives me nutballs when folks try to use vegetables to replace specific ingredients in a dish (I’m looking at you, cauliflower rice and cauliflower “crust” pizza). Vegetables cooked well, and in well-thought-out pairings, should be enjoyed and embraced for what they are. (*no disrespect to cauliflower rice or cauliflower pizza crust, but that is the WORST tasting cauliflower ever — it’s under-utilizing a kickass vegetable as some kind of filler which I’ve always found disappointing).
Stepping off the soapbox … the combination of the vegetarian ingredients in this taco are what makes this taco so amazing. Not because any of the ingredient are replacing something.
Curry-kissed cauliflower is pan-roasted until it becomes crispy, golden brown, followed up by crunchy pine-nuts and sweet dates. A dash of sour from the olives and the salsa evens out the sweetness. It’s quite a harmonious taco. For whatever reason — it just works.
I love it. I ate three (mini tacos) in one sitting. And when I hit “publish” here in a few minutes, I’m going to make more and take some to a friend. You should too.
from the Guerrilla Tacos cookbook
Serves 4 to 6 (2-3 tacos each)
1 head of cauliflower (white or Romanesco) leaves and stems removed, cut into bite-sized florets
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed with the side of a knife
1 teaspoon curry powder
4 thyme sprigs
1 cup Medjool dates, pitted and sliced into edible pieces
Freshly ground black pepper
12 corn tortillas, warmed (see instructions below)
1 cup Castelvetrano Olives, pitted and quartered
Roasted tomato salsa (I bought mine)
Fill a large stockpot with 4 quarts of water and bring to a boil. Add salt until the water tastes like the sea (be generous with the salt here - it’s bringing flavor to the cauliflower). Parboil the cauliflower for 3 to 4 minutes, then drain thoroughly.
Meanwhile, toast the pine nuts gently over medium heat in dry skillet until they take on a toasty color, about 4 minutes — do not walk away from this, pine nuts can go from toasted to burnt quickly. Set aside.
In a 10-inch cast-iron skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat and add the drained cauliflower florets, cooking for 2 to 3 minutes until they begin to turn golden. Add the garlic, curry powder, and thyme sprigs, and continue to cook until the florets begin to get golden brown and crispy, about 10 minutes. Add the dates and pine nuts and toss with the cauliflower. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and discard the garlic and thyme.
Add the cauliflower mixture to the tortillas, then the olives, top with some salsa, and a sprinkling of fresh parsley leaves.
How to Warm Tortillas
In a cast-iron skillet, or on a griddle, over medium heat, warm a knob of unsalted butter (1/2 to 1 tablespoon). Add tortillas one at a time. Coat the one side with butter, then flip immediately to coat the opposite side. Season with a little salt. Don’t crisp or brown them. Repeat in batches until you have enough tortillas to serve.