Vegetable tacos don't have to be bland.
At Seamore's, a new seafood spot in Nolita that specializes in healthful, fresh cooking, the restaurant takes care of its vegetarian customers by offering seasonal vegetables, a variety of salads, a veggie burger and a vegetable taco. For the latter, this season, the market-driven menu features a charred broccoli taco with tofu crema, chili glaze and pickled daikon.
"People are used to eating seafood or meat in a taco, so it could feel a little like it's lacking if there's not that in there," chef Gregg Drusinsky says. "But one thing that I always look at when doing a veggie taco is to make something that is just as delicious if not more delicious than something that would have fish or meat in it."
Drusinsky likes broccoli because of its abundance, low price point and crispiness when roasted, though you could easily substitute with cauliflower or any root vegetable, he says.
Home cooks can opt to blanch the broccoli quickly in boiling water first before roasting. The roasted broccoli is then tossed with a chili glaze comprised of gochujang, mirin and Datu Puti, ingredients that can be found at stores such as Southeast Asia Market or online at sites like Amazon.
"We're so close to Chinatown over here," Drusinsky says. "A lot of the time we'll get inspired by something we see, and generally it's approachable enough to put elements of that on the menu."
The roasted broccoli is then served on a tortilla that's been lined with a tofu crema base, because "one thing that nobody likes when they eat a taco is to eat a dry piece of tortilla," Drusinsky says. "There's something at the bottom of the tortilla to help with the mouth feel and make it a little more rich."
It's crucial to use fresh tortilla, says Drusinsky, who gets his daily from Tortilleria Nixtamal in Corona, Queens. It should also be charred before assembling the taco.
"You can't just take a tortilla out of a bag and put something on it," he says. "Refreshing the tortilla over an open flame is really good -- it brings out a lot of the toasty corn flavor."
To finish, the taco is topped with pickled daikon and carrots as well as sesame seeds for a fresh crunch.
The end result is a vegetable taco that even die-hard meat lovers will enjoy.
"So much of vegetable cooking is a bunch of careless chopped-up veg," Drusinsky says. "A roasted chicken is good when someone takes the time and seasons it properly and roasts it and bastes it and puts a lot of love into it. If you gave vegetables the same amount of care and attention, people would be surprised with the result."
Seamore's charred broccoli taco
2 heads of broccoli
Pickled daikon and carrots
1 medium daikon (julienne cut)
3 carrots (julienne cut)
1 quart rice wine vinegar
1 quart water
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup salt
1 package tofu
1 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tbsp. salt
2 cloves raw garlic
4 tbsp. gochujang
1/2 cup mirin
1/2 cup distilled vinegar
3/4 cup Datu Puti (sugar cane vinegar)
1 1/2 cups sugar
Drizzled sesame oil
Pickled daikon and carrots
Place liquids in a pot and bring to a boil. Add salt and sugar and mix with a whisk until fully dissolved. Take liquid and pour over julienned carrot and daikon mix. Let sit for an hour.
Drain packet of tofu. Put tofu, lemon juice and garlic cloves in a blender and mix until smooth. Add salt to taste.
Measure all your ingredients and mix with a slotted spoon, until it all comes together.
Preset oven to 350 degrees. Cut broccoli into medium-size florets, discarding the stems. Season with salt, pepper and olive oil. When oven is ready, place seasoned broccoli onto a sheet tray and roast until browned (about 20-30 minutes).
Preparing the taco
Pour chili glaze over broccoli and mix with sesame seeds. Heat tortillas. When ready, spread 1 tbsp. of tofu crema on tortillas. Place 2-3 oz. of broccoli over tofu crema on each tortilla. Garnish with pickled daikon and carrots and more sesame seeds.