Monday, December 14, 2015

34. Roasted Carrot Tacos with Swiss Chard, Quinoa, and Goat Cheese Sauce


These days, I find inspiration in the strangest places.  A couple of nights ago, I attended a dinner show put on by a local high school.  It was a fun time.  They did a great job.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that the dinner included blackened, roasted vegetables.  The carrots were my favorite.  Hearty, sweet . . . just a shade lighter than burned . . . mmmmm.  :)

Roasted carrot tacos?  Sure - why not?  I'll make a taco out of anything.

In this recipe, I decided to feature a lot of hearty, holiday-friendly flavors.  Check out this cranberry bread that I  made yesterday.  See?  I'm full of Christmas spirit - but I'm so not ready for Christmas.  Ha ha.  :)

Anyway, I decided to make a pilaf, of sorts, with quinoa and Swiss chard.  And cranberries.  And pistachios.  :)  I thought of crumbling goat cheese on top of it, but then I thought, "Why not make a creamy, cheesy sauce?"

That's how it happened!

I'll tell you right now, these got mixed reviews at our house.  I thought they were great.  My husband is very open-minded and was a good sport about it, but he is not a roasted-carrot-taco kind of guy.  Ha ha.  I was a vegetarian for eight years and am still all about vegetarian food, though I don't follow any type of diet religiously.  Steve was never a vegetarian.  I think the day I fell off the vegetarian wagon was probably a great day in his life.

My point?  You should consider your audience (or dinner guests?) if you make these tacos.  If you're serving people that regularly shop in the bulk natural foods section of your local grocery store, you're probably good.  Hippies?  Good.  Hipsters?  Good.  Anyone that regularly makes homemade pickles or homebrew?  This is your recipe.

Your average meat-and-potatoes fan?  Well . . . you might want to re-think it.  This isn't a recipe that's going to convert anyone to vegetarianism.

It's so good, though.  If you like roasted vegetables, quinoa, Swiss chard, and goat cheese, you'll like these.  :)

Here's the recipe:

Roasted Carrot Tacos with Swiss Chard, Quinoa, and Goat Cheese Sauce

Serves about 4 (8 generous tacos)


For the Swiss chard-quinoa mixture:

1 bunch swiss chard (about 12 oz.)
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 cup chopped shallots (about 3 medium)
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 tbsp. finely chopped rosemary leaves
1 tsp. salt
3/4 cup quinoa, rinsed if desired
1 1/4 cups vegetable broth (or water)
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper (or to taste)
1/4 cup shelled roasted pistachios (unsalted), chopped
1/4 cup dried sweetened cranberries

For the roasted carrots:

1 tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 lb. carrots, peeled and trimmed
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, or to taste

For the goat cheese sauce:

2 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. flour
1 cup whole milk
One 4 oz. log goat cheese
1/4 tsp. salt
A pinch of cayenne pepper

8 multi-grain corn and wheat tortillas (I used Mission Corn & Whole Wheat Blend.)


1. Start the Swiss chard-quinoa mixture.  Wash the chard and cut out the ribs.  Coarsely chop the leaves and set aside.

2. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat.  Add the shallots, lower the heat slightly, and cook until soft and slightly browned, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and rosemary.  Cook and stir for another minute.

Add the reserved Swiss chard and the salt.  Cook and stir until the chard has wilted and most of the liquid has evaporated, about 5 minutes.  Add the quinoa and stir.

Pour in the vegetable stock and bring to a simmer.  Cover and cook for about 20 minutes, or until the quinoa is tender and the liquid has been absorbed.  Add the pistachios and cranberries and stir to combine.  Keep warm.

3. While the quinoa mixture is cooking, roast the carrots:  Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Cut the carrots into 2 to 3 inch pieces.  Halve them lengthwise (or quarter the thicker pieces.)  Combine the olive oil, thyme, carrots, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl.

Line a baking sheet with foil and spray lightly with non-stick cooking spray.  Spread the carrots out in a single layer on the foil.  Roast in the oven until tender and slightly blackened/caramelized, about 15 to 20 minutes.

4. While the carrots are roasting, make the cheese sauce:  Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Allow to brown just a bit.  Add the flour and stir with a whisk.  Continue to cook and stir until the mixture is a light tan color, about 3 minutes.  Add the milk and whisk to combine.  Bring to a simmer, lower the heat, and continue cooking and stirring until thick and slightly reduced, about 5 minutes.  Cut the goat cheese into 4 chunks and add to the sauce.  Turn off the heat and stir to melt the cheese.  Add the salt and the cayenne.  Taste and adjust seasonings.

5.  Prepare the tortillas:  I heated my tortillas in a dry skillet over medium-high heat for a minute or so on each side, just like I have done in the past with corn or flour tortillas.  Since this is basically the last step, you don't really need to keep them warm.  Just stack them on a plate or sheet of foil until it's time to assemble the tacos!

6.  Assemble the tacos:  For each taco, place a tortilla on a plate.  Top with a few pieces of the roasted carrot.  Spoon on some of the chard-quinoa mixture.  Drizzle with a generous amount of the goat cheese sauce.  Enjoy!

Well, I think I already gave our review of this recipe:  one "yes", one "no".  To be fair, Steve did say that they tasted all right; they just weren't his thing.

I think I might try broiling the carrots next time (instead of roasting them).  They were good, but I was hoping for a little more "blackening".  Broiling on the top rack of the oven might do it!

I don't know why goat cheese sauce is not a thing.  I loved it.  It was creamy and melty - kind of like Velveeta cheese sauce, but in a good way!  I have a feeling that the leftover cheese sauce will be reimagined as a pasta dish.  Yeah.  That's probably what's happening tomorrow.  :)

Well . . . I think I might make some dessert tacos next - you know, to give us a break (of sorts)?  Ha ha.

Please feel free to comment!  Did you try these tacos?  What did you think?

Thanks for reading!

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