There comes a time during every season when after having been deluged with the ultimate bevy of fruits from that hours labor, it becomes too easy to take the lovely things we are experiencing in that moment for granted.
The August issue of Bon Appetit landed in my mailbox yesterday, and plastered on its cover was an open faced sandwich of technicolor heirloom tomatoes and a slab of fresh feta.
Just a slice of bread, some tomato, and a bit of cheese gracing the cover of a premier food magazine?
When in every other season we must fuss and futz a bit with produce in order to come up with something cover-worthy (think crusty pies in the Fall, warm casseroles in the Winter, and wood-fired pizzas in the Spring), right now we are in the midst of that most perfect stretch of time where very little actual cooking must be done – if any at all.
As I thumbed through the pages they offered no deviation from the standard that had been set; the recipes were mostly short, very simple, and made a habit of centering around the highest caliber of vegetables that we will be privy to all year long – the kind that we are literally up to our eyeballs in, at this very moment in time.
Gardens are bursting and bubbling over, the days are staying long, warm, and hazy, evening thundershowers nourish and comfort sun-withered leaves, and the heady scent of the tomato plant lingers longingly on your hands far after you’ve spent your hours tending and coddling everyone.
Around here, we’re very lucky to have the ability to effortlessly shop locally. We’ve got a fantastic farmer’s market that convenes twice a week, and grocery stores that pride themselves on specifically letting you know exactly which town each zucchini came from, which zip codes the lettuce traveled through, and the name of the family farm that lovingly raised your tomatoes.
The biggest problem I have with this time of year is an aching back and threadbare wallet from attempting to stuff two of everything into my tote bag at the market, and fridge drawers that are so jam-packed with stone fruits and greens it’s nearly impossible to squish the doors closed.
It’s embarrassing, really.
Colorado problems, people. They are rough.
These tacos are just one of the zillion easy ways to plow through all those riches; loosely inspired by a veggie taco I had a few weeks ago at T/ACO here in Boulder, they start with a warm chili-spiked base of roasted and shredded spaghetti squash that is studded with black beans and seasoned with salt and a tiny bit of oil. They’re then topped with market fresh cabbage, creamy avocado, a fresh tomato and jalapeno salsa, and finally dusted with a healthy smattering of salty crumbled cotija cheese.
A big — huge — dollop of greek yogurt on the top helps to cement all of the lovely vegetables into place, and the cool creamy texture is in perfect contrast to the soft squash strands and crunchy veggies. A drizzle of hot sauce and a fresh corn tortilla are the finishing touches that turn these from darn good to near perfect, and after scarfing three of them down with a lemon spiked beer last night, I was ready for a nap in the lingering evening sunshine.
It’s effortless on your part, really; simply directing all of the wonderful market wears into a tortilla and straight into your mouth. It would be too easy to take all of this wonderful produce for granted right now, and we’ve got to keep it in the limelight before it fades away again, only to grace us with its presence in another long three-hundred-sixty-five days.
I think we can manage very well, thank you. Don’t you?
Farmer’s Market Tacos
Serves 2 (3 very stuffed tacos each)
This meal comes together quickly (in just about 30 minutes or so), and you are able to prep all of the below ingredients while the squash roasts. The black beans are not cooked at all, but rather are warmed through by stirring them together with the piping hot spaghetti squash strands.
If you are not a fan of spiciness, feel free to omit the jalapeno and passed hot sauce. They will still be delicious.
If your spaghetti squash is large, you could easily get enough for 3-4 people out of this recipe, but I would recommend adding an extra avocado and doubling the salsa recipe, at least. (And adding more tortillas, of course!)
1 medium sized spaghetti squash
1 14 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 Tbsp olive oil + additional for roasting the squash
1 tsp salt, plus additional to taste
fresh cracked pepper
2 cups chopped tomatoes (I used a combination of quartered cherry tomatoes and a diced yellow heirloom)
1 jalapeno, deseeded and finely chopped
2/3 cup cilantro (a good handful) chopped
juice of 1 lime
salt to taste
2% greek yogurt
cotija cheese, crumbled (about 3/4 of a cup)
8 leaves cabbage, any thick or tough stems removed, and cut into thin shreds
1 avocado, flesh scooped from shell and sliced
hot sauce (I like Frank’s)
6 small tortillas (I used a locally made blue corn tortilla, but you can use corn or flour)
Preheat your oven to 400F, and get your squash prepped by carefully cutting it in half lengthwise and scooping out the seeds. Season the interior cavity of the squash halves with salt and fresh cracked pepper, and drizzle with just a bit of olive oil. Place the squash halves cut side down on a baking sheet, and bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, until the skin is easily pierced with a knife. Be careful not to overcook, or the squash will lose its texture.
Place the drained and rinsed black beans in a bowl to the side.
While the squash cooks, prepare the salsa by combining the chopped tomatoes, chopped jalapeno, lime juice, cilantro, and salt in a mixing bowl. Stir to combine, and add salt to your liking. Keep in the fridge until you are ready to serve.
When the squash is tender, remove it from the oven and carefully remove the flesh from the skin using a fork to gently shred the squash into long strands. Place the strands into the same bowl as the black beans, and gently stir in the chili powder, 1 tsp salt, 1 Tbsp olive oil, and a few grinds of fresh black pepper. Taste, and adjust salt and pepper levels to your liking.
To assemble tacos, spoon a bit of the spaghetti squash and black bean mixture onto the center of a tortilla. Top with some shreds of cabbage, a couple of slices of avocado, a spoonful of the fresh tomato salsa, some cotija crumbles, and a dollop of greek yogurt. Serve immediately, with hot sauce passed on the side.