Hang onto Summer and heat up the grill for these vegetarian Mushroom & Zucchini Tacos with Quinoa and Cilantro Pesto.
Did I ever mention my 3 year stint as a vegetarian? I was in middle school and my best friend decided to become a vegetarian. Also I read that Drew Barrymore was a vegetarian, so these both seemed like sensible reasons to make a major dietary change.
I can still remember the panicked look in my parents eyes, especially my meat loving father. You could just see them racking their brain trying to think of what on earth to cook. Luckily, both were foodies ahead of their time and happy to experiment in the kitchen. But still, the next three years consisted of a lot of beans and rice, tofu, pasta and pizza.
Even though I'm no longer a vegetarian, I still enjoy eating mostly meatless meals. And since then, I've discovered a whole world of exciting and interesting vegetarian proteins to experiment with. Tempeh was a revelation. I'm obsessed with crumbling it up, throwing in lots of spices and using it like sausage, as in my tempeh sausage pasta with broccoli rabe. Greek yogurt has come on to the scene, which has totally changed my breakfast game. And we can't forget quinoa, that miracle pseudo-grain that just happens to be a complete protein.
Quinoa was just beginning to get popular when I went on a trip to Peru, where quinoa was first cultivated. It's still a huge part of their cuisine, so I got to try quinoa a million different ways - a traditional quinoa soup enjoyed al fresca on a tiny island on Lake Titicaca, stuffed in spicy rocoto peppers with lots of cheese, in a vegetarian cannelloni smothered in their famous huancaina sauce. I came back with a full on obsession.
Now quinoa is on regular rotation in our house. I'm obsessed with it's fluffy texture and nutty taste, and it's such an easy way to add protein to vegetarian dishes, like these grilled vegetable tacos.
Here's some more reasons to love quinoa:
- Although commonly referred to as a whole grain, quinoa is technically a pseudo-cereal, a seed that closely resembles grains in taste and nutrition. Because of this, quinoa is higher in fats and protein. In fact, it's considered a complete protein with all nine essential amino acids.
- Not being a grain, quinoa is naturally gluten free for those who must avoid. You can even find quinoa flour to bake with, or make your own and try my quinoa chocolate cupcakes.
- Despite not technically being a grain, quinoa is still a rich source of fiber with 5 grams in a cup. Different types of quinoa vary in protein content and some contain even more.
- Because quinoa is so rich in protein and fats, it has a lower glycemic effect than most other grains. Also, all that protein and fat does the extra duty of keeping you fuller longer.
- Quinoa is particularly rich in minerals like phosphorus, iron, zinc and especially magnesium, with 30% your daily needs in 1 cup cooked quinoa. Studies show approximately 70% of adults may be deficient in magnesium, which has been linked to anxiety, migraines, hypertension and osteoporosis.
These zucchini and mushroom tacos are easy to make on the grill. If you don't have a grill, just roast the vegetables in the oven. The recipe for cilantro pepita pesto makes way more than you'll need. Freeze the rest or stay tuned on my website next week for a recipe for cilantro pesto soba noodles!
Heat up the grill for these Mushroom & Zucchini Tacos w/ Quinoa and Cilantro Pesto via @RHartleyRD @healthyaperture Tweet this
Grilled Mushroom and Zucchini Tacos with Quinoa and Cilantro Pesto
- 1/2 cup quinoa
- 4 ounces shiitake mushrooms
- 8 ounces cremini mushrooms
- 1 large zucchini, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/2-inch sticks
- 1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 8 corn tortillas
- 2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
- Cilantro Pesto:
- 3 bunches cilantro
- 1 cup pepitas, toasted
- 2 jalapenos, seeded and chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- First, make the cilantro pesto. Rinse the cilantro and shake well to dry. Cut the leaves off and place in a food processor along with the pepitas, jalapenos and garlic cloves. Process while streaming in the extra virgin olive oil. Season with salt to taste.
- Heat 1 cup water and 1/2 cup quinoa in a small pot on medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to simmer. Cook 15 minutes until quinoa is tender and water is absorbed. Leave covered for 5 minutes to finish steaming then remove lid and fluff with a fork.
- Heat grill to medium-high heat. Place mushrooms and zucchini in a large bowl. Drizzle with 1-2 tablespoons olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Arrange mushrooms on skewers. Place zucchini and mushrooms on the grill, cover and cook, flipping halfway, until tender and lightly charred, about 10 minutes total.
- When vegetables are cool enough to handle, quarter the mushrooms. Heat the tortillas. Divide quinoa evenly among the tacos, top with grilled vegetables. Dollop with cilantro pesto and a sprinkle of goat cheese.