Charred Cauliflower Tacos with Romesco Salsa

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A smoky, mildly-spicy romesco salsa seeps into the filling of charred cauliflower florets in this well-balanced vegetarian taco. Pine nuts add crunch and richness to each bite. "Before we opened our restaurant, my husband, Edgar, and I were newly self-employed and looking for ways to stay afloat," says Sara Mardanbigi, co-owner of Nixta Taqueria in Austin, a 2020 Food & Wine Best New Restaurant, who shared this recipe. "We started hustling Airbnb Experiences at our house with cooking classes. One of the most-popular items guests raved about was the romesco salsa. Once Nixta opened, we ran the cauliflower taco topped with romesco salsa as a seasonal option, and then, because it was in such high demand, we made it a menu staple. To this day, we'll get Airbnb guests coming by to see our taqueria baby in real life — and to try the cauliflower taco, of course!"

Charred Cauliflower Tacos with Romesco Salsa
Photo: Photo by Greg Dupree / Food Styling by Margaret Monroe Dickey / Prop Styling by Lydia Pursell
Active Time:
30 mins
Total Time:
1 hrs 20 mins
Servings:
4

Ingredients

Romesco Salsa 

  • 3 medium-size red bell peppers 

  • 1 (3 1/2-ounce) plum tomato

  • ¾ cup toasted pecan halves

  • ½ bunch fresh cilantro

  • 3 large garlic cloves

  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar 

  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika 

  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt

Tacos 

  • 1 medium head cauliflower, cut into 1 1/2-inch florets (about 6 cups) 

  • ¼ cup canola oil

  • 12 (6-inch) blue corn tortillas, warmed 

  • 4 ounces queso fresco, crumbled (about 1 cup)

  • 1 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves 

  • 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts  

  • 1 tablespoon cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil

  • Flaky sea salt (such as Maldon), for sprinkling 

  • 1 lime, cut into wedges

Directions

Make the Romesco Salsa

  1. Preheat oven to broil with oven rack about 6 inches from heat. Place bell peppers and tomato on a large rimmed baking sheet. Broil, turning twice, until charred on all sides, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer charred peppers to a bowl, and cover with plastic wrap; let stand 30 minutes. Remove skin from tomato; quarter tomato. Remove skin, seeds, and stem from bell peppers. Process bell peppers, tomato, pecans, cilantro, garlic, lemon juice, vinegar, smoked paprika, and cayenne in a blender until smooth, about 2 minutes. With blender running on low speed, gradually add oil; process until smooth, about 30 seconds. Stir in salt.

Make the Tacos

  1. Preheat oven to high broil with oven rack about 6 inches from heat. Toss together cauliflower florets and canola oil on a large rimmed baking sheet. Broil, stirring twice, until cauliflower is browned, 10 to 15 minutes.

  2. Top each tortilla with about 1/4 cup roasted cauliflower, 2 tablespoons romesco salsa, and 1 tablespoon queso fresco. Garnish with cilantro and pine nuts, and finish with olive oil, a sprinkle of flaky sea salt, and a squeeze of lime juice. 

Make Ahead

Romesco can be made up to 5 days ahead and stored in an airtight container in refrigerator.

Suggested Pairing

Mexican pilsner: Modelo Especial

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