Winter is the season when citrus produce offers the best flavor and the most variety. If your locale lacks a mandarin orange supply, tangelos or even tangerines will work well in their place. Whatever you do, please do not substitute canned mandarin oranges. The difference is night and day, particularly in a simple recipe like my Mandarin Avocado Lime Sauce where every flavor stands out. But make it the right way with fresh ingredients, and you will have a tangy, lightly sweetened sauce that will add an amazing quality to your tacos.
Quinoa, as we know, is pretty flavorless, but a nice change from beans! And preferable over so called "healthy" vegan meat substitutes that are technically processed, and often laden with allergy inducing protein isolates. Whereas, quinoa is just a simple seed that cooks up as easily as rice. I use a traditional homemade taco seasoning to turn it into a meat substitute right on the stovetop. Very easy. I then layer the quinoa base into my tortilla with whatever salsa I have on hand, but you could simplify this even further by sautéing the quinoa and salsa together with the spice mix. Next, toss on your taco toppings such as tomato, lettuce, baby spinach, cilantro or cheese.
And then, the crème de la crème, the Mandarin Avocado Lime Sauce! Maybe I'm overly excited about this, but for those of us who cannot tolerate yogurt or cream based sauces, a good vegan version is gold. Enjoy!
1 cup water
1/2 cup uncooked red quinoa
1 small onion, chopped
3/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon oregano
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
6 small corn tortillas
1/4 cup hot sauce or 1/2 salsa of choice
6 cilantro sprigs
1 cup mandarin avocado sauce, recipe below*
Mandarin Avocado Sauce:
juice of 1/2 fresh lime
juice of 1 fresh mandarin orange
1/2 tablespoon honey
salt and pepper to taste
Rinse the quinoa in a mesh sieve under cold water. Bring the water and quinoa to a boil in a covered sauce pan. Reduce the heat and cook until all water is absorbed.
In a fry pan, heat the oil over medium high. Add the onions, cooking until translucent and slightly browned. Remove from heat and add another tablespoon of oil if needed. Then toss the quinoa, spices, salt and pepper into the pan of onions. Allow to cook for a minute or two before stirring. Repeat this several times to allow some of the quinoa to crisp. Remove from heat.
In a separate pan, toast the corn tortillas on each side until lightly browned. Plate and add the quinoa mixture and any toppings such as sliced tomato, salsa or hot sauce, cotija cheese and fresh cilantro.
To make the sauce: use a blender or food processor to puree the avocado, citrus juices, honey, salt and pepper until creamy. Using a rubber spatula, spoon the sauce over each taco. Serve immediately.
Yield: 6 tacos