Top 25 Vegetarian Weeknight Meals: Spicy Quinoa Tacos

AAAAAND we’re back. It’s only been a mere five years since our last update. I’m sure no one noticed.

Anyway, a few things have changed for the AwK contributors, especially me: I’m now vegetarian! Everyone I tell that to usually asks me a lot of questions about becoming vegetarian (How long have you been vegetarian? How did you decide to become vegetarian? Do you miss bacon?) and I’m happy to talk about that at another time.

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Right now, the only thing you need to know for this post is, while my need to cook chicken badly every single night of the week has changed, my need to find weeknight meals has not. The crusade has continued, but more successfully than when I was an omnivore. You’ll probably be surprised to hear that becoming vegetarian has forced me to become ten times as adventurous with my food!

I know. It was a surprise to me too.

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MoM June ‘08 Food & Wine: DIY Kebab Party

I do a lot of grilling in the summer. For small parties, I don’t mind going “all out” with elaborate dishes and desserts. When it comes to a larger group with diverse dietary requests, sometimes it’s better to simplify. June 2008 Food & Wine Magazine has a great idea that I tried out this weekend with tasty success: A DIY Kebab Party.

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Photo courtesy of Food & Wine Magazine

The article provides you with three different tastes for kebabs: Mediterranean, Mexican and Asian. Each flavor has an accompanying basting sauce and dipping sauce. For my party, I chose the Mexican flavors for a little spicy excitement.

In putting together the actual kebobs, I provided a variety of items placed like an assembly line. If you’re short on ideas, the magazine provides some creative combinations:

Shrimp + Chorizo + Zucchini
Pork + Pineapple + Pickled Jalapeños
Chicken + Yellow Squash + Poblanos
Tuna + Okra + Cherry Tomatoes
Beef + Red Onions + Red Peppers
Scallops + Okra + Tomatoes

My kebab party was a little simpler and included: Beef, Tofu (very firm), chicken, shrimp, zucchini, baby corn, pineapple, grape tomatoes, red pepper, green pepper, mushrooms – and a couple of others that I can’t think of off the top of my head. Let your guests load up their kebobs with any combination they choose. When they get to the grilling station, baste the kebobs with Cumin-Adobo Oil:

Cumin-Adobo Oil
Ingredients
1/2 cup olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh oregano, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 teaspoons adobo sauce (from a can of chipotles)
Salt

Directions
Combine the olive oil with the ground cumin, oregano, garlic clove and adobo sauce. Season the oil with salt.

That’s really all there is to it — take your ingredients, put them in a bowl, stir them around. That’s it. Nothing more. When the kebab goes down on the grill, baste it with a bit of the oil. The result is absolutely delicious: the basting oil gives the kebabs a very delicious flavor with a slight spicy kick. For the spice-wimps out there (like me), it is not overpowering at all. I was actually really surprised at how good the basting oil tasted.

The article also provides a dipping sauce, but to be honest, it wasn’t really used. The basting oil tasted so wonderful, no one really wanted the dipping sauce to muck it up. If you do like dipping sauces, it’s a very spicy mayo dip that did have a good flavor to it, but because the Cumin-Adobo Oil was so good, the Chipotle-Citrus Mayonnaise was barely touched.

Chipotle-Citrus Mayonnaise
Ingredients
1/2 cup mayonnaise
3 chipotles in adobo, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
3/4 teaspoon minced fresh oregano
1 tablespoon minced red onion
1 tablespoon minced cilantro
Salt

Directions
In a small bowl, combine all of the ingredients and mix well. Season the sauce with salt.

Overall, this was a huge success. It was the fastest prep I ever had for a large BBQ and, from a clean-up point of view, the basting oil and kebobs did not make a huge, disgusting mess inside my grill. (Admittedly, the ease of clean up was probably one of my most favorite things about the experience.) I’ve made a few kebabs before, but this DIY has to be one of my favorites to date. Independence Day and Canada Day are coming up fast – this would be a great idea for any event. Everyone at our BBQ who had the kebobs appreciated the fact that they could pick what ingredients they liked. The hardest part, of course, was remembering who had which kebab.