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December 2, 2013

RECIPE: Tacos that break with tradition

In Mexico City, some of my favorite tacos, even before I was vegetarian, were those stuffed with cactus paddles, mushrooms or squash blossoms. But at restaurants closer to home, what passes for vegetables often leaves much to be desired. At one Washington spot recently, I had tacos in which the "veggies" were nothing more than grilled onions and peppers: the boring backdrop to fajitas.

Thankfully, exceptions abound. While the farmers market near the White House was open for the season, the women behind Chaya served such great combinations as smoky zucchini with cheese and radishes; and at Taqueria Nacional the other day I had a lovely taco filled with roasted acorn squash and greens. (Their pinto-bean tacos are nothing to scoff at, either.)

At home, I often turn leftover roasted vegetables into tacos, one of my standard rotating uses (along with chopped salads, pureed soups and pasta sauces). I like something a little meaty (not meat, of course, but a vegetable with substance), something a little crunchy, something a little spicy and maybe something a little tart.

My previous recipes for meat-focused tacos, it turns out, sometimes lend themselves perfectly well to new, plant-focused approaches. Instead of fried catfish, I've taken to pairing roasted cauliflower with the other makings of fish tacos: a chipotle-spiked slaw, salsa verde and pumpkin seeds for crunch. Next up for veggie conversion: tacos al pastor, those pork-and-pineapple ones with such a colorful tradition. I'm thinking they're made for sweet potatoes.

Cauliflower Tacos With Chipotle Slaw

4 servings (12 tacos)

Salting and squeezing the cabbage results in a slaw that doesn't get watery; it also helps keep the tacos from falling apart as you eat them.

MAKE AHEAD: The salted cabbage needs to drain for 20 to 30 minutes. The cauliflower can be roasted up to a week in advance and refrigerated; reheat in a low oven or microwave before using in the tacos. The slaw can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. From Joe Yonan, author of "Eat Your Vegetables: Bold Recipes for the Single Cook" (Ten Speed Press, 2013).

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