Rainbow Winter Tacos

It's the depth of winter, and the days (at least in Vermont!) are cold and short. I was feeling pretty bummed out about it on a recent Sunday afternoon, but do you know what made me feel better? Brightly-colored food!

I know it seems silly, but brainstorming about, creating, and eating some really beautiful and brightly-colored tacos immediately made me forget about short days and being trapped inside so much. These Rainbow Winter Tacos were the perfect cure for my winter blues.

These tacos are a fusion of two cuisines that I love: Mexican food and Vermonty autumnal food. I know it may seem like an odd combination, but please give it a try! I think one of the reasons it works is because the two can be bridged with acid. Meaning, use autumnal acid (e.g. pomegranate seeds, apple cider) in place of how you'd traditionally find it in Mexican cuisine (e.g. lime), and all of the sudden it comes together.

You can really take this idea and run with it however you like, but my goal was to create beautiful, whimsical, colorful tacos that were like a taco truck ran into a Thanksgiving feast.

Some aspects of these tacos are purely Mexican, like blue corn tortillas, fire-roasted peppers, and pepitas. Others aspects are purely Thanksgiving, like pomegranate, blackberries, and thyme. Those are the more straightforward parts.

Now onto the fun stuff! Certain elements are Thanksgiving-like ingredients, but spiced in a Mexican way, like sweet potatoes and brussel sprouts roasted in chili powder and cumin.

On the flip side, other elements are Mexican-like ingredients, but flavored in a Thanksgiving way. For example, the guacamole is made with pomegranate, the red onions are pickled in apple cider, and the salsa is made with persimmon instead of tomato. It all totally works.

To be honest, these take a bit of time to make, just because there are so many different elements. But what else are you going to do on a freezing cold winter Sunday when it gets dark at 4:30PM? It's clearly a day for making tacos! And please sip a ginger margarita while you cook, it follows the exact same flavor pattern.

The variations here are endless. Adding your grilled protein of choice would work. Swapping in cranberries or cranberry sauce would be delicious. Looking for something creamy? Your favorite greek yogurt, sour cream, or cashew crema would be lovely. What about some apple slices? Grilled corn? Chili-spiced pecans? Just try to stick to the theme (purely Mexican, purely Thanksgiving, or one flavored like the other) and it will all make sense.

The whole point of these is to have fun! Tacos are fun anyways, but Rainbow Winter Tacos are even better.

Please share your creation so I can see how you've interpreted the concept! Tag "The Rogue Brussel Sprout" on Facebook or hashtag #theroguebrusselsprout on Instagram.

Interested in more of this kind of fusion? It's one of my favorites! This Butternut Squash, Black Bean, and Wheatberry Chili has a lot of the same ideas.

Thoughts About Ingredients
(These are all just suggestions, since rogue is more fun than recipe)
  • Red onion
  • Apple cider, cider vinegar, sugar, and salt for pickling
  • Big bag of brussel sprouts
  • Large sweet potato
  • Oil, salt, and pepper for roasting
  • Chili powder
  • Cumin
  • Persimmon. If you're not familiar with these, I highly suggest checking out Wikipedia. There are some varieties that are very astringent and non-edible until very ripe. The squatter-shaped ones, called Fuyu, are much more forgiving.
  • Salt, pepper, and cayene for the salsa
  • Pepper or two. The heat level is up to you. Do a jalapeno if you like spicy, a poblano if you like delicately spicy, and a bell pepper if you want no spice.
  • Avocado or two
  • Few handfuls of pomegranate arils, divided 
  • Small corn tortillas. I've fallen in love with these blue ones; they're beautiful if you can find them. Of course yellow will be equally as delicious.
  • Big handful of blackberries
  • Few sprigs of thyme
  • Pepitas. These are just hull-less pumpkin seeds. I love the roasted and salted ones!
Thoughts About Method
(These are all just suggestions, be creative and make it yours)
  1. Cut the red onion into wedges or thin slices and put it in a small pot. Barely submerge it in a ~2:1 mixture of apple cider and apple cider vinegar. Add a big handful of sugar and a palmful of salt.
  2. Bring the onion to a boil, then simmer for 5 minutes. Turn the heat off and let it sit until it has reached your desired level of pickle-ness (it will depend on the size of your slices, but I'm usually happy after 15-20 minutes).
  3. When you're satisfied with the onion, drain off the liquid and put the pickled slices in a tightly sealed container in the fridge. You can easily do this a few days in advance. Make a big batch and put them on everything!
  4. Cut the brussel sprouts in half and lay them cut-side down on an oiled baking sheet. Salt and pepper generously. Roast at 425 until caramelized and tender, about 30 minutes.
  5. Peel the sweet potato and cut it into cubes. Lay them out on a separate oiled baking sheet, and again salt and pepper generously. Roast at 425, about 20 minutes.
  6. While the veggies are roasting, prep the remaining toppings. Take your pepper and put it directly over a gas burner, fire-roasting each side until charred. Let the pepper cool and cut it into thin rings.
  7. Dice up the persimmon and add salt, pepper, and a pinch of cayene. Give it a good mix and set it aside to let the flavors marry.
  8. Mash up the avocado with generous salt. Stir in some pomegranate arils, then add more pomegranate on top.
  9. When the brussel sprouts and sweet potato are almost done, give them both a tiny splash of apple cider (or even water is fine) so they stay moist. Sprinkle them generously with chili powder and cumin, and return them to the oven for a few more minutes to toast the spices.
  10. At the last minute, warm up your tortillas. I like to toast them right over the gas burner. Putting them in the microwave in a damp cloth is the easiest. Popping them onto a grill pan for a minute or two will also work.
  11. Now it's time to assemble! Lay out your tortillas. Add a heap of roasted sweet potatoes and brussel sprouts. Garnish with a few pieces of pickled onion, a few pepper rings, some pomegranate arils, a blackberry or two, and some thyme leaves. I like to serve the salsa, pomegranate guacamole, and pepitas on the side so that everyone can top their own.


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