I think the universe has been sending out invitations to tell me secrets this week, but I’ve just been blowing it off to wash my hair or something. Lots of deep, intuitive feelings about career and life decisions that I just kept pushing down in an attempt to look/feel like I had all the answers. I had a cache of paperwork, decisions, and upcoming stuff that I had been sitting on and deliberating over for a couple weeks. These things were cluttering up my inbox, but they were also passive-aggressively shoving over my ability to stay present.
A couple mornings ago, on a total whim, I deleted Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest off of my phone and tablet in an attempt to shut out a bit of the noise. Then, I spent that day working on new recipes, drinking lots of tea, and listening to some of my favourite podcasts. I was in a good place of workflow and inspiration with hardly any distractions. That evening, when I started making dinner, I felt this unbelievable sense of clarity. I suddenly knew what course of action I needed to take in order to get back to that feeling of oneness with the world in front of me. It was powerful, and I’m still buzzing with the sense of relief.
When you work for yourself (or anyone really), it seems easy to get caught up in a lot of “What if” lines of questioning. What if it doesn’t work out? What if people hate me for doing this? What if a recipe doesn’t get X amount of likes on Instagram? What if this decision changes my work and career completely? What if this isn’t sustainable? Focusing on these queries really screwed me over in terms of productivity and overall happiness last week. Letting go of the puzzle pieces that didn’t fit was a lot easier to do once I started asking “Why?” instead.
Over five years ago, I had a job interview for a server position in a fine dining restaurant. The owner/proprietor didn’t care about how much experience I had or what restaurants I had worked in before. She wanted to know how passionate I was about hospitality and making connections with people, adding that if you love doing anything enough, some measure of prosperity will always follow. I didn’t last at that job (dropped a whole tray of fluted up champagne at someone’s wedding on the first day uuuuugh), but her message stuck with me for a while because it focused on the Why. Sometimes when I get off track and start thinking about my decisions solely as a means to an end, I try to bring myself back to that conversation.
On the day that I had those moments of clarity and relief, I made these tacos. The two events were most likely unrelated, but maybe just slightly linked in the cosmos? I had been thinking about doing a taco or something with king oyster mushrooms, but it felt a little predictable pre-superbowl. Then I went to the store, bought the mushrooms and tortillas, a doughnut for good measure, and now here we are. These vegan tacos are deceptively, weirdly meaty. I only say weird because I don’t typically chase after that unctuous texture with plant-based foods because it freaks me out a bit. The mild sweetness and soft, lightly chewy texture of king oyster mushrooms is a trip. Maybe I’m just really disconnected from animal protein, but I second guess myself when I eat these mushrooms. I douse them in a deep, smoky, and rich sauce that has spice, light sweetness, acidity, heft, and a sprinkle of cacao powder too. It’s complex and hard to stop eating. I know the ingredient list looks long, but most of it is pantry stuff (minus the dates and chipotle powder–but these can be had in small quantities in bulk shops). Let there be sauce, go team etc! ;)
ROASTED KING OYSTER MUSHROOM TACOS W/ CHIPOTLE CACAO SAUCE RECIPE
Print the recipe here!
Serves: Makes enough for 8-10 tacos with extra sauce
Notes: When I had my sauce all finished, I stirred in a tiny drizzle of maple syrup because I thought it needed a little extra balance. I realize that some people are really sensitive to sweetness, and I figured that the inclusion of dates might already be reason enough to deter some people here. Just mentioning this maple addition here because I didn’t include it in the ingredients–season this however you need to :)
CACAO CHIPOTLE SAUCE INGREDIENTS:
1/4 cup sunflower or grapeseed oil
1 medium cooking onion, diced (about 1 cup diced onion)
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons dried chipotle chili powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 Medjool dates, pitted and chopped
1 tablespoon almond butter (I prefer roasted here)
1 cup hot water
2 tablespoons cacao or unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon gluten-free tamari or coconut aminos
FOR THE TACOS:
1 lb king oyster mushrooms, sliced
1 tablespoon sunflower or grapeseed oil
sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste
8-10 6-inch tortillas, warmed
1 ripe avocado, peeled and sliced
3-4 radishes, sliced thin
fresh cilantro leaves
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Make the sauce: Heat the sunflower oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring frequently, until quite soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, oregano, chipotle chili powder, cinnamon, cloves, and sesame seeds. Keep stirring and cooking until all spices are fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the tomato paste and stir for another minute or so, just to get some of the raw-ness out of the paste. Take the onion mixture off the heat and carefully transfer it to an upright blender.
To the onion mixture, add the chopped dates, almond butter, and hot water. Blitz this mixture on high until you have a smooth puree. Return the mixture to the saucepan, add the cacao powder and the tamari and stir to combine. Simmer the sauce for 10 minutes, stirring constantly. The sauce should be quite thick and glossy. Keep the sauce warm or at room temperature while you prepare the taco components.
Place the sliced king oyster mushrooms in a 9 x 13 baking dish (with at least 2-inch high sides). Toss the mushrooms with the sunflower oil, salt, and pepper. Cover the dish tightly with foil and place in the oven. Roast mushrooms for 20 minutes. After the 20 minute mark, remove the mushrooms from the oven and carefully take the foil off the top. Toss the mushrooms a bit and return the dish to the oven, uncovered, for another 10 minutes. The mushrooms should be soft and most of the juice should be dried up at this point. Keep them warm while you assemble the tacos.
For one taco, lay a warmed tortilla on a plate. Put a good spoonful of the roasted mushrooms down the center. Top the mushrooms with 1-2 tablespoons of the chipotle cacao sauce. Then, finish the taco with avocado slices, radishes, and cilantro. Repeat this process with the remaining ingredients. Serve warm.