I love the idea of icebreakers. You know, conversation starters at parties, casual networking events, first day of law school group sessions (!!) that are pretty lighthearted but at the same time tell you something significant about a new person. Being a lover of all things food related, I recently came up with my new favorite icebreaker. If you had a food truck, what would you sell?
Now maybe I ask this question because I have a million ideas while also zero ideas about what my personal food truck would be (I know it will involve a wood fired oven, but after that I just can’t decide). My boyfriend’s answer was immediate: pulled pork. Both his response time and his answer–while en face simple–actually reveal a lot about him. One, he is decisive. Two, he is somewhat traditional. Three, he really likes pulled pork…which means he’s the kind of person I like 🙂 I’m sure there is more revealed by his food truck than the three characteristics above, but you get the idea.
I’ve begun asking a lot of people this question, and the answers are both fascinating and often spark good conversation about “the best X you’ve ever eaten,” or the best place for food trucks, or the worst food truck experience…you get the idea. Then maybe the conversation effortlessly shifts to restaurants in town, and before you know it you have a date set to eat at a great restaurant with a new buddy. Plus, talking about food is also one thousand percent in my wheelhouse, so if I can steer the conversation that way you better believe I will.
I recently had mediocre tacos from a food truck. It was an instant case of FOMO as I looked around at my companions’ juicy burgers and I looked down at two sort of sad looking pulled chicken tacos. The tortillas weren’t fresh, the cheese was mass produced and pre-grated, and while the pulled chicken was decent the overall effort and effect was supremely sub-par. I left disappointed (and hungry since we’d just run 14 miles), and vowing to make a definitively above average street taco at home a couple days later.
Naturally I turned to Smitten Kitchen. She is my go-to for any craving, and her basic recipe for sweet potato tacos did not disappoint. I eliminated some spices and added others. I made my own “refried” black beans for the sake of no nightshades, pickled a white onion with cilantro and honey and topped the whole thing with the easiest cabbage slaw posted a while back on this site (swapping cilantro for parsley, sunflower seeds for sesame seeds and skipping the goat cheese entirely). Topped with a smear of guacamole and the whole thing was incredible.
This recipe ticked all the boxes. It was easy. It was cheap. It made enough for leftovers. The clean up was minimal. The sweet potatoes were described as “perfect” and compared to “little pillows of spice.” Basically, it is a recipe that will be on heavy rotation in the coming months. So while I don’t think my food truck would have street tacos, my kitchen definitely will.
Sweet Potato Street Tacos
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen, makes 8 tacos. The ingredient list looks long, but it really is just spices. So while it may be an up front investment, you will use all of these spices constantly and especially once you’ve made these tacos because you will eat them again and again.
8 corn tortillas, warmed in cast iron pan or over flame
For the sweet potatoes
2 large sweet potatoes (2-2.5 pounds total), peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch cubes. Lay the sweet potato on your cutting board and cut into 1/2-1 inch rounds. Lay those rounds on the flat side, cut in half, and then cut the halves into quarters or thirds.
3 tablespoons olive oil, separated
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground oregano
1/4 teaspoon grond black pepper
For the black beans
1 can black beans, casually drained (you want a little bit of the bean liquid for blending purposes)
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
For the quick pickled onions
1 white onion, sliced thin
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
Pinch of sea salt
Add-ons: Cabbage slaw (linked from earlier recipe, see notes up top for swaps), avocado slices, goat cheese, roasted sunflower seeds, cilantro, plain greek yogurt, lime juice
1. First get the sweet potatoes in the oven. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cover a large baking sheet with aluminum foil (easy clean-up!) and coat that foil with one tablespoon oil. In a large bowl combine the sweet potato cubes with two tablespoons olive oil, then the rest of the spices. It will seem like too many spices, but it is not. Spread evenly on baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes, stirring once after 25 minutes to get even crispiness. Remove from oven for taco assembly.
2. Right when the sweet potatoes go in the oven make your quick pickled onions. Simply combine the white wine vinegar, honey, and pinch of salt in an nonreactive bowl. Stir until thoroughly combined, then add your onions and stir to coat. Set aside until taco assembly.
3. Make cabbage slaw (linked above)
4. After you stir the sweet potatoes (20 minutes till assembly time) gently heat your casually drained black beans (so a little bit of bean liquid is still in the pan) until warmed through. At this point I immersion blend the beans to get a nice paste, but if you don’t have an immersion blender or aren’t so inclined just mash roughly with the back of a fork. Taco assembly begins shortly.
5. With 10 or so minutes until sweet potatoes are done heat your tortillas however you desire (we do ours on a hot cast iron pan, 45-60 seconds a side). Set aside on a wire rack until taco assembly time.
5. Assemble your tacos! Start with a corn tortilla, and using the back of a spoon spread some of the black bean mixture over the top. Put sweet potatoes on top of that, then add the cabbage slaw. Top with a few (or a lot a few) pickled onions, then a dollop of guacamole and finally a sprinkling of cilantro. Eat and repeat. **if you don’t have guacamole (which has lime in it) squirt a little lime juice over your entire concoction. The acid really brings out all the flavors**
Above is the taco assembly line. My apologies for the absolutely terrible lighting on these, but this is how it actually looks in a natural-light adverse apartment on a rainy day.