You can stuff all manner of ingredients into a taco. Read enough modern cookbooks, in fact, and you'll see far too many taco recipes that involve multiple sub-recipes (in different sections of the book, no doubt) for sauces, pickles and fillings. By the time you're ready to assemble the tacos, you're also ready for a nap.
I think it's particularly common with vegetarian or vegan tacos. Perhaps in an attempt to prove that plant-based dishes can be as complex as those with animal products, authors can go a little overboard. I've done it myself.
But the more often you make tacos (and I make them so often I find myself apologizing to my fiance about it), the more you realize: They don't need all that. Pick the right combination — which can be just two elements, besides the corn tortillas — and they're plenty satisfying. It's a stripped-down, even sophisticated way to approach what I consider an elemental dish.
That's what I appreciate about Danielle and Laura Kosann's taco recipes in "Great Tastes" (Clarkson Potter, 2018). As co-creators of the online magazine the New Potato, the sisters display an appealingly breezy approach to cooking and entertaining, and they devote a short chapter to tacos — because what could be breezier?
Their Eggplant Tacos with Pico de Gallo are almost self-explanatory: You broil (or grill) heavily seasoned eggplant slices, chop them up and serve them on warmed corn tortillas along with a simple pico de gallo. The salsa has built-in crunch and spice, while the already-meaty eggplant becomes even more so with the addition of coriander and cumin. I wouldn't object if you added pumpkin seeds or scallions, queso fresco or feta.
None of that would be wrong, but these are already right.
Eggplant Tacos With Pico de Gallo
Four servings (makes eight tacos), Healthy
Make ahead: The pico de gallo can be refrigerated for up to one week. The grilled eggplant can be refrigerated for one week; reheat it in a low-temperature oven or in the microwave before making the tacos.
For the pico de gallo
• 1 pound plum tomatoes
• 1/4 cup finely diced white onion
• 1 large jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped
• 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, plus lime wedges for serving
• 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
For the tacos
• 8 corn tortillas
• 2 pounds eggplant (preferably small), cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch slices
• 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
• 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
• 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
• 2 teaspoons ground coriander
• 1 teaspoon ground cumin
For the pico de gallo: Hull the tomatoes, then cut them in quarters from top to bottom. Use your fingers to scoop out and discard the seeds. Finely chop the remaining solids, placing them in a medium bowl as you work. Add the onion, jalapeño, lime juice and salt; toss to combine. Taste, and add more salt, as needed.
For the tacos: Position a rack six inches from the broiler element; preheat to broil.
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat, and have nearby a piece of aluminum foil large enough to wrap around the tortillas. Heat as many tortillas will fit in the skillet without overlapping for about 30 seconds on each side, just until they're starting to lightly spot and perhaps puff, and immediately transfer them to the foil as they are heated, keeping them wrapped while you warm up the rest. Keep them tightly wrapped until you're ready to serve the tacos.
Arrange the eggplant slices on two rimmed baking sheets, in a single layer. Brush with half the oil, then season with half the salt, pepper, coriander and cumin, rubbing in those spices. Turn over the slices and repeat the brushing and seasoning.
Transfer one baking sheet to the oven; broil the eggplant until deeply browned, three to four minutes, then flip the slices and broil until browned on the second sides. Repeat with the second batch.
Transfer the eggplant slices to a cutting board, then cut the slices crosswise into strips.
When ready to serve the tacos, divide the eggplant among the tortillas, and pass the pico de gallo and lime wedges at the table.
Nutrition | Per serving: 290 calories, 6 g protein, 37 g carbohydrates, 16 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 310 mg sodium, 11 g dietary fiber, 12 g sugar.
Joe Yonan is the Food and Dining editor of The Washington Post. He writes the Weeknight Vegetarian column. Previously, he was a food writer and Travel editor at the Boston Globe.