Come out of your shell: Try a DIY soft-taco bar

Bob Townsend / The Atlanta Journal-Constitution /


Right now, food trucks are a major taco delivery system — part of a scene that’s as much social as culinary, and revels in cross-cultural experimentation with favors from around the world.

Inspired by all that, we’ve taken to making taco fillings and salsas that borrow spicy, sweet and savory ingredients from Mexican, Korean, Indian and Southern cooking traditions. Laying them out buffet-style with some sides let’s you feed a crowd, while your guests mingle and make a plate.

Set up the bar with the fillings and salsas, baskets of warm corn and flour tortillas wrapped in kitchen towels, and platters of crispy lettuce and cabbage leaves.

Include an array of garnishes like lime wedges, pickled onion, sliced jalapeno, scallion and radish, chopped cilantro, sour cream and crumbled Mexican cheese, plus guacamole, chips and several kinds of hot sauce.

And let the party begin.

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tacos with Spicy Coconut Ginger Salsa

Makes 8 servings.
Indian flavors are combined in this vegan-friendly taco.
4 lg sweet potatoes, med dice
2 TBS canola oil
1 tsp salt
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 Vidalia onion, sm dice
4 TBS Tandoori paste
1 C unsweetened coconut milk
1 1/2 C cooked black beans or substitute canned

Preheat oven to 350.

Toss the diced sweet potatoes in 1 tablespoon of oil and salt. Place on a baking sheet and roast in the oven until soft and lightly browned, approximately 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, saute the garlic and onions with the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil until translucent, approximately 3 minutes. Add the tandoori paste and cook for 1 minute. Whisk in the coconut milk. Then fold in the black beans and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes. Fold in the roasted sweet potatoes and keep warm until ready to serve.

Spicy Coconut Ginger Salsa

1 jalapeno, stemmed and seeded
1 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled
1 C grated sweetened coconut flakes
1 bunch cilantro, large stems removed

In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the jalapeno and ginger until smooth.

Add the coconut and cilantro and pulse until roughly chopped and combined.

Korean BBQ Beef Tacos with Kimchee Sesame Salsa

Makes 8 servings.
2 TBS sugar
1 scallion, white part only, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 C soy sauce
1/2 C sake
2 TBS honey
1 lb ground beef, cooked and drained

In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, minced scallions, garlic, soy sauce, sake, honey and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until warmed through. Add cooked ground beef and keep warm until ready to serve.

Kimchee Sesame Salsa

1 head Napa cabbage, shredded
2 carrots, shredded
¼ C sesame oil
1⁄8 C white vinegar
2 TBS chili flakes
1 TBS salt
2 TBS black sesame seeds

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients and allow to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.

Georgia Shrimp Adobo Tacos with Roasted Corn, Tomato and Onion Salsa

Makes 8 servings.
Georgia shrimp, sweet corn and Vidalia onions make for a Southern twist to a Baja classic taco.
2 cloves garlic
¼ C tequila
¼ C brown sugar
2 TBS oregano, preferably Mexican
3 1/2 oz canned chilies in adobo sauce
1 lb peeled and de-veined shrimp, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

In the bowl of a food processor, combine garlic, tequila, brown sugar, oregano and the can of chilies and sauce and process until smooth.

In a medium bowl, combine the cut shrimp with the adobo mixture. Transfer to the refrigerator to marinate for one hour.

Preheat the broiler.

Line a baking sheet with tin foil and spread the shrimp and sauce evenly. Broil for approximately 5 minutes, stirring once until shrimp are opaque and have some charred spots.

Roasted Corn, Tomato and Onion Salsa

1 C corn kernels, either fresh or frozen
1 Vidalia onion, peeled and roughly chopped
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 TBS cumin
1 tsp salt
1 TBS canola oil
Juice of 1 lime
1/2 C chopped cilantro salt, to taste for serving

Preheat oven to 350.

In a medium bowl, combine corn, onion and cherry tomatoes with cumin salt and canola oil. Transfer to a baking sheet and roast for 30 minutes, or until corn is browned.

Transfer to a serving bowl and combine with the lime juice, cilantro and salt to taste.

Pork Tacos al Pastor with Peach Salsa

Makes 8 servings.
Substitute any stone fruit for the peaches in this twist on the traditional pineapple-based al Pastor taco.
¼ C canola oil
1 tsp salt
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp cumin
2 TBS chipotle chili powder
2 tsp oregano, preferably Mexican
1/2 C orange juice
¼ C white vinegar
2 peaches or nectarines, peeled, pitted and chopped
1 2-lb pork tenderloin, cubed
4 peaches or nectarines, peeled, pitted and cut into quarters

In the bowl of a food processor, combine canola oil, salt, garlic, cumin, chili powder, oregano, orange juice, white vinegar and the chopped peaches. Puree and transfer to a Ziploc bag, along with the pork, and marinate 2 hours or overnight in the refrigerator.

Preheat the oven to broil.

Remove the pork from the marinade and place on a baking sheet along with the 4 quartered peaches. Broil for 5 minutes, turning once. Remove from oven and keep warm until ready to serve.

Peach Salsa

4 broiled peaches (See Pork Tacos al Pastor recipe) roughly chopped
1 red onion, finely diced
1 jalapeno, seeded and finely minced
¼ C chopped cilantro
Juice of 1 lime

In a medium bowl, combine chopped peaches, red onion, jalapeno, cilantro and lime juice.