Portobello Fajitas with Chipotle Cashew Cream
Fajitas remind me of Scotland.
This may seem like a ridiculous association, but given the fact that I practically lived on them during the spring of 2008, it’s very real.
I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned it, but yours truly studied abroad at Scotland’s very own University of St. Andrews her junior spring. I had originally wanted to spend the semester in Paris, but all the French programs required a home stay, which I feared might cramp my “wild and free” lifestyle. Selena was in her prime, and girlfriend wanted to PARTY.
And that, friends, is exactly what I did for five fabulous months in the sleepy hamlet of St. Andrews. My rigorous class schedule (12pm-2pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays) afforded me some free time, during which I read British chick lit, drank my weight in beer and VCR (Vodka-Champagne-Red Bull), and crushed Haribo and fajitas with reckless abandon. I was the epitome of responsibility and class.
Just to explain the fajita component of my Scottish tenure, I’ll have you know that almost every single restaurant in town (inexplicably) served fajitas. They were horrible. Sad, SAD fajita specimens. Soggy, bland vegetables and dry chicken accompanied by a stack of cold tortillas and tiny little cups of watery salsa and neon “guacamole.”
I ate them on the reg.
I’m not sure whether it was because the other options were so unappetizing—mince pie, haggis, and other such scary things—or because they reminded me of my childhood visits to El Torito, but I always ordered the fajitas when “dining” out. In fact, I ate so many fajitas that I went off them for several years upon returning stateside. (It wasn’t until my roommate came around that I started eating fajitas again, as they’re a Dude Diet-friendly way to satisfy his regular Mexican cravings.)
Anyhoo, Facebook recently showed me a throwback photo to my St. Andrews days, which led to a trip down memory lane and an unexpected craving for fajitas. Good ones. Enter: Portobello Fajitas with Chipotle Cashew Cream.
I’m not going to waste your time today waxing poetic about the base of these fajitas. Are they delicious? Yes, obviously. The veggie mixture is solidly spiced with a chipotle kick and just the right amount of lime-induced zing, and I really dig the meaty texture of the portobellos. Are they simple? Yes, laughably. I’m talking 30 minutes tops from start to finish, and the hardest thing you’ll have to do is clean some mushrooms. Are they healthy? Indeed. Fiber, vitamin C, and selenium (major antioxidant power!) out the whazoo, and they just so happen to be vegan.
With all that said, we’re talking about fajita vegetables here, people, and they simply don’t warrant a full-blown freak out. To avoid becoming the girl who cried “DANK!” I have to reserve said freak outs for truly life-changing things like lasagna quinoa bakes, faux-tisserie chickens, and….
CHIPOTLE CASHEW CREAM.
After being so blasé about the fajitas, I feel totally within my rights to gush over the glorious dairy-free cream that you see drizzled all over those bad boys. I’ve been meaning to experiment with cashew cream ever since I first tried it at Empellon (my favorite fancy taco joint) many moons ago, and dear GOD, I’m grateful I finally took the plunge.
I swear this stuff is semi-liquid gold, people. Who knew that blitzing soaked cashews in a food processor could yield such creamy awesomeness? (Don’t answer that.) The flavor profile of the plain cream is mild and only slightly nutty, making it the perfect base for festive add-ins like fiery chipotles, adobo sauce, and spritz of lime. The result is a smoky and (manageably) spicy dreamboat of a sauce that really amps up these fajitas (and anything else it comes into contact with).
I know it’s annoying to soak raw cashews for 2+ hours, and you’ll need to do a teensy bit of planning, but if you can get over that hump, the rest of the process is a breeze. Just throw the nuts in a food processor with the remaining ingredients, blend for a couple minutes, and BOOM. Mission: Magical Vegan Cream accomplished.
As I sat on my couch last night eating these fajitas, drinking a Grolsch and listening to Bleeding Love on a loop, I felt exactly like my 20-year-old self. Except with better fajitas. It was nice.
Portobello Fajitas with Chipotle Cashew Cream: (Serves 4)
½-1 chipotle pepper canned in adobo, finely chopped (This obviously depends on how much heat you can handle.)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1½ teaspoons chili powder
½ teaspoon coarse black pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon honey (or agave)
1 lime, juiced
4 large portobello mushroom caps
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 green bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
8 flour tortillas
For the Chipotle Cashew Cream:
1 cup raw cashews
1¾ cups filtered water, divided
1 chipotle pepper canned in adobo
1½ teaspoons adobo sauce from the chipotle can
¼ teaspoon honey (or agave)
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
Preparing your Portobello Fajitas with Chipotle Cashew Cream:
-Let’s start with the cashew cream, shall we? Place the cashews in a medium bowl and cover with 1 cup of filtered water. Let the nuts soak for at least 2 hours or overnight.
-Strain the nuts and transfer them to the bowl of a food processor. Add ¾ cup filtered water, along with the chipotle, adobo sauce, honey, lime juice and a good pinch of kosher salt.
-Process for several minutes, scraping down the sides a few time if necessary, until the cream is very smooth. Taste and season with a little extra salt if you like. Refrigerate that deliciousness while you make your fajitas.
-In a small bowl, combine the chipotle pepper, garlic, cumin, chili powder, black pepper, salt, honey and lime juice. Briefly set aside.
-Clean the mushrooms by wiping each cap with a damp paper towel. Remove the stems, and gently scrape out the dark gills on the underside of each cap with a spoon. (Discard those gills. Duh.)
-Slice each cap into ½-inch pieces.
-Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add the portobellos and cook for 7-8 minutes until tender and lightly browned. Transfer the mushrooms to a bowl.
-Return the skillet to the heat and add the remaining tablespoon of oil. When hot, add the bell peppers and onions. Cook for 10-12 minutes until tender (but not mushy!) and lightly charred in places.
-Add the portobellos back to the pan along with the prepared spice mixture. Cook for 2 more minute and remove from the heat.
-Warm the tortillas! (You can do this by placing each one directly on a burner for 5-10 seconds per side OR simply wrap them in a damp paper towel and microwave them for 15-20 seconds.) Pile the fajita mixture on the warm tortillas. Top with cashew cream and fresh cilantro if you’re into it.
*You’re going to have plenty of leftover Chipotle Cashew Cream. This is a godsend. Drizzle it on tacos, use it as a salad dressing, spread it on sandwiches, or serve it as a dip with vegetables and/or tortilla chips. You’ll love it.
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