Earth Eats: Real Food, Green Living

Taco Time: Walnuts, Tilapia, And Liver & Onions

In anticipation of Cinco de Mayo, we prepare tacos three ways. But first, we go back to the garden with Joseph Swain to cultivate some raised beds.

baked tilapia filets with lime wedges and capers and onions

Photo: Sarah Kaiser/WFIU

These tilapia filets only took a few minutes under the broiler to cook all the way through.

Gardening Like Your Grandparents

“If I was to come out here and grab my tools and start prepping this bed, I’d probably be done by the time you got your tiller out, filled it with gas, and finally got it running after messing with pulling on it for five minutes,” says Joseph Swain, an urban farmer who lives in Columbus, Ohio.

He’s been growing food for profit for only two years on his 3,000 square foot backyard farm. We visited him last week, when he gave advice on how to successfully grow carrots in raised beds. Today, he’s showing us how he prepares his raised beds for planting with three traditional tools, no gasoline, and limited elbow grease.

“This goes back generations. These are tools our grandparents used to garden with.”

  • Step 1: The digging fork has four, four-inch tines. Cram it down into the ground and pop the soil loose.
  • Step 2: The Garden Claw has four, six-inch tines that are bent and angled. Churn the soil with with this tool to break up the large clumps.
  • Step 3: The Garden Wiesel has a number of two-inch tines on a roller. Run it over the soil to create an even yet loose soil bed.

  • Joseph Swain With Digging Fork In Garden

    Image 1 of 3

    The first step in preparing a bed is to pop the ground loose with the digging fork. Swain says his goal is to simply aerate the soil.

  • Garden Claw In The Garden

    Image 2 of 3

    After popping the ground loose with the fork, Swain then churns the soil with his Garden Claw to break up the clumps of soil.

  • Garden Wiesel In The Garden

    Image 3 of 3

    The final step is to rake them with a Garden Wiesel. After this, Swain can scatter plant his seeds and then rake the beds again to tuck them into the soil.

Swain makes a point to mention that during this process, he is only disturbing the top few inches of soil. “There are different things going on in your soil at two inches than at six inches, so we really want to keep those areas doing what they’re doing.”

After cultivating the beds, Swain then scatter plants his seeds and runs the Garden Wiesel over the bed again to tuck them into the loose soil. He then covers the beds with some straw to help the beds retain moisture, but not too much straw that it suffocates the seeds.

More: Check out photos of Swainway Urban Farm on our Flickr page.

Raw Walnut Tacos

This recipe takes your traditional taco recipe and puts it on its ear. It’s raw. It’s vegan. And you’d never know the difference!

One thing Chef Bob Adkins, Executive Chef of FARM Bloomington, says is a must for this recipe is fresh spices, “Not the stuff that’s been sitting in the back of your cabinet for two years – you know who you are, spice people!”

Raw Tacos With Walnuts On A Napa Cabbage Leaf

Photo: Sarah Kaiser/WFIU

These raw walnut tacos are served with sprigs of cilantro and pico de gallo in Napa cabbage boats for easy finger food action.

Ingredients:

  • 4 ounces walnut halves
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • pinch salt and pepper
  • 8 Napa cabbage leaves
  • fresh pico de gallo
  • fresh cilantro

Method:

  1. Toss walnuts, seasonings, and olive oil into a food processor. Pulse the contents until it becomes crumbly, just like taco meat.
  2. Scoop walnut meats into Napa cabbage leaves.
  3. Add a spoonful of pico de gallo and a fresh sprig to cilantro to each taco boat.

Alternative Fish Tacos

baked tilapia filets with lime wedges and capers and onions

Photo: Sarah Kaiser/WFIU

These tilapia filets only took a few minutes under the broiler to cook all the way through.

This taco recipe uses traditional tortillas as the wrappers. We aren’t employing the services of a deep fat fryer to achieve the crispy texture, though. Chef Daniel Orr simply curves the tortillas and places them in a toaster. “Your toaster is your friend. It’s not just for breakfast anymore.”

The star of this recipe is tilapia. “A lot of people don’t like it because they say it has an earthy or muddy flavor,” comments Chef Orr. “But if you cook it properly, it can be delicious.”

To start, marinate the fish with capers, scallions, tomatoes, and some chili powder. Then lay the filets on a bed of limes. Not only will the limes add flavor, they will keep the tilapia from sticking to the pan. After sprinkling it with salt and pepper, cook the fish under the broiler for four to five minutes until it’s cooked through. This should give the fish a flaky consistency.

And now for the fun part: the accoutrements! We are serving this dish with pico de gallo, shredded cabbage and carrots, sour cream, and sprigs of cilantro. But feel free to get creative with what’s in your fridge and accompany this dish with whatever strikes your fancy!

Liver & Onions Tacos

Liver & Onions Tacos

Photo: Sarah Kaiser/WFIU

Liver & Onions Tacos are served with slices of avocado, cabbage salad, and warm tortillas wrapped in foil.

Serves two.

Ingredients:

  • 2 ounces of local liver, sliced (We purchased our liver from Fiedler Farms in Rome, Indiana.)
  • 1/4 onion sliced thin
  • Dry dredge of equal parts corn starch and cornmeal, with a pinch of salt and pepper
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of minced garlic
  • 1 jalapeño, sliced
  • 4-6 warmed tortilla shells
  • Avocados slices
  • Fresh pico de gallo
  • Sliced cabbage
  • Sour cream

Method:

  1. Soak liver and onions in milk overnight. This leaches out sulfur from the onions and that iron/organ flavor from the liver.
  2. Heat the oven to 250 degrees. Wrap flour tortillas in foil and warm them in the oven while you cook the liver and onions.
  3. Spoon 2 tablespoons of the dry dredge over the liver to cover them.
  4. Cook on the stove top over high heat. Keep it constantly moving. The liver should be cooked to just under medium – as long as you are using local meat!
  5. Right before liver is finished cooking, add a heaping tablespoon of minced garlic and jalapeño slices to the hot pan. Cook together to infuse that taste with the liver and onions.
  6. Serve with avocado, sour cream, fresh pico de gallo, and sliced cabbage. Enjoy!

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Annie Corrigan

Annie Corrigan is a producer and announcer for WFIU. In addition to serving as the local voice for NPR's Morning Edition, she produces WFIU's weekly sustainable food program Earth Eats. She earned degrees in oboe performance from Indiana University and Bowling Green State University.

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