Fajitas have a special place in my heart. To put it lightly, they were one of my first infatuations with a particular style of food. Whatever restaurant we visited, it would be the first item I checked the menu for. Which now I realize is pretty silly since my family mostly visited Italian and American restaurants growing up. Mexican restaurants were always out of the question since my mother had a strong distaste for spicy food. So, if my memory is correct, I mostly ordered this dish from Chili’s (one of the best available restaurant selections at the time mind you!).
Each time, I would anticipate its dramatic entrance. There was something so exciting, fun and appetizing about the the sizzling plate of peppers, onions and steak arriving hot at your table. Most times, I couldn’t even wait for the audible sputters to seize. I would immediately start building my perfect rendition of the fajita, usually burning my fingers along the way.
My perfect fajita combination started with a hefty base of peppers and onions, followed by a generous serving of steak, topped with loads of guacamole — never forgetting to season with a fresh squeeze of lime juice. I think I enjoyed the dish so much because it was really my first account of fusing savory, sweet and tangy items. I was smitten with the way it danced along my palate and how each bite tasted better than the last. It might be safe to say fajitas were my gateway to becoming a foodie.
Today, I don’t enjoy fajitas quite often. Not because I’m over them, we just don’t dine out frequently enough to regularly enjoy them. Which is why I decided to whip up a batch for an early dinner. Since I’m always looking for new meatless meals to prepare, I decided to take a strict vegetable route for these. Meaty portobello mushrooms take the place of marinated steak. Charred red peppers, red onions and corn come together to make a perfect base. And instead of guacamole, a healthy rendition of avocado crema adds the perfect amount of creaminess. Seasoned rice would also make a great addition, but for the sake of a light dinner I chose to skip the extra carbs.
The dish itself is so ridiculously easy to make — perfect for work night dinners. The mushrooms and peppers brown up in less than 15 minutes and the crema will literally take you two minutes and one bowl. How perfect is that? Pair with some black or refried beans for a clean protein to round out the meal.
OH! And don’t forget the fresh lime slices. Enjoy!
Portobello & Red Pepper Fajitas with Avocado Crema
4 large portobello mushrooms, stems removed and gills discarded
2 mixed red bell peppers (I prefer red and orange)
1 small red onion
1/2 cup frozen corn
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
fresh cracked black pepper
1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro
fresh lime slices for garnish
4-8 small flour or corn tortillas
1 medium ripe avocado, halved, seeded and removed from skin
1/4 cup plain greek yogurt
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon honey
zest of one lime (optional)
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
fresh cracked black pepper
1. Make the avocado crema first. Slice avocado in half by slowly rotating your knife around the middle. Gently tap the seed with your knife to “grab” the seed and discard. Using a spoon, gently remove the avocade flesh from the skin. Add to small a bowl. Using a fork, mash the avocado until it resembles guacamole. Add greek yogurt, cumin, honey, lime zest, lime juice, salt and pepper. Mix until well incorporated and all avocado lumps are gone. Chill in the fridge until ready to use.
2. Gently wipe portobello tops with a damp towel. Slice into 1/2 inch thick slices. Set aside. Cut the tops off of the peppers, cut in half and remove the seeds. Julienne into 1/4 inch slices and set aside. Cut the root end off the onion and set it up on its flat side. Slice through the middle of the onion and remove skins. Place each half flat and slice thinly from one side to the other.
3. Place two large saute pans over medium heat. Once hot, use a pastry brush to coat the bottom of each pan with canola oil. Add sliced pepper and onion into one pan and season to taste with salt and pepper. Toss gently and continue to cook until peppers are juicy and the onions are soft, about 10 minutes. Add frozen corn and continue to cook until warmed and slightly charred, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add two tablespoons fresh cilantro, toss gently. Meanwhile, add portobellos to the other pan, tossing until browned and softened. Once mushrooms reach a deep brown, season to taste with salt and pepper.
4. Warm small tortillas in the microwave and wrap in tinfoil to keep warm. Serve the fajita fillings with flour or corn tortillas, avocado crema, fresh chopped cilantro and your choice of cheese. Don’t forget the hot sauce!