Can Good Vegetarian Mexican Food Finally Take Over Manhattan?

Pescado Naked Tacos

Chef Ivy Stark does not run your average Mexican restaurant. At Dos Caminos in New York City, she has constantly and consistently been trying to add a new spin to the Mexican food we all know and love, from innovating Mexican classics to bringing vegetarian Mexican food to the forefront of her menu.

When New York’s Mexican food was still mass-produced Tex-Mex, Chef Stark started offering hand-made tortillas made by New York resident Mexican cooks at Dos Caminos. And she has always relied heavily on authentic ingredients in whatever ways she can, of course with a nod to New York produce. “Our eggs, pork, produce are all locally sourced as well as organic when possible,” she says. “Even our espresso is locally farmed in Mexico.”

But this fall has a few new developments in store for Chef Stark and her restaurants. First comes a brand new flagship restaurant in Times Square, the fifth in the city. And along with the new space comes a new focus on healthy Mexican food.

“The restaurant will have a completely new look and feel including the design, refreshed menus, crafted cocktails, and a real move towards more local and organic ingredients,” says James Gersten, President and CEO of BR Guest Hospitality.

Ivy Stark

Chef Stark has always seen the importance of offering a variety of dishes at her restaurants. While Dos Caminos has always had a handful of vegetarian options, about six months ago Chef Stark decided to add more meatless options, both for Meatless Monday and for vegetarian and flexitarian diners. “It’s a lot of fun to work with vegetables as the center of a plate,” she says.

With this nod to meatless dishes also comes a new venture towards cleaner eating. “It’s not that hard,” Chef Stark explains. “Authentic Mexican food is by nature gluten-free and vegetable based.”

In celebration of this new venture, Chef Stark was willing to share one of her recipes, Naked Tacos, with our readers.

Naked Tacos - Pollo, Pescado, Vegetales

“We are now doing a Naked version of our tacos, meaning we have removed the tortilla and replaced it with grains, greens and beans,” she explains. “It’s a super lean and healthy meal focused on nutrient dense ingredients and packed with great Mexican flavors.”

Pollo Naked Tacos

At the new flagship location,  Chef Stark offers five versions of these tacos with five different proteins: chile-dusted chicken with salsa macha, cilantro-marinated skirt steak with cilantro chimichurri, grilled anchiote marinated mahi-mahi with chipotle aioli, grilled shrimp with herb chimichurri, or this veggie version with butternut squash, poblano peppers and beans that Chef Stark has shared with us.

Veggie Naked Tacos

Note: Amounts are for one bowl, but the recipes for the quinoa, bean salad and calabacita mix make enough for eight, so the recipe is perfect for serving a crowd or having more than enough for leftovers!

Ingredients
1 cup Ayacote bean salad (below)

2 cups cooked black beans
4 medium tomatoes, diced
1 cup grilled corn kernels
1/2 cup diced red onion
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoon minced jalapeño pepper
2 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon ancho powder
1 tablespooon extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt

½ cup Lemon herb red quinoa (below)
4 cups red quinoa
4 1/2 cups water
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup very finely diced asparagus
1 tablespoon toasted ground cumin
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 cups pine nuts, lightly toasted
3/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1 1/2 cups chopped fresh basil
½ cup chopped fresh thyme

4 ounces roasted calabacita mix (below)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium butternut squash, par roasted and diced
2 poblano chile peppers, roasted, peeled, seeded and diced
1 cup corn kernels
1 cup cooked pinto beans
1 teaspoon valentina
salt to taste

¼ diced avocado
1 tbsp pomegranate seeds
1 cup baby arugula
4 each orange segments
½ oz julienned watermelon radish
½ oz julienned jicama
1 tbsp red wine vinaigrette

Directions

Prepare the bean salad. Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl, and set aside until ready to assemble the bowls.

Prepare the calabacitas mix. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic, and cook, stirring until translucent. Add squah and poblano pepper, and saute until just tender but still slightly crisp. Stir in corn, pinto beans and valentina sauce and heat through. Season with salt to taste.

Prepare the quinoa. Place quinoa in a large strainer. Rinse under cold running water until water is clear. Transfer quinoa to large saucepan; add 4 1/2 cups water and salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until water is absorbed and quinoa is tender, about 20 minutes. Transfer quinoa to large bowl, add asparagus and let sit covered for 5 minutes; fluff with fork. Stir in cumin, oil and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper.

Place bean salad on the upper right hand corner of the bowl with the red quinoa next to it on the upper left hand corner of the bowl.

Mix the diced avocado with the pomegranate seeds and place on the lower right hand corner of the bowl.

Toss the arugula, orange segments, watermelon radish, jicama and red wine vin together and place on the lower left hand corner of the bowl.

Finish the bowl with the calabacitas mix. Serve.

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All images care of Ivy Stark and Dos Caminos

Emily Monaco

Emily Monaco is an American food and culture writer based in Paris. She loves uncovering the stories behind ingredients and exposing the face of our food system, so that consumers can make educated choices. Her work has been published in the Wall Street Journal, Vice Munchies, and Serious Eats.