Influenced by both his Mexican background and experience at fine dining establishments, Wesley Avila’s unconventional tacos have garnered plenty of buzz beyond his home base in Los Angeles. His cookbook, Guerrilla Tacos, gives you a taste of L.A.’s taco trucks wherever you are.
I love Greek food. There’s a lot of eggplant in a Greek diet and also a lot of fried cheese. So I put these two things, my favorite parts of the Greek menu, together in a taco. It’s great. If you can’t find Japanese eggplants, and your eggplants are bigger or longer, you can cut them into bite-size pieces.
- Prepare a medium fire in a charcoal grill or heat a gas grill to medium.
- Put the whole tomatoes on the grill grate and roast until they’re black on one side. Then, using tongs, turn the tomatoes to roast evenly. After about 5 minutes, add the onion and chiles. The tomatoes should turn very black, like black-black, almost to the point where they’re getting gray, about 35 minutes. The chiles and onion should be somewhat charred.
- In a food processor, combine the tomatoes, chiles, onion, garlic, and vinegar. Pulse; keeping it chunky and leave the seeds in there. Season with salt. Set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 375°F. Season the eggplants with 1 tablespoon salt and let stand, cut-side up, for 10 minutes—until the bitterness goes away. Wipe off any moisture with a paper towel. Brush the eggplants with the olive oil—the eggplants soak it up when they’re roasting—and lay them in a roasting pan, cut-side up. Sprinkle with salt and the pepper and add the thyme and garlic.
- Roast the eggplants for about 20 minutes, uncovered, until just cooked through. Meanwhile, place the hazelnuts in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Place in the oven and toast for 8 minutes, giving them a good shake halfway through. Remove from the oven and transfer to a food processor. Pulse once or twice—or, use the back of a knife to crush the nuts on a cutting board.
- Remove the eggplants from the oven. Discard the garlic and thyme, then slice the eggplants into 1-inch coins. (If you have already cut into bite-size pieces, leave as is.)
- In a 12-inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter. Add the eggplants and sauté, cut-side down, until golden brown. Set aside in the skillet so they stay hot. In a nonstick pan over medium-high heat, melt the remaining 1 tablespoon butter. Add the cheese and cook until golden brown on one side, about 11⁄2 minutes. Flip them and leave in the pan until you’re ready to plate.
- Place one piece of cheese on each tortilla, add three or four eggplant pieces, some salsa, hazelnuts, and parsley. Finish with a squeeze of lemon juice. Serve immediately.
Reprinted with permission from Guerrilla Tacos, copyright © 2017 by Wesley Avila, with Richard Parks III. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.