Brow Beat

The Only Thing More Fun Than Making These Vegetarian Tacos Is Eating Them

Radish tacos on a plate.
Julia Gartland

Thumb to page 16 of Anita Lo’s cookbook Solo—where these tacos live—and you’ll immediately see that you’ve stumbled on a very different sort of cookbook.

1 clove garlic (smash 1/3, set aside remaining 2/3)
1 small pinch cinnamon
One 1/3-inch slice medium onion

Each recipe acts as an efficient, self-contained flowchart, where ingredients may part ways (that 1/3 clove of garlic wanders into a salsa, the rest into a quick-pickled radish brine) but all meet back up in one tidy plate. (1)

What could have been drudgery feels novel—as I sliced three radishes and cleaved a single jalapeño in two, I felt like I was following the carefree instructions of a children’s song. (If you’re happy and you know it, put one two-inch tomatillo on a pan, clap clap.)

Radishes, tomatillos, and jalapeños on a cutting board.
Julia Gartland

Although Lo designed the recipes with economy and pride for eating alone, (2) they also multiply well for any other time you want to play that song no one else loves and feel the life come back into your body as you glide around the kitchen. (Put your radish greens in, take your radish greens out, put your radish greens in and shake ‘em all about.)

In most recipes, the outcome—the tacos, the French toast, the lasagna—is the point. Ingredients arrive fully cleaned and chopped. The oven is preheated for 30 minutes to be used for five. Cores and stems and other halves are discarded, or simply never mentioned again. For Lo, the outcome still matters, but the process is the point, too.

She was inspired to make these particular almost-vegan tacos by a fancier Brussels sprout version at her friend Amanda Cohen’s restaurant Dirt Candy—and by the leftover radishes in her refrigerator.

She sliced and quick-pickled the three tiniest ones as a vehicle for snap and tang. Then she quartered and roasted the rest of the bunch to bring out mellow, sweet, almost meaty vibes, and threw in the radish tops along with them to wilt.

Two tortillas  on a plate next to a cutting board with limes.
Julia Gartland

“In restaurant cooking, I’ll do one ingredient several ways, just to show how versatile it is and make sure you’re not bored,” Lo told me over the phone. “But it’s still a cohesive dish, because you’re using one ingredient.”

While at her restaurant Annisa (3), she might have grilled one cut of lamb and slow-stewed another, here both styles of radish only set you back 12 to 15 minutes in total. “It’s also incredibly inexpensive to make these tacos,” she said.

The results of her organization and thrift are clear: in moving efficiently, in feeling free and smart, in creating a lovely unexpected dinner out of it, all without wasting a bit. And with the cooking as self-care portion of the evening behind you, all that’s left for you to do is to sink into the quiet, taco and cold beer in hand.

Two pickled radish tacos on a round plate.
Julia Gartland

Anita Lo’s Roasted and Pickled Radish Tacos


• 1 bunch radishes with tops intact, washed (reserve the tops and the 3 smallest radishes for later; quarter the rest)
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• One 2-inch tomatillo, husk removed, cut in half
• 1 small jalapeño, stem removed, cut lengthwise (or to taste: jalapeños vary greatly on the Scoville scale, so keep that in mind when using)
• salt and black pepper to taste
• 1 large pinch cumin
• 1 small pinch cinnamon

• One 1/3-inch slice medium onion
• 1 clove garlic (smash 2/3, set aside remaining 1/3)
• 2 tablespoons white vinegar or cider vinegar (or more as needed)
• 5 tablespoons water
• 1 sprig cilantro
• 1 teaspoon lime juice
• To serve: 4 small corn tortillas, 1/4 cup queso fresco, crumbled, wedge of lime (optional—there should be enough acidity from the pickles and salsa)

(1) The rest of that onion with the 1/3-inch slice excised? She has a storage tip for that: Store it in a ziplock bag in the fridge with the papery peel to keep it from drying out.
(2) “I’m surprised at how popular the book’s been—there are a lot of lonely people out there!” Lo told me. “(I’m kidding.)”
(3) Lo closed her beloved West Village restaurant Annisa in 2017 after 17 years and is now leading culinary food tours in places like the Yucatan and Portugal—join her!

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