Friday, December 30, 2011

Black Bean and Corn Chilaquiles

Does everyone love beans?  I mean, really, truly, love and adore them?  I get kind of excited about beans, you see, but I don't know if that should just be chalked up to my frugal, vegetarian upbringing - or the Hispanic majority in my mother's family - or if it is just another one of my quirks.

Roasted garbanzo beans make me giddy, and my favorite lunch of all time is nothing more than plain beans and brown rice, drizzled with olive oil and a little sprinkling of coarse sea salt.  Given my druthers, I'd choose that simple meal over almost anything else at least 95% of the time.

Unless Golden Bowl is one of my choices.  Then all bets are off.

Have you heard of Rancho Gordo's 'A Year of Beans' subscription program?  It's completely out of our current price range, but it made me a little covetous.  Can you imagine?  Six pounds of incredible dried beans, delivered quarterly, along with a special treat and recipes?  Am I the only one (besides my mother, that is) that thinks this is the greatest idea in the world?

I bought a pound of fresh field peas from one of the wonderfully sardonic farmers at our local farmer's market a few summers back, and then I went back the next weekend for another.  And the weekend after that, too.  Fresh beans are a revelation.  It currently being the end of December though, I don't think I'll have any luck on that front for a while.

Plain old black beans found their way onto our dinner table tonight, old-fashioned, super-cheap, $0.99/pound, generic black beans.  I love them, too.  They may not be heirloom, organic, local, or special in any way, but they're the most affordable source of nutritious protein on the planet.  And with the tiniest bit of planning ahead, the convenience can't be beat either.

Often, at the beginning of the week, I will put a big pan of beans on to cook while I'm going about the usual business of our day.  A pound or two of beans will take a few hours of soaking, and another hour or so of cooking, but I have finally learned to then portion the cooked beans out into individual small canning jars and then pop them into the freezer so that I can pull them out one "can" at the time as needed for recipes.

They are much less expensive, lower in sodium, firmer-textured, and far more flavorful than the cans of beans available in the supermarket.  Easy peasy.

Chilaquiles are one of those recipes that I lean on for simple dinners.  It is rather a humble meal, but very tasty, and lots of fun to eat as a dip, scooped up with tortilla chips baked in the oven.  This recipe is one I found in a back issue of Vegetarian Times, and I've made it countless times over the past few years, but it is so satisfying, and so very easy.

Also, The Carnivore (much as I hate to admit this) is able to cook a quick bit of sausage or other carnivorous substance to throw on top of his portion when he is going through one of his I'll-die-if-I-don't-get-animal-protein-RIGHT-NOW moods.  {Silly man.}  Though it is nice to have recipes like this, ones that please the vegetarian, but can be customized in a pinch to make the resident meat eater happy.

And the chips don't hurt the situation much.  Have you ever taken corn tortillas, cut them into strips, tossed them with olive oil and salt, and then baked them in the oven for about 15 minutes?  Friends, it's kind of mind-blowing.  I recommend making about four times as many chips as you think you'll need.  They have the oddest habit of disappearing as fast as one can pull them out of the oven.


BLACK BEAN AND CORN CHILAQUILES (adapted from Vegetarian Times), serves 4 to 6

Note: You can buy small cans of chipotle chili peppers in adobo sauce in the Ethnic section of any major supermarket.  Freeze any leftover peppers in an ice cube tray, with a little bit of the sauce in each cube, and then pop out the cubes and put them in a freezer bag for future use.

  • One small onion, cut into 8 wedges
  • 2 lbs Roma tomatoes, halved
  • 3 large cloves garlic, peeled
  • 18 corn tortillas, cut into 1-inch wide strips
  • 3 to 4 Tbs olive oil
  • 2 chipotle chiles, with 1 Tbs adobo sauce
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed & drained; or 1/2 cup dried black beans, cooked
  • 2 cups corn kernels 
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 1/2 cups Mexican crumbling cheese, feta, or shredded Monterey Jack cheese (or whatever great melting cheese you happen to have around)
  • 1 Tbs lime juice
  • cilantro leaves, for garnish
  • Sour cream, for serving
  1. Place one small onion, cut into 8 wedges, the halved tomatoes, and the peeled garlic on a baking sheet, and cook in the oven at 400 degrees for 25 minutes.
  2. At the same time, toss tortilla strips with oil and salt and arrange in single layers on baking sheets.  Bake for about 15 minutes.  Sprinkle with more salt as needed.
  3. When roasted tomatoes, onions and garlic have cooled for a few minutes, put them in a food processor with the chipotles and adobo sauce, and about 1/2 tsp of salt.  Puree until smooth, and add more salt as needed.
  4. Spread thin layer of salsa in the bottom of a 1 1/2 quart baking dish.  Top with a single layer of baked tortilla strips, and then add black beans, corn, diced onion, and cheese.  Cover with more sauce, and bake 25 minutes, until bubbly.
  5. Drizzle with lime juice, sprinkle with a little minced cilantro, and serve hot, with leftover sauce and baked tortilla chips.  Top with sour cream.


Wendy said...

Do you think you could maybe post a quick tutorial on preparing dry black beans? Nothing I'm doing is working, and I'm about to give up!

Sarah Beam said...

Wendy, my technique for cooking beans is nothing to get excited about, I'm afraid.

I soak my beans in a great big pot of water for at least four hours, then I bring the pot to a boil, and simmer the beans at the lowest possible heat for 45 minutes to an hour (depending on the size of the beans), stirring every 15 minutes or so, and adding more water as needed (so that the beans always have plenty of room to swim around). Then I drain them while they are al dente.

I have found that soaking them for 4 hours or more yields a less-mushy bean than doing the quick soak method. And I have heard tale of many people using crock pots to cook their beans, but I've never tried it.

I do hope that helps.

Jess said...


And pass the chips.