Black Bean + Corn Chilaquiles

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I grew up in a town where purchasing tamales from a random kid selling them out of the family car in the Walmart parking lot was a completely normal and legit means of acquiring them. Growing up, there were more Mexican restaurants than I could count, at least two full-size Hispanic grocery stores, multiple panaderías, a carnicería, and many other specialty stores. Suffice it to say, I grew up eating a lot of amazing Mexican food and it’s this type of food that I associate with home.

My favorite place to eat when back for a visit is at the taco wagon. There are actually several, but there is one that everyone knows about when a trip to the taco-wagon is mentioned. It is a slightly sketchy-looking truck that sells the exact same thing at the same price as what I began purchasing 10+ years ago in high school. It’s a place where there’s always a wait, and all the locals can be found, from the hispanics to the farmers to the visitors back in town for a couple days to the locals that never left.

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Tacos are our ultimate fall-back food for busy days and we eat them in all sorts of variations. I won’t even attempt to make a taco that tries to compete with a taco-wagon taco, however, and all the thrown together versions we eat are hardly worthy of a recipe. So when The Recipe Redux challenged us to take a good look into the freezer, cupboards, and pantry and find an ingredient or two that had been forgotten for this month’s challenge, I took a good look at all the ingredients that needed to be used, naturally skipped over the fish sauce and wasabi, and gravitated right towards the makings for Mexican-food.

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William bought me a giant bag of tortilla chips last summer when I was running a lot and craving salt. They’ve been hanging around the back of the pantry since then because I forgot about them when the weather turned last fall and I never got back to them. They’ve since turned slightly stale.

They were perfectly in need for being made into a dish I’ve been meaning to make for months, Chilaquiles. Oddly enough, I did not grow up eating Chilaquiles. It wasn’t until a couple years ago that I had even heard of them. Basically, they are a way to use up stale corn tortillas and are cooked in a sauce with meats or vegetables, or scrambled with eggs. Most variations contain eggs, cheese, and/or chicken. I decided to forego all of those ingredients because I wanted a super tasty meal that can be made with only a few pantry staples, quickly.

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This variation fits the bill because it contains several ingredients already on hand: frozen corn, diced tomatoes, tortilla chips, black beans, and a dried poblano pepper.

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Black Bean + Corn Chilaquiles, serves 4-5

These can be made even easier by using canned black beans and enchilada sauce, but you will compromise flavor. I tend to make big batches of black beans using this simple recipe. I tossed the poblano pepper into the pot, adding even more rich undertones, and slow-cooked it for the better part of a day. It sounds slightly time-consuming but we eat them for multiple meals quite often because they’re super good! 

1 medium onion, diced

1 bunch of kale, stems removed and chopped

2+ cups tortilla chips

2 cups cooked black beans

2 cups frozen corn

1 batch of spicy tomato sauce, below

cilantro, to serve

lime wedges, to serve

salsa, to serve

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  • In a medium sauté pan, cook onion until slightly soft, about 5-8 minutes. Toss in the kale and cook just until it wilts. Remove from heat.
  • In a large mixing bowl, toss together the chips, beans, corn, sauce, and cooked onion and kale. Use your hands and mix gently so as not to break the chips too much.
  • Turn the whole lot into a medium-sized baking dish.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the mixture is heated through and simmering.
  • Remove from the oven and serve with cilantro, lime wedges, and salsa.

Spicy Tomato Sauce

1 28-oz. can diced tomatoes

2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 Tbs. chili powder

1 tsp. garlic salt

1/4 tsp. onion powder

1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes

1/4 tsp. dried oregano

1/4 tsp. dried coriander

1/2 tsp. paprika

1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. black pepper

  • In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil and garlic over medium-high heat. Saute garlic until just beginning to brown, about 30 seconds.
  • Stir in the tomatoes and spices.
  • Bring to a boil and then turn down to medium-low. Simmer for about 45 minutes to thicken a bit and have flavors develop. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. At this point, the sauce can be pureed if you’d like a smooth sauce, but I opted to leave it slightly chunky.

Summer Slowness- and SimpleTaco Salad Bar

 

Growing up, I always thought of summer in terms of its slowness.  Sure there were the numerable fairs, 4-H meetings and camps, and horse shows.  But what I thought of summer were the long stretches of hours and days in between. These implied camping with the grandparents, playing barbie and build-a-fort with the neighbor children, having a chance to “catch up” with the television, and having hours to while away the time with a good book.  Summer implied stress-free, no obligations, fun.

For me, this is the first summer of having a “real-job” out of school. Disappointingly, despite the frequent Saturday trips to the beach or to visit home and old friends, or the impromptu beer and pizza nights or barbecue and backyard fire pit nights with friends, summer has lost its slowness.  Gone are the glory hours in between, where the ultimate result of deep thinking was to have intelligent conversations.

Now summer seems to want a juxtaposition with adult obligations–as all we truly desire is to have those lost hours back.  As I consider this; as I steal back a few lost hours of summer,  I’m left wondering if those times ever really left?  Or if those hours in between are still there, waiting to be used?

 
 

In my recent use of those lost summer hours, I theorized that the best taco salad needs the right dressing–a hint of spicy, infused with lime and a bit of sweet.  After experimenting a few times, I gained the perfect combination of cumin and paprika, honey, and lime, tamed with a small dab of cool yogurt.  Armed with this new dressing as the final accompaniment, this simple taco salad bar truly delivers.

 
 
Taco Salad
1 cup cheddar cheese, finely grated
3 Tbs. cilantro
3 scallion tops, thinly sliced
1/2 cup tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup red bell pepper, chopped
3/4 cup corn
4-5 cups spinach mixture
beef taco filling (see below)
dressing of honey, cumin, and lime (see below)
tortilla chips
lime wedges
  • Prepare beef taco filling and salad dressing.
  • Assemble each ingredient in individual jars and serve as a taco salad bar.
  • Enjoy summer.  And its slowness!
 
Dressing of Honey, Cumin, and Lime 
1 Tbs. honey
juice from half a lime
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/8 tsp paprika
1 Tbs. plain yogurt
  • Whisk all ingredients together until smooth, and pour or spoon over prepared salad.
 
Beef taco filling, adapted from Cook’s Illustrated
1 1/2 tsp. canola oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1.5 Tbs. chili powder
3/4 tsp. cumin
3/4 tsp. coriander
1 Tbs. diced fresh oregano
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
salt
3/4 lb. lean ground beef
2/3 cup chicken broth
1 Tbs. tomato paste
1 1/2 tsp. white vinegar
3 scallions, white parts only, thinly sliced
  • Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Add garlic and cook until softened and golden.
  • Add spices and salt; cook, stirring constantly until fragrant.
  • Add ground beef and cook until brown, breaking up into small pieces.
  • Add chicken broth, tomato paste, and vinegar.  Bring to a simmer and cook until most of the liquid has been reduced, about 10 minutes.  About halfway through, add sliced scallions and stir in.