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black bean tostadas

June 5th, 2011 | 5 Comments »

I’m always on the look-out for quick and easy meal options, ideas for those nights that the guys take over dinner prep and want some good food to appear without a great amount of fuss. Long winded recipes don’t cut it with them, but these really easy Black Bean Tostadas make for a perfect summer dinner.

Based on this idea for a Black Bean and Corn Pizza, I took it one step more towards simple and used corn tortillas for the base, making a crispy shell that went from our toaster oven to my plate in about 10 minutes. The most time I spent was opening a can of black beans and shaking them under running water.

If you’ve got a toaster oven you’ve got the means to make this in a snap but are limited to only two at a time. Using a regular oven makes for more crowd appeal. Increase the amount of all ingredients as needed for the number of people you’re serving. I would imagine that adults could easily eat two or three of these. I myself managed to shotgun four without a blink of remorse.

But I was stuffed. Happy. But stuffed. Delicious as a main meal, this would also be perfect for a nice appetizer, and could easily be done on a grill with tantalizingly smoky results. The black beans make for a hearty and filling addition and no one will miss any meat in this. Fresh tomato gave it a summery flavor, and a crumble of queso fresco would be a nice addition just prior to eating them.

Black Bean Tostadas

1 15-oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
2-3 t. chipotle en adobo
1-2 t. each ground cumin and chili powder
1 medium tomato, diced
1 c. frozen corn (no need to thaw)
1 avocado, diced
Corn tortillas
Pepper Jack, or Co-Jack cheese for topping
Lime wedges

Heat oven to 400°.

Place drained black beans in a small saucepan and add 1/3 cup of water, the chipotle en adobo, cumin and chili powder. Stir to combine and heat until simmering. Remove pan and mash beans coarsely with a sturdy wooden spoon. Add more water if needed to make beans spreadable, but not runny. You want them to be thick.

On a baking sheet, arrange corn tortillas and place in oven, turning once until tortillas are slightly firm. Remove pan from oven and carefully spread a few tablespoons of black bean mixture on them, then top with tomato, corn and diced avocado. Sprinkle a little cheese over them and return the pan to the oven. Bake until cheese is melted and tortillas are crispy around the edges, maybe 5 minutes. Squirt fresh lime juice over the tortillas before serving.

NOTE: Instead of using avocado chunks on the tostadas, mash the avocado with a little lime juice, salt and pepper and use either as a topping for the tostada when it comes out of the oven, or spread a thin layer atop the black beans before adding the other toppings and baking them. Either way you use it, it’s delicious.

grilled guacamole

July 23rd, 2010 | 11 Comments »

No, that isn’t a misprint. I made guacamole on the grill.


The idea came from The Minimalist’s 101 Grilling ideas column in the New York Times Dining section, and since we’re huge fans of Guacamole in this house, it wasn’t long before the desire to create it, and the assembled ingredients were ready for my initial attempt.

I’m no stranger to grilling onions or tomatoes. In previous summers, I’ve made a topping for bruschetta with grilled tomato and sweet onions that I’ve devoured shamelessly, and this summer for some reason, the desire for grilled onions on any number of dishes has been almost an obsession. I’m finding more and more to like about onions, whether they’re roasted, caramelized in a pan or like this, charred and slightly smoky from the grill.

There’s no technique to making this Guacamole at all. The key is mostly in preparing the items for the grill. Tomato and avocado should be ripe, but not too ripe due to the fact that they soften intensely on the grill. My avocados were more firm than I would have chosen for a standard preparation, but they worked beautifully in the intense heat of the grill. Carve them in half and remove the pit, then brush a little oil over them. Halve your tomatoes, and slice the onions into thick rounds so they are easy to handle. Give those a smear of oil too.  And be sure not to forget the limes! They become a sweeter version of their usual tart self from the heat of the flames.

Place all the items face down on the grill. And here’s where your personal preference will come in. Do you like a lightly toasted taste? Or do you prefer a nice grill-marked char? Do be careful about the tomato; if you overdo it, it will collapse into the fire. I prefer to put the tomato on the hottest part of the grill and watch it carefully until I notice the edges beginning to soften just a little, becoming dark where it touches the grill. I flip it over and let it cook for a few more minutes, then remove it to a pan to rest. The skin usually comes off.

For the rest of the items, leave them in place until they are nicely marked and beginning to soften. Turn the avocado over so the peel side is down on the grate and cook them until they become soft and compliant. Flip over the lime halves too so the rind is down, and watch for the pulp to almost collapse. At this point, you’re not going to get juice from the limes, but you will get a deliciously smoky lime pulp for your Guacamole that gives it that familiar and tangy ‘Zing!’ that only a good lime can offer. And those onions can be cooked to any degree you wish.

Once you’ve got all the grilling done, allow everything to cool off. Chop the tomato and onion, scoop out the avocado and squeeze the limes into a bowl. Do be cautious of the amount of lime you put in; remember that the pulp will become more intense from being heated, and you may not need as much as you think. Add in whatever seasonings you prefer.

There was no photo of the finished version of this Guacamole because, well…. Guacamole all mixed up isn’t exactly photogenic. It didn’t look any different than what you would make normally, but the flavor was stunning. Smoky and rich, it had depth that I wouldn’t have imagined Guacamole could have. Everything became sweeter, and deeply flavorful from the heat and flames of the grill. Our love for Guacamole was definitely enhanced by this version. It didn’t last long at all and I can’t wait to make it again.

Apparently, it's all about green today

November 14th, 2008 | 2 Comments »

It’s National Pickle Day and National Guacamole Day. I suppose since ‘being green’ is the new buzzword phrase that everyone is throwing down- even computer software, which makes me think ‘What the heck is ‘green’ software?’- naturally having a green food day is apropos.

picklesThink pickles and you think cucumbers, you don’t think ‘process’ but pickling is a process and not a food. It’s like saying ‘I need a Kleenex’. Kleenex is a brand, but what you want is a tissue. I know that I’m just comparing apples to oranges and y’all really don’t need to be told this; pickles have undergone that etymology that now means a crisp briny cucumber, not a process of preservation and pickles have become much more mainstream as well. There are companies who produce artisan pickles out of a wide variety of vegetables, honing the art with a fine tooth comb and creating an new legion of fans to all things vinegar. It’s not just about sauerkraut anymore.

Pickling has been around for 5,000 years and differs from canning in that it does not require the item to be completely sterile before it is sealed. The distinguishing feature of pickling is to produce a pH that is low enough to kill of bacteria; natural fermentation at room temperature, provided by lactic acid bacteria produces this required level. The presence of acid or saline, along with the deprivation of oxygen brings the desired end result. These days, with refrigeration, this means of preservation isn’t as much a necessity as it is a pleasure; people love pickles of any kind. Asian cuisine is renowned for pickled items, most notably kimchi and umeboshi, in Britain you find pickled eggs and onions in many pubs as a snack food, herring is pickled in Scandinavia and we’ve already mentioned sauerkraut. Italian Giardiniera is a very popular dish of pickled vegetables including onions, carrots, celery and cauliflower. Middle Eastern countries serve pickles at almost every meal and of course, in the USA we have pickles galore of every kind, shape, and size- sweet, dill, hot and either crispy or soft; they’re sliced, quartered, whole in all sizes from the tiny cornichons to the gigantic sized pickles on a stick. Olives are pickles, or simply pickled. Okra is a popular pickled item in the South and pickled peppers are found from Italian to Mexican cuisine. Pickling can be considered a dry cure too, such as corned beef, pastrami, lox or even ham.

Had enough of pickles? I’m not a huge fan of them although olives tend to make me weak-kneed; my pickles need to be so crisp that they snap when you bite them and although I can eat the sweet bread-and-butter pickle slices on hamburgers, I prefer dill pickle relish on my bratwurst and fuggedabout sauerkraut. Just fuggedabottit.

On the other hand, guacamole is something I could eat every day.


I love a chunkier guacamole as opposed to the smooth version. Traditional Mexican standard ingredients include avocados, minced tomatoes and white onions, plenty of cilantro, lime juice, garlic and salt. Made it in a molcajete or just stirred together in a bowl, it goes with your burrito, taco, enchilada, taquito, chalupa, chimichanga, corn chip or simply on a spoon.

This is how I like to make it: Split three avocadoes and carve into a dice, scooping the flesh into a bowl. Add one seeded and diced tomato, lime zest and juice from half a lime, a rounded teaspoon of kosher salt, half a teaspoon each of cumin and chili powder and a few shakes of garlic and onion powder. I don’t add raw onion or garlic- too strong. Stir to combine and allow to sit for 10 minutes or so before serving.


Enjoy the green today!