In the mood for Frijoles Negros!

Black Turtle Beans… a staple of Latin American cooking and probably my favorite legume. The three dishes below demonstrate the flavor and convenience of canned black beans when combined with other fresh ingredients. The gobs of cheese and sauce that you find in many Mexican restaurant dishes can be tiresome and before long everything starts to taste the same.  These recipes showcase some of the wonderful flavors of Latin American and southwestern cuisine without all that heaviness…perfect for summer!


Delicious, Clean and Healthy Tostata

Yes, that is the name of this recipe from The Family Chef, by Jewels and Jill Elmore.  But when I served this for dinner, no one in my family commented on how healthy it seemed.  They just ate it up and asked for more. I’ve made a couple of changes just to simplify a step or two.  I get the achiote paste at the Mexican market.  It comes in a little box and makes the most amazingly vivid orange marinade with a wonderful flavor.  Definitely worth the trip to the market.
6 corn tortillas
1/8 cup oil
1 can seasoned black beans
1/4 head cabbage
1/4 head lettuce
1 bunch cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
2 spring green onions, thinly sliced
2 tomatoes, seeded and thinly sliced
1/3 cup cotija cheese
1 avocado, sliced
1/4 cup pickled red onion (recipe below)
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
achiote marinade (recipe below)
1.  Prepare the Achiote Marinade.
2.  Marinate chicken for at least 20 minutes and as long as overnight
3.  Prepare the pickled Red Onion
4.  Brush tortillas lightly with oil and bake at about 350 degrees until crispy.
5.  Drain the black beans, do not rinse.
6.  Grill the chicken, cool slightly and slice thinly.
7.  Toss all salad ingredients with a little juice from the pickled red onion and some olive oil.
8.  Assemble the tostadas:  Pile the beans and thinly sliced chicken on the crispy tortillas shells; then add
     the salad.  Top with pickled red onions and serve. Serves 4-6
Pickled Red Onion
1 red onion, thinly sliced
3/4 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
2  tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons sugar
Heat vinegar with sugar and salt until dissolved.  Add red onions and let sit 20 minutes or longer.
Achiote Marinade
1/2 cup achiote paste
1 clove garlic
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 cup light oil
1 lime, juiced
Mix all ingredients in a blender.

Spicy Grilled Corn Salad with Black Beans and Queso Fresco

This lovely salad has a distinct warm and smoky flavor from the chipotle peppers and adobo sauce.  The queso fresco is mild so it absorbs the flavors of the dressing and is a wonderful contrast to the sweet crunchy grilled corn. The recipe is from Fine Cooking. 
3 ears fresh corn, husked
1 medium red onion, cut into disks about 1/3 inch thick
1 large red bell pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
1 small chipotle pepper, seeded and minced, plus one tablespoon adobo sauce (from a can of chipotles in adobo)
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 15 1/2 ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
5 ounces queso fresco, crumbled (1 cup)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
Prepare a grill.  Brush corn, onion and bell pepper with oil and season with salt and pepper.  Grill corn and onion until beginning to brown, 6-10 minutes.  Transfer to a cutting board to cool slightly.  Grill the pepper until charred on all sides, about 12 minutes.  Put the pepper in a bowl, cover, and cool slightly.  Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk 6 tablespoons oil, the chipotle and the adobo sauce, vinegar, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.  Coarsely chop the onion and put it in a large bowl.  Cut the corn from the cobs and add to the bowl.  Skin, seed, and coarsely chop the pepper; add to the bowl, along with the beans, cheese, cilantro and oregano.  Re-whisk the dressing , add it to the corn mixture and toss well.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Quesadillas

One of my sons raved about the butternut squash quesadillas that he had at The Garden Grille in Providence, RI and this is our attempt to recreate them.  We used sweet potatoes instead of the squash and added caramelized onions and black beans.  On our first try, we overdid the cheese and while they were fine, we didn’t get the bright sweet potato flavor that we were looking for.  Being light handed with the cheese was the trick to nailing this copycat recipe. ( I didn’t write down any amounts while playing around with these quesadillas so I will just give a general game plan)
several sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
a couple of Vidalia onions, peeled and thinly sliced
a can black beans, drained and rinsed
queso fresco cheese, crumbled
grated cheese (cheddar or colby/jack)
olive oil
large flour tortillas
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Put the potatoes in a roasting pan and toss with a bit of oil and season with salt and pepper. Spread out into a single layer and roast until tender and starting to brown…this will only take 10-15 minutes. While potatoes are roasting, cook the onions slowly in a drizzle of oil, stirring occasionally, until they are soft and golden.
Preheat broiler, leaving the rack in the middle of the oven.  Brush one side of a tortilla with oil or melted butter and place it buttered-side down on a baking sheet.  Sprinkle with a light layer or queso fresco then add a layer of caramelized onions.  Top this with roasted sweet potatoes and black beans and a sprinkle of the grated cheese.  Cover with 2nd tortilla and brush the top with oil or butter.  Broil quesadilla until golden brown on one side (this will only take a minute or two so watch carefully) then remove from oven and use a spatula to press down on it gently (this will help the melting cheeses hold it together) and carefully flip it over and return to oven to brown the other side. Cut into wedges and serve with lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream, and or salsa, if desired.