Category Archives: Mexican Flavors

Queso Fundido with Mushrooms, Greens, and Chiles

So, those chiles.

They arrived in Seattle lovingly packed and frozen, straight from the Santa Fe farmers market.  Someone who loves me seeded the roasted chiles and pulled them apart into strips, a painstaking labor.  I had to do right by them.

There’s this little taqueria in Santa Barbara called La Super-Rica that became famous as Julia Child’s favorite taco joint.  There is always a line down the block.  There are a lot of great tacos in that part of the world, and some of my personal favorites actually come from Reyes Market in Carpenteria, but La Super-Rica makes one dish that I love.  Love.  They call it “rajas,” a name referring to the roasted strips of poblano pepper, but those peppers are also smothered in salty cheese.  You scoop them up with a warm tortilla and let the grease run down your arms.  Luckily Seattle is not very close to Santa Barbara, so this is an occasional indulgence.

I’m calling my version “Queso Fundido,” which is a Mexican dish of melted cheese enhanced with bits of meat or vegetables or spicy peppers, meant to be scooped up with chips or wrapped in corn tortillas.  As I like to do, however, I’ve inverted the traditional proportions, starting with a pan chock-full of vegetables and stirring in just enough cheese to make the dish come together.  And we loved it.  Continue reading Queso Fundido with Mushrooms, Greens, and Chiles (click for recipe)

Southwestern Frittata with Peppers, Black Beans, and Cheddar

Speaking of glorified scrambled eggs, a frittata is one of my favorite quick dinners.  (Although of course it would not be out of place at an elegant brunch. You know, should you have the occasion to host or attend an elegant brunch.  Around here on weekends it’s more of a race to see if I can just snag a pancake before the kids eat them all.)  A frittata has a significant advantage over scrambled eggs when it comes to dinner, in fact, because it can be made ahead and served at room temperature, or even cold.

Some of my favorite people went tootling around New Mexico recently, and knowing that they were in the land of chiles left me dreaming of the flavors of the Southwest.  They hadn’t yet come back to deliver my stash of frozen roasted Alcalde chiles, so I was stuck making this frittata with ingredients available to ordinary mortals.

But now those chiles are in my freezer.  What should I do with them?! They’re like gold. Or at least truffles.

Anyway.  Back to the I’m-not-in-Santa-Fe frittata.  I knew that I wanted to make a thick frittata, packed full of vegetables and a big scoop of drained pico de gallo salsa.  I was a little worried about getting my frittata to cook through, so I turned to the experts on nitpicky culinary concerns, Cook’s Illustrated.  And, as usual, they had good advice for me: cook the eggs as if you are scrambling them until they are nearly set, then finish them under the broiler.  Which I did. Continue Reading Southwestern Frittata with Peppers, Black Beans, and Cheddar (click for recipe)

Quinoa Chili with Red Peppers

I ran into a neighbor the other day who was out walking with her three kids.  The youngest is a new baby, just about the same age that my new baby was when I decided that something had to give and we’d just have to eat scrambled eggs for the rest of time.  (I’d like to be able to say that I gave up on cleaning as well as cooking at that time, but, to be honest, cleaning was never really my thing.)

I offered to bring dinner by, of course.  I probably should have offered to come over and do eight loads of laundry instead, but I imagined that my casual acquaintance wouldn’t take me up on that offer.  (Or maybe I’m just telling myself that because I’d rather cook than do laundry any day.  If someone near and dear to you has a baby, though–especially a third baby–you should TOTALLY offer to do their laundry.  They need all the help they can get.)

I’m not necessarily recommending this chili as the ideal food for new parents.  It has everything some nursing moms try to avoid: spice, garlic, beans, onions.  Some might prefer a soothing lentil soup, or those quinoa cakes, or a tofu enchilada casserole.  But this chili is quick to cook and makes plenty to share.  And my neighbor was game.

It’s a recipe from the the “red” section of the Ripe cookbook (also the source of that Dal with Curried Red Onion Jam).  And when I read the headnote I knew that this recipe and I were meant to be.  Because it says that Ripe author Cheryl Sternman Rule adapted the recipe from one that she developed for Eating Well magazine way back when–and you know that she has GOT to be talking about my favorite wheat berry chili.  Except that quinoa cooks in 15 minutes instead of an hour and 15 minutes.  A brilliant idea for a busy mom on a busy day.  I kept my favorite elements of each recipe, of course, cooking the quinoa longer for more chew than crunch, happily piling in the red pepper, replacing red beans with homemade black beans, and squeezing in a few limes at the end. Continue reading Quinoa Chili with Red Peppers (click for recipe)

Baked Potato with Chili

You know how I feel about my freezer.  I love all that good stuff in there that I made in double batches a while back so I could grab it on a busy night.  Here’s a way to give new life to that Winter Vegetarian Chili you stashed away (and stretch the frozen quart to feed a whole family).

Of course, a baked potato makes a mighty fine meal even if you don’t have chili handy (although that chili really is worth making).  And if you’re in a part of the world where the weather now makes eating chili & baked potatoes seem SO last season…well, feel free to gloat in the comments.

Continue reading Baked Potato with Chili (click for recipe)

Tempeh Tacos

“Meatless Mondays” come and go around here without much notice, since we eat meatless meals most of the time.  But I occasionally get comments about dedicated carnivores trying to add (or grudgingly accepting) more vegetarian meals into their diets.

I acknowledge that I am supremely unqualified to comment on this topic, having eaten very little meat in the past two decades, but I imagine that it is hardy, “meaty,” vegetarian (vegan, even!) meals like this one that will appease even the most apprehensive carnivore.  Try it.  Let me know.  And then once you have eased into occasional meatless eating, you can move on to advanced vegetarian fare, like those herbed Quinoa Cakes.

Continue reading Tempeh Tacos (click for recipe)

Breakfast Tacos with Eggs, Potatoes, and Greens

Everyone pretends it’s only the first few months of parenthood that leave you bleary-eyed and dazed from lack of sleep.  Wrong.  Most babies I know regularly wake up during the night for a long, long time.  I don’t know if it’s collective amnesia or willful deception, but nobody ever explained this to me in advance.

Last night my almost-one-year-old slept all night long for the first time in her life.  I was overjoyed, because my older girls didn’t do that until they turned two.  So it was probably a freak occurance that won’t be repeated for a year.  But still–still!–multiple consecutive hours of sleep are always a welcome gift after five years of sleep deprivation.  (I am like to think of this period of my life as the decade of babies, to be immediately followed by the decade of sleep.  Does it work that way?)

Sleep or no sleep, these tacos–just eggs atop a tangle of sauteed onions, potatoes, and greens–are a nice way to start the day. Continue reading Breakfast Tacos with Eggs, Potatoes, and Greens (click for recipe)

Vegetarian Taco Salad

I hear that some people get tired of leftovers.  I am not really one of those people.  To me, leftovers equal free time because the cooking is already done!  Nevertheless, your pots of Black Beans with Cilantro and Lime and Quinoa with Corn, Green Onions, and Feta are probably starting to dwindle, now that you made those Black Bean Tacos and snuck a scoop of the beans for your Huevos Rancheros.  This week’s leftovers have their last hurrah in this taco salad, which could be dinner on a busy night or could just as easily travel to work for lunch.

Of course, you can make make this salad with any cooked or canned beans and grains you have on hand.  Or substitute a good handful of broken tortilla chips for the quinoa–I won’t tell. Continue reading Vegetarian Taco Salad (click for recipe)

Vegetarian Black Bean Tacos

This might have been my favorite meal growing up. We inventively called it “Tortillas, Cheese, and Beans.”  If the tortilla was a big flour tortilla, we rolled it up and you might have recognized the dish as a “burrito.”  If the tortillas were smaller corn tortillas, we folded them into what are commonly known as “tacos.”  But we called any variation “Tortillas, Cheese, and Beans.”  And in this era of Korean-Hawaiian-Fusion-Tacos, perhaps that clarity is helpful.  Call it what you will, if you have some seasoned black beans around, this meal can be on the table in a few minutes.  And if you don’t, a can of refried beans will take you back to my childhood.

Continue reading Vegetarian Black Bean Tacos (click for recipe)

Black Beans with Cilantro and Lime

Did you make your big pot of black beans?  Do you have a few quarts stashed in the freezer?  Good.  This week we’re going to use them.  Or if not, this recipe is also a great way to doctor up canned beans.  In fact, that’s how I first got started using this recipe–nudging my canned beans toward deliciousness before I started cooking my own from scratch.

Busy home cooks know not to be afraid of leftovers.  This week’s recipes will include these beans, a pot of quinoa, and ideas for combining the two into black bean tacos and a taco salad.  Cooking this way (using flavors you love and don’t mind eating a few times in a week!), you will reap the benefits of big-batch cooking.  In a week, you’ll go through a this pot of beans, another pot of grain, some good salsas, your entire bunch of cilantro, and maybe even a little tub of sour cream that won’t be left molding in the fridge after a single use.

These beans can be served as a side dish with any Mexican food (like these fish tacos, for example), as a component of a recipe (try them layered into huevos rancheros), or as a main course, preferable nestled alongside some flavorful rice (or quinoa) and topped with a good salsa.

Continue reading Black Beans with Cilantro and Lime (click for recipe)

Vegetarian Enchilada Bake with Black Beans and Tofu

The part of me that enjoys nourishing others is mightily satisfied when I make a casserole.  I know it seems stodgy, but making a heavy pan of food meant to feed a crowd is an act of love.  Maybe that’s why casseroles were so popular in the ’70s–wasn’t love in vogue back then?

We’ll call them love enchiladas, then.  Although there are lots of other good things in here, too: sweet vegetables, a good boost of protein in the black beans, tofu, and cheese, a kick of chile and spice.  But, as usual, there are no hard and fast rules.  Use what you have.

And a love note to vegans or those in a rush: the black bean/tofu/veggie mix also makes a killer taco filling.  Vegetarian Enchilada Bake with Black Beans and Tofu: To make your enchilada filling, saute a diced onion and a diced red pepper over medium-high heat until the onion begins to brown.  Add a diced zucchini, a few cloves of chopped garlic, and some corn.  Add a few pinches of salt, a tsp. dried oregano, and a couple tsp. each of cumin and chile powder.  Stir in a few cups of black beans (with their liquid if you cooked them; drained if they’re canned) and a block of diced tofu.  (If you plan in advance, you can freeze then thaw and crumble the tofu; it gives it a nice texture.)  Add some water if necessary to keep the mixture from sticking, simmer for a few minutes to blend the flavors, then taste for salt and mix in a handful of chopped cilantro at the end.  You want the mixture fairly saucy so your casserole won’t dry out while baking.  Pour a splash of enchilada sauce into a 9×13 pan (I used a prepared one this time, but if you have time it’s always worth making your own from dried chiles).  Layer your ingredients on top of the sauce as follows: corn tortillas to cover the bottom of the pan in a single layer, 1/2 of the veggie mixture, a drizzle of enchilada sauce, a sprinkling of melting cheese, a crumble of feta cheese.  The next layer is corn tortillas, 1/2 the veggie mixture, more corn tortillas, then the rest of your enchilada sauce.  Bake covered at 350 until the enchiladas are hot and bubbling (20-30 minutes if your veggie mixture started out hot), then uncover, sprinkle the top with more of both kinds of cheese, and continue baking until the cheese melts.  You can always turn on the broiler to get the top nice and brown.  Serve with brown rice, a green salad, and lots of good toppings: chopped cilantro, sliced avocado, salsa, sour cream, and some of that amazing cilantro pesto you keep in your freezer.