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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Wednesday Dinner #2 - Refried Beans

This Wednesday dinner is a great filler meal that keeps on giving. Refried Beans make for quick lunches and dinners, are a protein rich substitute for meat, and go great on nachos.
It wasn't until I went on my honeymoon with Paul that I really learned how much I liked Mexican food. Now I can't imagine living without Tacos.

We took this neat jungle tour into the remoter parts of the area. You rode in the back of these giant Mercedes Benz Trucks through sweet little villages, rough jungle roads, and across rivers. The guide told jokes, talked about Mexico, and plied you with Alcohol. I will probably never again do a Tequila shot while riding in the back of a truck going 65 miles per hour down the highway.

We stopped along the way at this house in the middle of the jungle where this family grew all their own food. In the jungle garden there were baby chickens running around cheeping frantically. There, I had the tastiest tacos I've ever had. The tortillas were homemade and fresh off the griddle. The corn flour was even freshly ground. The salsa we put on it was amazing too. It had Nopales (aka prickly pear aka cactus) in it. It was magically delicious. After eating tacos like that, I could never doubt my love of Mexican food again.

This recipe was inspired by the one in the Joy of Cookin'. I added a few things though to jazz it up a bit.

1 Medium Onion
2 Jalepeno Peppers
4 Cloves Garlic, Minced
2 Tbsp Vegetable Oil
1 Tbsp Chilli Powder
1 Bag Dried Kidney Beans
1 Cup Reserved Bean Water
Cumin and Salt to Taste

I really prefer the taste of dried beans to canned. It takes a longer prep time to make this way, but it isn't labor intensive at all. Plus you get that satisfying feeling of making something from scratch!

First, you need to soak the beans over night. Pick over the beans, to make sure there are no rocks in them. I used to just ignore that step of the recipe, then I discovered a pebble in a mouthful of burrito. Beware the tiny rocks! Put the carefully inspected legumes into a bowl and cover them with water.

The next day, transfer the beans to a large pot and bowl for 45 minutes to an hour. Once the Beans are soft, drain them, setting aside 1 cup of the liquid. Return the beans to the bowl. Now the most fun part of the recipe...mashing! Squash the heck out of the little guys until they become smooth. If any of you out there still don't have a potato masher in your life, I strongly recommend this one by Oxo:

They make such good kitchen tools. I've still got my eyes on these awesome measuring cups that you don't have to bend over to read. What a good invention!

Anyways, back to the recipe!

Heat the vegetable oil in a large pan. Add The Onions, Peppers and Garlic. 2 Large Jalapeno peppers give the beans a medium spiciness, so add more or less depending on your taste. Saute until soft. Coat the vegetables with 1 Tbsp Chilli Powder.

1 cup at a time, add the mashed beans to the veggies, stirring often. Once combined, Add the cup of reserved water.

Stir over medium heat until the consistency is just a little thinner than you want it to be, as the beans thicken while standing. Add more Chilli Powder, Salt and Cumin to taste.

This should make enough beans for about 12 tasty tacos. The bag of dry beans costs about the same as a can of prefried beans, and yeilds about 3 times the amount of food. Plus, you don't have to deal with the creepiness of the beans coming out in the shape of a can, like cranberry sauce or dog food.

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