Monday, June 14, 2010

Sopes with Porter-Glazed Black Beans, Guacamole, and Pineapple Salsa

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Corn masa flour is one of the cornerstones of Mexican cooking, and appears in an endless variety of shapes and sizes, from tamales to tortillas to empanadas. Sopes are another member of the family, essentially thick corn tortillas with a raised lip around the perimeter, which acts as a container for any filling you like.

I found a brand of sopes (pronounced so-pays) with no preservatives at a market in Chico, so knew I had to give them a try. It was also an excuse to make beer-glazed black beans with Sierra Nevada Porter, inspired by a Mark Bittman recipe in How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. I live just a few blocks from the Sierra Nevada brewery, and wanted to try their porter, but drinking dark beer in 90 F weather doesn’t have much appeal. To me, porters and stouts are for fall and winter. Consuming said beer as a saucy glaze for black beans, though, sounds like a pretty good idea.
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 You could use canned black beans for this, but whenever I’m making something specially flavored I strongly prefer cooking my own dry beans. In my cast iron frying pan, I sautéed a half cup of diced white onion, with a few cloves of crushed garlic, in corn oil. When the onion begins to brown, add 2 or 3 cups of cooked and drained beans, along with a 12 oz. bottle of porter, 1 tbsp. molasses, and 1 tbsp. ancho chili powder, along with salt and pepper. Use whatever chili powder you like - or none at all - depending on your heat preference.

Bring the bean and beer mixture to a boil, and reduce the heat to a light simmer, stirring occasionally. Cook until the beer has almost completely evaporated, leaving the beans in a thick sauce. I found the flavor almost a little too bitter at first, thanks to the porter, but that seemed to go away as the beans sat for a while after cooking. After the flavors mingled for a while, the result was a rich dark sauce - beer gravy, if you like - slightly sweet from the molasses, with just a hint of chili heat from the ancho powder.
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 While the beans are resting, fry the sopes in a little corn oil if you want a crunchy exterior, or simply warm in a dry frying pan. If my toaster had come along on the move, that’s what I would have used to make these - I think toasting would be perfect, since they are firm enough to survive a toaster, and would nicely brown on either side.

From here, use any fillings you like in tacos or any other Mexican food - salsa, guacamole, vegan cheese or sour cream, seasoned greens or mushrooms, roasted veggies, olives, baked tofu, etc. I made simple guacamole with cilantro and fresh lime juice, and another simple salsa, with tomatoes, lime, green onions, and pineapple chunks. The bright, sweet taste of pineapple or other citrus fruit is a welcome contrast to the porter sauce.

Like any customizable foods - sandwiches, pizza, tacos - these would be great for a party or cooking with friends. Just get a bunch of good fillings together on the table, fry or toast a few sopes, and let everyone make their own to their liking.

Here’s a simple sope with beans, to give an impression of the saucy porter glaze.  A light Mexican beer like Corona would be perfect with these, especially in summer.  Salud!
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P.S.!  I recommend everyone head over to The Crafty Kook right away for a beautiful video (with perfect musical background) from Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota.  For those not keeping score at home, that's where I'm from, and TRNP is one of the treasures of the state.  Very cool, River - thanks for the memories!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Beet Green Frittata with Beet and Potato “Home Fries"

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  When you think of great breakfast food, beets may not be the first thing on your mind. I’ve been picking up a couple of nice bunches of beets every week at the farmers market, and they were welcome in this weekend breakfast of frittata and something like home fries.

Tofu frittata really captures the flavor and heartiness of a traditional baked egg frittata, and is a great vehicle to sneak a bunch of greens into breakfast. I used greens from a half dozen red and pink beets, sautéing the chopped greens in a little olive oil and minced garlic just until they wilted down.

This frittata is pretty simple, and like all of my frittatas and omelets, owes much to Vegan Brunch. In a large bowl, mix the following: lightly cooked greens* (about 1 cup), one 14 oz. block extra firm tofu, 2 tbsp. nutritional yeast flakes, 1 tsp. turmeric, 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard, 1 tsp. tamari soy sauce, 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, a little pinch of thyme, a pinch of black salt powder**, and a big pinch of red pepper flakes. Mash everything well with a fork or your fingers, and bake in a lightly oiled dish at 375 F for 25 to 30 minutes, until lightly browned on top. It can be served right away, but tends to hold its form better if allowed to cool. I sprinkled a light dusting of smoked Spanish paprika on the cooled frittata.

Since the oven was on anyway, I roasted beets and red potatoes at the same time, wrapping them in foil. This next step is optional, since roasted beets and potatoes are fine as is, but I finished them with a light fry in a little oil, just to give the potatoes a bit of browning and crunch. Season the potatoes & beets with salt and black pepper.

If you wanted to make this even easier, you could bake the potatoes and beets - thinly chopped as to cook evenly - right into the frittata, for a close vegan relative of the classic Spanish egg and potato tortilla.

One final note - I made all of this the night before, with a super easy breakfast in mind the next morning. The frittata especially benefits from the few hours of resting - it may be reheated if you like, but I think it tastes great at room temperature or even cool right out of the fridge. Serve with ketchup or hot sauce, or fresh salsa romesco if you really want a treat.  (I list the ingredients on the link - not the quantities, but it's easy to figure out.)

By the way, thanks SO much to all of you who've left such kind comments about my recent move out here!  I'm still trying to catch up on everyone's blogs, but I so appreciate your thoughtfulness and general good feelings about it all.  Thanks everybody :) 
* - I used beet greens here, but you can use just about anything - spinach, chard, broccoli, kale, collards, bok choy, etc.
** - Black salt powder is available at Indian markets, and makes tofu taste like eggs. Honest.  Thanks again to Vegan Brunch!