Friday, February 23, 2007

Busy Days Ahead
Today marks the beginning of our annual PlayFest. Ten days of exciting play readings and workshops at the Harriet Lake Festival of New Plays, Orlando Shakespeare Theater project. Each year Playfest has become more streamlined, offering exciting works in development by both aspiring new writers and prize winning, established playwrights.

I've made my choices, purchased my tickets, and have also done some menu planning to allow me to run home, feed and walk the dog, grab a bite to eat, wash up and head back for the next round of plays. Fast food doesn't have to be a cold cut sandwich or a heated, prepared frozen entrée courtesy of Swanson, Banquet or even, the illustrious red boxed, Stouffer's.

I love Mexican food, especially refried beans and salsa. Having a supply of both on hand, along with some good tortillas and a bag of fresh corn chips promises a choice of taco, tostada, burrito or just bean dip with chips. Fast, easy and healthy.

I've found that canned refried beans resemble and probably taste like Ken-L-Ration. Can't vouch for the taste as I've never indulged in any canned dog food. Nor, for that matter, has my dog. I'll admit, it takes a little planning and requires a little time to cook dried beans. Even using canned pinto beans as a starting point for making refried beans is a notch up from buying canned refried beans. At least the only ingredient, we hope, read the label, is beans. No chemicals, lard or hydrogenated oil, etc. Especially, please, no MSG.

I used a cup of Santa Maria Pinquitos from Rancho Gordo. These fresh, heirloom beans require a much shorter soaking and cooking time. Remember, the older the bean the longer it takes to cook. So buy your dried beans from a reliable purveyor who moves a lot of beans.

I cooked the beans until just tender, in filtered water, keeping the water level just over the top of the beans in the pot by adding additional boiling water as they cooked. Don't add cold water as it stops the cooking and don't use hot water from the tap - yuk, all those nasties from the hot water tank do not add minerals to the dish! And don't add salt until the beans are tender, that prolongs the cooking time. If you use canned beans, rinse the glop off them before proceeding and plan to use a half cup of vegetable broth or chicken broth as you proceed. You won't have delicious pot liquor, the bonus derived from starting with dried beans.

Here's a tostada made with a pan crisped corn tortilla, refried beans, grated Monterrey/Jack cheese and a spicy roasted salsa.

For the Salsa: 3 medium jalapeño chilis, halved, seeds and ribs removed; about 8 plum tomatoes, cored and halved; a medium yellow onion, cut into wedges; 2 cloves of garlic, peeled; 1 TBS tomato paste; 3 TBS olive oil; 1/2 tsp ground cumin; 1/4 tsp cayenne; salt and pepper; 3 TBS fresh minced cilantro leaves; juice from 1 or 2 limes.

Preheat oven to 375°, adjust rack to middle position. Combine tomatoes, onion, chilis, garlic, 1 tsp salt, cumin and cayenne. toss to mix thoroughly. Place vegetables cut side down on rimmed baking sheet. (cover w/ foil for ease of clean-up). Roast until tomatoes are tender and skins begin to shrivel and brown. 30 - 40 min. Cool on baking sheet. Using tongs, transfer roasted vegetables except tomatoes to bowl of food processor. Process until almost completely broken down then add tomatoes and add the tomato paste. Process until slightly chunky about 10 seconds. Add minced cilantro and lime juice. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper. Store covered in refrigerator.

For the Beans: If using dried beans follow above instructions. Use pot liquor for liquid in place of broth. Makes 3 cups. 1/2 cup chicken or vegetable broth; 2 cans pinto beans (15 oz), drained and rinsed; 1 TBS olive oil; 1 small onion; 1 jalepeño chile, seeds and ribs removed, minced; 1 poblano chili, seeds and ribs removed, chile chopped finely; 1/4 tsp salt; 1 tsp ground cumin; 1 TBS minced fresh cilantro leaves.

Process broth and beans in food processor until smooth, scraping sides of bowl. Heat oil in 12 inch non-stick skillet over medium high heat, add onion, chiles and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and beginning to brown. Add garlic and cumin, stir until fragrant then add beans and stir until thoroughly combined. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until beans are thick and creamy (about 5 min). If too thick, add more water/broth, a little at a time until they reach desired consistency. When done, stir in cilantro. Process for beans and salsa adapted courtesy of America's Test Kitchen.

The beans make wonderful burritos, wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla with salsa and cheese. Or layer into an ovenproof dish, cover with grated cheese and a thin layer of enchilada sauce, bake off at 350° for 15 - 20 minutes and serve with fresh, crisp corn chips for the best bean dip ever. The salsa is super with chips or use it as the sauce for Huevos Rancheros. Heat the salsa in a 12" skillet, make four wells in the sauce, and crack an egg into each well, cover and cook over medium heat until eggs are set. Serve on crisp oven baked corn tortillas with some refried beans on the side. Going Tex-Mex is easy and fun.

Simple foods providing good eats! No chemicals, additives or preservatives.

Till next time . . . keep on cooking.


emaupin said...

Joyce, can we playgoers persuade you to cater Playfest?

Freya said...

Joyce, hope you don't mind, but I've tagged you for 5 things you don't know about me!

Asha said...

We get those plays here too sometimes.Enjoy.

All the goodies you made are mouthwatering :)