Black Bean Chimichangas

Black Bean Chimichanga

Black Bean Chimichanga

Tonight I tackled that decadent Tex-Mex favorite: chimichangas!

I don’t eat chimichangas often; they’re delicious but don’t seem a particularly healthy choice. In fact, I can only remember ordering them once in recent years. One of my favorite local mexican restaurants makes them small, and fries them in some sort of basket/rack that pinches them to hold them closed, and serves them up 3 at a time. Here, I decided to make large (single-serving), vegetarian chimichanagas instead.

Ingredients (for 3 servings):

  • flour tortillas, e.g., 3 large, 10-inch
  • black beans, 1 can
  • sharp cheddar cheese, shredded, ~1 cup
  • bell pepper, 1 large, seeded, deveined, and finely diced
  • jalapeno pepper, 2, finely diced
  • garlic, 3 cloves, minced
  • cumin powder, ~1 t. or to taste
  • mexican oregano, ~1 t. or to taste
  • epazote, ~1 t. or to taste
  • canola oil (for frying)
  • all-purpose flour, ~1 T., to mix into a paste with water

Variation, add the following to the filling (to approximately double it):

  • whole kernel sweet corn, e.g., ~2/3 cup, from frozen
  • 8-10 oz. chopped fresh white button mushroom
Chimichanga filling ingredients

Chimichanga filling ingredients

To prepare, first sauté the peppers and garlic in canola oil in a small sauce pan.

Next, add the black beans, stir in the cumin and other spices, reduce heat and simmer. (I used the liquid from the can.)

Preparing the filling

Preparing the filling

When the liquid has reasonably reduced, stir in the shredded cheese and remove the filling from heat.

Adding cheese

Adding cheese

Prepare a couple tablespoons of paste  by combining flour and water; this will be used to “glue” the chimichangas closed while frying. (I recently learned this trick from the television program “America’s Test Kitchen.”)

Microwave the tortillas (perhaps 1.5 minutes on high) so that they are supple, and place some of the filling in the center, wrapping each one at a time.

Apply the flour-based glue to the edges of the tortilla when wrapping for deep-frying.

Wrapping and "glueing" the chimichangas

Wrapping and “glueing” the chimichangas

Heat canola oil in a pan (to ~300° F), perhaps 1/2 to 2/3″ deep, i.e., just enough so about 1/2 the thickness of the chimichanga is in the oil when they’re all placed in the pan simultaneously. You can test that the oil is at a frying temperature by seeing that it bubbles when a small piece of tortilla is inserted.

Place the chimichangas carefully into the oil, seam-side down first.

Deep-frying chimichangas, one side at a time

Deep-frying chimichangas, one side at a time

After 2-3 minutes, check to see if the undersides are browned. Turn the chimichangas over, when they’re nicely browned on the bottoms.

Flipping and frying the other side

Flipping and frying the other side

Carefully remove the chimichangas when the tops are attractively browned and place them on a rack with paper towels and allow them to cool slightly while excess oil drains from them.

I served my chimichanga with a simple salad of chopped lettuce, tomato, and a lime wedge, and accompanied it with sour cream.

Chimichanga filled with black beans, peppers, and cheese

Chimichanga filled with black beans, peppers, and cheese

All in all, these chimichangas were as tasty as those typically found in restaurants, and surprisingly easy to prepare; give them a try sometime when you’re in the mood to spoil yourself!

To serve leftover chimichangas (from the refrigerator): First, microwave each chimichanga on high, for perhaps 1 minute 30 seconds. Then bake the chimichanga, optionally covered with sauce and/or cheese, in a toaster oven or conventional oven at 350-400° F for a couple minutes; this will make them wonderfully crispy as when served fresh.

Here’s the Cook’s Country / America’s Test Kitchen TV video recipe that suggested using the flour/water paste to “glue” chimichangas for frying:

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Vegetable Frittata

Vegetable frittata and romaine lettuce with oil and vinegar.

Vegetable frittata and romaine lettuce with oil and vinegar

I’m not a big fan of just eggs for breakfast – one is usually enough for me, and must be accompanied by more interesting textures. But, of course, eggs are inexpensive and nutritious, so I decided to try a frittata again. I had some fennel stalks around, and was curious to try them (since I love the flavor), after having used the milder fennel bulb for fennel au gratin at Christmastime and not wanting to merely discard the green stalks.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 – 2 T. canola oil
  • 3 small to medium red potatues, cut into small cubes
  • 1/3 fennel stalk, finely sliced
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 T. basil pesto
  • white button mushrooms, coarsely chopped
  • scallion, white portion cut finely, greens coarsely
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 4 whole eggs and 4 egg whites, whisked with milk
  • 1/2 cup grape tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • swiss cheese, shredded

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 425° F.
In an oven safe skillet, over medium low heat, sauté potato and fennel with salt and pepper until potato is somewhat tender. Add white portion of scallions and mushrooms, and lighly sauté. Stir pesto into vegetables and immediately pour egg mixture into skillet evenly over sautéed ingredients.  Cook for a few minutes, until egg mixture begins to set and top with tomatoes, shredded cheese, and scallion greens. Place skillet in oven for 7-15 minutes, until egg appears firm on top and is cooked through.

Vegetable frittata

Vegetable frittata

I served frittata wedges with chopped romaine lettuce and a dressing of simply olive oil and red wine vinegar. This one came out nicely, and the bit of fennel stalk worked nicely to flavor the potatoes.

Vegetable Biryani and Raita

Vegetable biryani and raita

Vegetable biryani and raita

I like Indian and Pakistani vegetarian dishes and have been preparing more of them lately so that I can share them with vegetarian (and gluten-free) friends; I’d not made biryani before, so here’s my first go at it.

This is like my Vegetable Pulao recipe, but with slightly different spices and vegetables.
I made a large amount, perhaps 8 servings.

Ingredients for the rice:

  • basmati rice (2 cups, rinsed and soaked for about 30 minutes, and drained)
  • ghee (~2 T., alternatively substitute canola oil)
  • turmeric (~1 T.)
  • bay leaves (a few)
  • coriander seed (~1 t.)
  • cumin seed (~1 t.)
  • cardamom (~6 pods)
  • cinnamon (1 stick, broken in half)
  • water (4 cups; I mistakenly used 8, having not carefully read the recipe below that par-boiled the rice in 10 cups, then drained and discarded the water, so I needed to bake the biryani to remove excess moisture)

Preparation: In a large pot, melt the ghee, add the spices, cook for a couple mins over medium heat; add the rice to brown slightly, and then add the water, stir and cook rice as usual, covered over low heat.

Ingredients for the vegetable and masala:

  • canola oil (~2 T.)
  • sweet onion (1/2 medum, sliced thinly lengthwise)
  • fresh green beans (1/2-2/3 pound, ends trimmed and cut to 1 inch lengths)
  • carrot (2 large, diced)
  • whole cashews (~1/2 cup)
  • slivered almonds (~1/3 cup)
  • coriander seed (~1 T.)
  • cumin seed (~1.5 t.)
  • garlic paste (~1 T.)
  • fresh ginger (~2 thumbs, finely minced)
  • fresh habanero pepper (1 pepper, seeded, deveined, and finely minced)
  • water (1/2 cup)
  • fresh roma tomatoes (4, puréed with the aforementioned 1/2 cup water)

Preparation: While the rice is cooking, prepare the following in oil (in an oven-safe pan if possible) over medium heat, in this order, progressively: carrot, onion, nuts, spices, garlic, ginger, habanero, green beans, stirring regularly.  When those vegetables are mostly tender, add tomato/water purée and reduce until carrot is tender.
When rice is done, stir tenderly into the vegetable mixture, e.g., with a bowl scraper.

Once I did this, the dish was still too moist, so I baked it at 350° F for 20-30 mins to reduce moisture and create a slightly dry consistency on the exterior.

Ingredients for the raita:

  • greek yogurt (16 oz.)
  • garam masala (~1 1/2 t.)
  • cucumber (1, peeled and cut to small pieces)
  • tomato (~1/3 cup finley diced)
  • carrot (1 small, julienned)
  • water (~1/2 cup, to desired consistency)
  • salt (to taste)

Preparation: before or during the preparation of rice and vegetables, mix thoroughly and let sit.

Serve the biryani with the raita on the side.

Vegetable biryani

Vegetable biryani

My desi housemate visiting from Bangalore approved of it; that’s a pretty good measure.
I asked him not to say anything if he didn’t care for it. :)

This was my first attempt, so if you have suggestions, please let me know.
The baking may be unnecessary if the water amount was corrected (e.g.., 2 cups water per cup of basmati rice), but I like the slightly crispy texture and browning it adds to the biryani.
Also, the habanero spiciness was nearly undetectable; if you like spicy foods, I’d use 2 or 3 habaneros for this amount of rice.

Here are the recipes I consulted for ideas:

Habanero and Jalapeno Poppers

Habanero and Jalapeno Poppers: bacon or vegetarian with epazote.

Habanero and Jalapeno Poppers: bacon or vegetarian with epazote

To keep New Year’s Eve hot, I prepared spicy poppers: some with the “traditional” jalapeno and some with the more adventurous habanero.

These may seem pretty straightforward to prepare (just take a bit of time), but I’ll give a few suggestions and tips, after having made them a few times.

Ingredients

Popper ingredients

Ingredients:

  • fresh jalapeno peppers, halved lengthwise, seeded, and deveined
  • fresh habanero peppers, halved lengthwise, seeded, and deveined
  • cream cheese, softened to near room temperature
  • bacon, strips cut to half length
  • epazote, dried & crushed
Halve, seed, and devein t

Halve, seed, and devein the peppers.

When preparing these on a broiler pan under the broiler, wrap the top of the pan in aluminum foil and cut slits in the foil (where the slits in the pan are) so that bacon grease will drain. Also, pour a half cup of water into the bottom of the pan to keep the drained fat from burning and be careful to not tip the pan.

DSC06972

Add water to broiler pan to keep drained fat from burning.

Carefully fill the pepper halves with cream cheese, optionally wrap with bacon (tucking one end underneath, perhaps with the help of a knife tip, so they stay wrapped), and place them cheese-side down (at first) on the broiler pan.

Pepper halves filled with cream cheese

Pepper halves filled with cream cheese

Place them under the broiler and cook the bottom side of the poppers before the cheese melts.

Cook the bottom sides first so the cheese doesn't melt out.

Cook the bottom sides first so the cheese doesn’t melt out.

Once the bottoms are done, flip them upright with tongs and complete the cooking. I sprinkled the vegetarian poppers (without bacon) with epazote for a extra dash of flavor before it gives way to the heat.

Flip the peppers with tongs and complete the cooking under the broiler.

Flip the peppers with tongs and complete the cooking under the broiler.

Now you have a spicy appetizer for your parties, and one that intially tastes of cheese and bacon or spice, then after 20-30 seconds the heat kicks in nicely. :)

Vegetarian habanero and jalapeno poppers with cream cheese and epazote.

Vegetarian habanero and jalapeno poppers with cream cheese and epazote.

Even though some people that eat these poppers might think you’re trying to kill them, you’ll know you really love them.

Love people.Cook them tasty food.

Love people.
Cook them tasty food.

Happy new year to you all! Love people and cook them tasty food.

Cheese Steak Pizza with Habanero Pesto Sauce

Cheese Steak Pizza

Cheese Steak Pizza

Yes, this is simply a pizza, but with a couple new ideas:

  • Mix minced habanero pepper into the sauce for an exciting bite!
  • Cook the pizza atop baking parchment, so you don’t need oil or cornmeal.

Note that I didn’t say this “Philly” Cheese Steak because I’m not getting into the whole Cheeze Whiz debate, nor am I putting that stuff on my pizza. I’m also aware that an Italian may want me crucified for adulterating basil pesto with habanero pepper. :)

This pizza was prepared with a crust from Trader Joe’s fresh white pizza dough topped with the following:

  • basil pesto (I used store-bought Trader Joe’s)
  • one fresh habanero pepper, seeded, deveined, and finely minced and mixed into pesto
  • swiss cheese
  • round steak, cooked in advance (with salt and pepper), cut into small, thin pieces
  • sharp cheddar cheese
  • white button mushroom, sliced
  • sweet onion, cut into strips
  • green pepper, coarsely diced
  • pecorino romano cheese
  • dried oregano

This was baked in a 375-400° F oven for about 25 minutes.

Cheese Steak Pizza

Cheese Steak Pizza

I was pleased that I managed to make the crust rounder than my usual efforts. :)