I never was any good at multiple choice tests. I hated committing to one narrow answer over another. Give me an essay anytime, where I can include subtleties, nuances. The same thing goes for cooking. I like to be inclusive, and I have a really hard time making decisions that eliminate. Sometimes when I cook black beans, I think I want them “refried” style. Other times I’d rather have them whole, in chili, or soup, or tossed on top of salad. But more often than not, I can’t decide. So I’ve come up with a way to have my cake—er, beans, mashed–and eat them whole, too.
I first came up with this when I was wanting a Mexican style topping for my FFVK style potato pizzas. I wanted some tomato on top, but not tomato sauce. So I rehydrated some of my dried tomatoes and came up with this prototype. It turned out to be mighty tasty on those potatoes, along with other veggies and a bit of pineapple, too. But this time I wanted something spicy but not too spicy. Mixed but not too mixed. And I wanted it on top of some quinoa and greens. I fancied this up with 3 elements of recipes from plant based veterans: Anne Esselstyn’s Mustard Seed Quinoa in Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease,Lindsay Nixon’s Black Beans and Plantains at Happy Herbivore blog. And Susan’s Chipotle Barbeque Tofu at Fat FreeVegan Kitchen blog.
Anne Esselstyn’s recipe for Mustard Seed Quinoa relies on broiled onions. In fact she says the onions make the recipe. But I was actually unimpressed with the onions, so I skip them altogether. And I don’t follow her directions for cooking the quinoa or adding the mustard seeds either. What I am left with is the wonderful idea of putting quinoa and brown mustard seeds together. I usually lightly toast my quinoa before adding water to the pot to cook it. So I hit on the idea of heating up the pot and adding the mustard seeds first. Once they start popping, then I add the quinoa. After I stir it all around until both are nice and aromatic, then I add the cooking water. This produces a nice flavor to the cooked quinoa that simply adding the mustard seeds at the end doesn’t provide. And at the end, to zip it up further, I stir in a good teaspoon or so of lime zest if I have it, and a small clove of miscroplaned garlic. The results are yummy.
To Susan I owe the inclusion of the chipotle in adobo to the black beans. I so fell in love with the sweet smoky flavor of her chipotle barbeque sauce for tofu in the recipe linked to above that even though I don’t eat tofu anymore I try to include chipotle in adobo in Mexican style dishes as often as I can (though in my case less is definitely more).
And finally, I have Lindsay at Happy Herbivore to thank for the idea of garnishing this meal with some fried banana pieces. She has them standing in for plantains in the recipe linked to above, and they are a magical addition to this meal as well.
So you don’t have to decide either/or when making a good meal. And you don’t have to choose to follow just one recipe to a tee. You can piece and patch together, mix and match cooking styles and flavors, even add unexpected ones. And it comes out delicious.
In Between Black Beans and Quinoa with Mustard Seeds
In Between Black Beans
2 cups of cooked black beans
¼ cup of dried tomatoes, rehydrated in water
1 tsp of chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
1 tsp of roasted ground cumin seed, divided (see note)
1-2 tbs of lime juice
¼ cup of cilantro, chopped, or to taste (or optional)
1-2 large cloves of garlic, microplaned
Put about 1/2-2/3 cup of the black beans, the chipotle chiles in adobo, 1/2 of the rostaed cumin seed, lime juice, cilantro, garlic, and the rehydrated tomatoes (but not the soaking water) in the food processor. Process until you have a smooth paste. Add a little of the soaking water from the tomatoes if the paste is too thick. Combine this paste with the rest of the whole beans and any soaking water you might need in a pot. Reheat on low until nice and warm, adding the rest of the cumin seeds, and little bits of tomato soaking water or bean broth if necessary.
Quinoa with Mustard Seeds
1 cup quinoa
1 1 ½ tbs of brown mustard seeds
2 cups of water
1 grated garlic clove
Heat a heavy bottomed sauce pan on medium for at least 30 seconds. Add mustard seeds. You can cover it if you like until they start to pop. When they start to pop, add the quinoa, and stir both until you can smell the quinoa toasting along with the mustard seeds. Add the cooking water. Bring to a boil, lower to simmer, cover, and cook for 15 minutes or until all the water is absorbed. Fluff with lime zest and 1 garlic clove, grated.
Browned Banana Pieces
Peel banana and cut in 1 inch chunks. Cut those chunks in 3. Heat a non-stick skillet for at least 30 seconds. Arrange the banana slices flat side down. Let cook for a few minutes before trying to turn. Carefully flip over once they are turning brown, but not too brown. let them cook another few minutes on the second side. Carefully take them out with a spatula.
Fill a shallow bowl or plate with arugula leaves or baby spinach. You can sprinkle this with garlic granules or a dash of good vinegar or extra lime juice if you like. Put a nice warm nest of the quinoa mixture on top of the greens. Top that with a scoop of the beans. Dot everything with banana slices. Garnish with additional cilantro and lime juice or zest as desired.
Note: Roasting whole cumin seeds and then crushing them with a mortar and pestle makes for fabulous flavor. It only takes a few minutes. First, heat a small heavy pan on medium. I use a tiny cast iron one I found at the Good Will. Toss in the cumin seeds. Stir or shake untl they smell great and start to brown. This hardly takes but a minute if the pan is hot enough. Crush while warm. So if you have a mortar and pestle give this a try. If not grind them up in an electric appliance, designated for grinding spices.
I kind of went crazy taking pictures of this meal, just for fun. So here are a few more shots of the process: