Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Cycle of Delicious

I think we've gotten into a "delicious cycle" at our house.  After the Super Bowl, we found ourselves with a plethora of salsa and tortilla chips.  So we bought cheese and made nachos, tacos, and enchiladas over the next couple of weeks.  Well, now we have some crumbled queso fresco leftover, as well as the rest of the red mole from the enchiladas.  What else is there to do but purchase more tortilla chips?  Add to that a batch of our favorite refried beans and you get a lovely plate of nachos for dinner!

We've been making our refried beans this way for over a year now, and we've never gone back to canned, even on nights when we're feeling really lazy.  It doesn't take that much more time to make them this way, and the results are so much better!

The recipe calls for 3 cans of red kidney beans, but we usually do 2 cans of red kidney beans and 1 can of black beans.  That way we get the extra health benefits of black beans (which makes me happy), but they still look and taste like regular refried beans (which makes Joe happy).

Another reason we like making these beans so much is because all the ingredients are things we have on hand all the time -- except jalapenos.  We never have them around and I'm not the kind of person who will go all the way to the store just to buy a single jalapeno.  I don't remember when or how we thought of this, but we started using a chipotle, from the canned chipotles in adobo sauce.  It adds a nice smoky flavor to the beans, but it's not too overpowering.  Since we keep them in the freezer (see next paragraph) we just use those and never even try to buy a jalapeno anymore.    

Here is my favorite tip for canned chipotles: when you open a new can, take all the chipotles out and lay them on a cookie sheet, spooning some adobo sauce on top of each one.  Put the cookie sheet in the freezer for about a hour or so, then at that point you can gather them up and put them in a freezer bag and then will be there whenever you need them!  They are actually a lot easier to mince when frozen as well (a method we use when cutting up tissues in my lab actually!)      

Refried Beans
adapted from America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook
Serves 4-6

3 (15.5 ounce) cans red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup water
5 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, minced
1 jalapeno chile, stemmed, seeded, and minced
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro (optional; it's great if you have it, but we almost never do)
Tabasco (optional; Joe adds it to his portion, I don't care for it)

Put the beans and water in a food processor and process until smooth (about 30 seconds or so).

Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat.  When hot, add the onion, jalapeno, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Cook for about 5 minutes, or until the onion is softened.

Stir in the garlic and cumin, cook for about 15 seconds or until fragrant (oh, it will be fragrant!).

Add the pureed beans to the skillet and thoroughly mix together.  Lower the heat a bit and cook until the beans are thickened, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.  Stir in the cilantro, if using.  Taste and season with salt if necessary.  Add Tabasco if using.


  1. i've heard you talk many times about your beans...i think we're going to have to try them soon! also, this queso frecso you talk about...this must be the type of cheese? it is white and crumbly? if so...i need to invest in some :) long story...i'll let you later!

  2. Yeah it's white and crumbly. I think you might be able to buy it already crumbled but we bought it in a block and crumbled it as we used it. It's fresh cheese so it has liquid surrounding it in the package (to keep it moist??).

    Anyway, I'm curious to hear about this long story you have about cheese :)


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