Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Refried Beany Goodness

I've often pondered whether or not I could become a vegetarian if I really tried and I'm pretty sure I could if my husband could as well. One thing about being in charge of the vittles for two is that you really don't have the time, energy, or motivation to cook two separate meals (and the CH working 48 hours a week and my working 10-15 hours most weeks means I very much do not expect him to cook for himself). I do the two separate meals thing on occasion when he has a steak. I hate steak and can never understand the appeal of a big, bloody slab of it.

For me, the path to vegetarianism is blocked mainly by the prospect of double labor and losing the possibility of eating chicken. I really like chicken. In fact, I daresay that in the ultimate test of whether you're a hypocrite about meat eating, dealing with chickens would be a test I could pass. To me, that test is whether you would be able to do the dirty work yourself to eat the meat you enjoy or if you're only able to consume it as long as someone else snuffs the animal, cleans it up and offers it to you in convenient packaging. I'm probably less squeamish about dealing with birds because my family had chickens at one point and Henny Penny and her rooster boyfriends occasionally went on the chopping block so I saw their demise on occasion. Of course, I also saw deer butchered during hunting season and had the misfortune of eating squirrel and rabbit when times were hard. Poor folks have to do what they have to do to get by.

Getting back to vegetarianism, I do tend to eat vegetarian meals for lunch when I have the ingredients and the time to prepare them. Since the CH is usually chowing down on sandwiches of ham or the radioactive pink "fancy salami" (really, baloney) I can buy at a local markets, I'm free to leave a lesser impact on the environment and to leave some poor animal spend another day among the living. Often, I grill up a cheese sandwich because that's quicker than a more elaborate dish. It's also always a winner with a side of tomatoes and some nutritionally suspect Japanese powdered corn soup.

The makings of tasty, beany goodness.

If I'm really ambitious and have chick peas around, a far better deal is Chana Masala (on Mallika's excellent Quick Indian Cooking site), but garbanzo beans can only be purchased at shops that carry certain imports and I keep forgetting to have the CH check for them at Costco (where he can get a whole case). What I have remembered to have him pick up a case of, however, is refried beans and there's a really fast and easy way to make them into a nice lunch that takes them from having a canned taste and smelling like dog food to being fresh and tasty.

A long while ago, I had a get-together with a few co-workers and I served up some Tex-Mex including beans prepared in this style. One of my co-workers said he always hated refried beans before he tried them done up this way. The main point of this is to get some fresh vegetables in there to undercut the overly beany nature. This isn't so much a "recipe" as just a form of preparation. You need a food processor, hand mixer (everyone should have a hand mixer!) or blender of some sort, or be willing to mash and mix stuff with your own powerful arms.
  • 1 can refried beans
  • 1 tomato
  • 1/4 white onion
  • 1/2-2 tbsp. of taco seasoning (to taste)
  • salsa (to taste)
  • shredded cheese (optional)
  • chopped green onions (optional)
Core the tomato and cut into 4 or so wedges. Slice 1/4 of the white onion and cut the slices into quarters. Place in a blender or food processor and add 1-2 tbsp. of taco seasoning (I use 1.5). Process in pulses until it's half liquid and half pulpy bits. Spoon in the refried beans and process again until everything is reasonably mixed in. Put a portion in a microwave safe one-serving size bowl, top with salsa, and sprinkle with cheese. Microwave until hot then garnish with chopped green onions. Serve with tortilla chips, a flour tortilla, over rice, or eat as is like a thick soup.

I especially enjoy this over Tex-Mex style fried rice with jalepeno sauce instead of salsa (like Tabasco only green and distilled from a different pepper), though it is incredibly filling with rice, and decidedly more effort because you've also got to make rice. For lunch, I usually just have it with Guiltless Gourmet tortilla chips which we tend to have around for the CH's lunch boxes.

Those in Japan can get refried beans in Japanese stores that stock other Mexican food items, but they're a lot cheaper at Costco or through the Foreign Buyer's Club. You can also pick up a big canister of organic taco seasoning at Costco (which will last you ages, but cost less than a handful of the packet stuff at a Japanese store). You can top it with Japanese mixed (real) cheese, but it's better with a nice cheddar.

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