Friday, December 18, 2009

Black Bean Salad and Roasted Poblano Quesadillas

I adore Deb Perelman’s blog, Smitten Kitchen.  It’s fun to read, the recipes always sound great, and she takes beautiful pictures.  Deb even provides pictures of her adorable baby, who lacks the alien-like quality frequently associated with newborns.  I say the food sounds great because I had never made one of her recipes until the other night.  I actually have a document on my computer devoted entirely to Smitten Kitchen recipes that I intend to make, but I only acted on this for the first time earlier this week.  It was a variation of her black bean confetti salad.  I stumbled upon the recipe about two months ago, and immediately wanted to make this delightful concoction: black beans, bell peppers, in a lime and cumin vinaigrette.  As ridiculous as it may sound, I have an irrational love of black beans.  I love their creamy texture, and the contrasting colors of the exterior and interior. 

The recipe had me entranced, but I struggled to dream up an appropriate companion for this salad.  Deb suggests a green salad, but the absence of salad on my blog may serve as an indicator for how I feel about that.  Sometime last week, the notion of roasted poblano quesadillas dawned upon me.  I’d love to take credit for the idea, but I have no doubt that the notion was planted in my head by some Food Network show eons ago, and it has just been waiting for an opportunity to come to fruition.  Anyway, once I thought of it, I felt like black bean salad and roasted poblano* quesadillas would be the best of friends, and it would be an utter tragedy to keep them apart.  Plus, school has been audaciously encroaching on my cooking endeavors of late, and I felt that the process of roasting peppers might soothe my culinarily-deprive soul. 

Black Bean Salad (adapted from Smitten Kitchen’s Black Bean Confetti Salad)

1 green pepper, diced
½ red pepper, diced
About 15 grape tomatoes, halved
2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion (about a quarter of an onion)
1-14 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley or cilantro
Juice of one lime (one generous tablespoon)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon honey
¼ teaspoon Sriracha* hot sauce
BIG pinch of kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper


2 poblano* peppers
1½ cups shredded Monterey jack cheese
4 large wheat tortillas
2 teaspoons olive oil

·      First, prepare the peppers:
·      Most people prepare these using a broiler or the open flame of a gas stove.  I have an electric stove and my broiler scares me, so I used one of my burners like a broiler.  I turned one of the burners on to high, and let it preheat until it was red-hot.  Then, using tongs, I held a pepper just above the burner (about an inch, give or take) until the skin was charred and blistered (about 3-4 minutes per side).
·      Place the peppers in a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap.  Let sit for at least 10 minutes.
·      Peel off charred skin.  Cut or tear the pepper open, and remove seeds and stems.  Cut or tear the pepper into ½ to one-inch strips (this is very easy to do with your clean hands).  Set strips of pepper aside.  Wash your hands thoroughly, and until then, and avoid touching your eyes or face, not that you should be touching those elements while cooking, anyway.

·      Next, prepare the salad:
·      Whisk together lime juice, cumin, honey, Sriracha, and salt.  Then whisk in olive oil, and set dressing aside.
·      Prep vegetables, beans, and fresh herb of choice.  Combine in a bowl.
·      Add about half the dressing and a few grinds of pepper; taste for seasoning, and add more dressing if necessary. 

·      Last, make the quesadillas:
·      In a large skillet, preheat a drizzle of olive oil (about a half teaspoon) over medium-high heat.
·      Place a tortilla in the pan.  Add about a quarter of the cheese and a quarter of the roasted peppers on half of the tortilla, and fold over the empty side.  Cook for a few minutes on each side until cheese is melted and the tortilla is golden.
·      Add more oil if necessary and repeat with the remaining tortillas, cheese, and peppers; cut quesadillas into wedges.
·      Serve quesadillas with black bean salad and enjoy!

Comments:  This was so lovely, and the leftovers made for a few very satisfying lunches, and I did not even bother to reheat the quesadillas.  Be careful with the dressing:  you will most likely not need all of it.  I foolishly dumped all of it on my salad.  The recipe only yields a quarter cup of dressing, which didn’t seem excessive.  Well, it turned out to be quite excessive, and I ended up having to drain my salad through a sieve, which was a simple antidote, but could be easily avoided by a savvy reader like you. 

This method of roasting peppers is a little time consuming, due to the fact that you can only tackle one pepper at a time.  My broiler scares me, so it seemed like the safest way.  Safety aside, it was more fun than an amusement park.  I kid you not:  the process was a lot of fun, and a feast for the senses.  You can smell, see, and hear the progression occurring before you.  The squeaky noise the peppers make as they blister is just blissful.  I would recommend holding the tongs with an oven mitt, because they will get quite hot, and your arm may get a little tired, but it’s worth it.  Not only is it fun, but those roasted peppers are a tasty treat.  Mine had a nice kick, but most poblanos are pretty mild.  If you have an aversion to heat, just use a bell pepper, and I’m confident that you will be quite content with your meal. 

*See glossary for definitions

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