Last updated on August 29, 2020
The clichéd “absence makes the heart grow fonder” mantra popped into my head this week when I thought back on my months living in Mexico earlier this year. I have clocked one entire month living stateside—enough time to start the stir-crazy feelings as I dream of my cute little single-speed bicycle in San Pancho and the evenings on the beach. Then I kick myself, remember to stay present and grateful, and I head out for dinner-dates with friends and movie-dates with my nephews (were in stitches for two hours during Despicable Me 2).
So, although there are moments when travel pangs hit me, November 2013 marks the end of my fifth year of long-term travel, and the handful of months I spend at home each summer have taken on a rhythm I like. And more than like, they leave me with a profound sense of gratitude that I am able to so freely move between the worlds of long-term travel and home. As I noted in past recipe posts (which are also becoming my more stream of conscious update-y posts even though that was not the original plan), I hope to focus more on fusing the foods and flavors I experienced on the road over the years and combine them into simple recipes that channel the flavors, while also simplifying and healthifying (totally a word, I swear) the recipes.
Which brings me to this week’s recipe. Keeping with last month’s theme, I offer up another black bean recipe. My reasoning is two-fold. It’s sometimes hard to find ways to add beans into more traditionally American meals (even I don’t know what I mean by that . . . mac and cheese, hot dogs?), and because if you made the sweet potato tacos then you may have a surplus of beans. Plus this is pretty much the best lunch option ever. It’s easy and quick (which is what you want in a lunch), and really the entire point for sharing this recipe is to share my favorite cooking find—garlic toasted tortillas.
You see, my favorite taco shop in San Pancho had the most delicious tacos in town and I just couldn’t figure out why the outside of the tacos tasted so good. I asked Jerry for his secret, and though they do not specifically add the garlic/butter combo I recommend in this recipe, I surmised that the grill took on a very strong, baked-in garlic flavor by my evening visits. Fair warning, you may never go back to the more traditional version of slightly warmed, soft tortilla dishes.
Lunchtime Black Bean and Pepper Quesadillas
This easy vegetarian recipe requires just a quick prep and even quicker time to execute—it’s done in just 15 minutes if you’re a quick chopper of vegetables. It also has the added benefit of create your own toppings if you’re keen for that too. While it’s always a good time for guacamole, I opted for a simple mashed avocado, sour cream, and tomatoes on this one. This dish would feed two people (I ate the extra insides in taco form later that night with homemade salsa). My favorite part is the garlic buttery outside, it makes the flavor pop, so don’t skip that! And if you’re up for a more complicated garlic butter, this woman describes the process here.
- 1 stack of tortillas
- 1/2 can of beans (drained and rinsed)
- 1/2 white onion (diced into large chunks)
- 1 bell pepper (bonus points for fun colors, diced into large chunks)
- 1/2 a serrano pepper
- 1 small clove of garlic (minced or pressed)
- olive oil or butter
- a couple hunks of your cheese of choice (sliced thin or shredded)
- Finish with: sour cream, guacamole, diced tomatoes, and/or sliced lime.
- Sauté onions and half the garlic on medium heat for 3-5 minutes with 2 tbsp butter, then add the bell and serrano peppers. Cook until the onions are lightly caramelized and peppers are soft (another five minutes-ish).
- Add the black beans to the same pan, stirring until they’re warm; then set skillet aside side.
- In a skillet (or griddle if you’re feeling fancy), add a good chunk of butter and the rest of the minced garlic and heat that mixture to on medium for two minutes. Add one tortilla and top with cheese, then scoop the filling onto the tortilla. Top with another tortilla, then continue cooking on medium for 3 minutes.
- Carefully flip the quesadilla over and continue cooking another couple of minutes, until the tortilla is crispy.
- Remove when both sides of the quesadilla are crispy, golden brown from the oil/garlic combo.
- Slice it up, add toppings to taste, and serve with a lime slice.
Additional Recipe Prep Tips
- Make the recipe a tad healthier (and vegan!) by skipping the butter. Use olive oil to stir-fry the peppers and instead of toasting the tortilla in the butter/garlic combo, just use that half of the garlic clove and give each tortilla a good rub—this really works and will make them very garlicky!
- Try my favorite guacamole recipe—there are two options, both tweaked and honed over time from many, many months traveling around Mexico.
- Use the other half of your can of beans with this simple and tasty, vegetarian sweet potato bean taco recipe!
Soon I’ll post a recipe for the swoon-worthy plantains I ate in Panama. My friends here at home are pretty adventurous, so I promised them a mixed-bag dinner of flavors I’ve been jonesing for of late. :)