Saturday, March 12, 2011

Revenge on the Mexican Recipes

Lunch & Dinner: March 11

It had been nearly a month since my Mexican food fiesta turned into a (mostly) miserable failure, and it still bugged me. I now believe I was trying to take recipes, especially the quesadilla, and make it into something much more complicated than necessary. And I was not about to let it go without another try.

First, though, I pulled another recipe from the Flavors of Mexico cookbook since the guacamole did turn out nicely. I chose sopa de frijol negro, or black bean soup.

Incidentally, I used to look at recipes and feel intimidated by the list of ingredients, which quickly sidelined many dishes because I felt I couldn’t afford all of the items. Lately, however, as I’ve gained little bits of confidence in the kitchen, I’ve realized that every item is not essential, and I can substitute and eliminate some things in order to make it a workable dish for me. I never thought I would feel comfortable doing that, but it’s one of the parts of this cooking process that is making me love it even more.

With that said, I wanted to make the black bean soup but needed to make some changes to the recipe. So, I decided to use vegetable oil instead of corn oil, I used jarred jalapenos instead of fresh jalapeno chilies, canned tomato sauce instead of tomato puree, and regular brown sugar instead of dark brown sugar. I also left out the cilantro altogether, since I’m not its biggest fan anyway, and didn’t top the soup with any sour cream or chicharrones.

Basics:  Heated 6 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a large saucepan, sautéed 4 chopped scallions. On the side, drained can of black beans, mixed in food processor with 4 chopped cloves of garlic, a handful of chopped jarred jalapenos, 1 teaspoon of ground cumin, 1 teaspoon of coriander seeds, and 2 tablespoons of canned tomato sauce. Processed until pasty, added to cooked scallions, stirred until bubbling. Added 3 cups chicken stock and 1 tablespoon brown sugar, returned to boil, and reduced the heat to simmer for 20 minutes. Ladled half the soup into food processor, blended, returned to pan, returned to boil again. Added more chopped scallions to hot soup after ladling into a bowl for the meal, along with a few tortilla chips.

It was delicious! It had a spicy kick, which might be too much for those with tender palettes, but I loved it. It was the perfect consistency, as the last blending seemed to make it just right. The substitutions I made seemed to make no difference in the end result, as it was a lovely soup that I’d be proud to serve any guests. Also, in truth, it was supposed to be a small introductory dish to a meal, but I ate it as a meal, and what was supposed to serve 6 people was eaten by me in two sittings. It was relatively cheap and healthy, and I will be making this often.

Second, later in the day, I revisited my spinach and mushroom quesadilla. Instead of the complicated method I used in my prior attempt, I made it simple this time. I also decided that the frozen chopped spinach was tasteless, so I substituted fresh spinach this time.

Basics: Sautéed fresh cleaned spinach in a pan, which reduced to a portion of its former self. Added mushrooms to sauté as well. Coated griddle with light layer of butter, put flour tortilla on it to warm, added shredded cheese on half for a minute or two. Added spinach and mushrooms, folded tortilla in half, heated for a minute on each side.

There we go! It was the quesadilla I wanted. Why I tried to complicated last time with the oven and so many steps is beyond me. This was simple, quick, and a healthy, filling one-dish meal.

Though I still have issues with my beloved enchiladas, which means I still have a reason to leave the house for Mexican food, the black bean soup and quesadilla have renewed my faith in my ability to cook more at home.


  1. That looks so good! I'm going to try the blackbean soup!

  2. Thanks! Please let me know how it turns out. I'd love to know if my suggestions translate into success for friends. :)