My daughter Amanda calls me “Macgyver of the Kitchen” because even when our fridge and pantry are relatively low on supplies, I usually manage to whip up something interesting. Last night was one of those nights…
I rummaged around and found white sweet potatoes, a can of black beans, a fresh jalapeno pepper, one red onion, a lime, a couple of ripe avocados, a half-jar of leftover roasted tomatillo and mango salsa (Trader Joe’s brand), a package of flour tortillas, cilantro and some Latin spice blend (see Vedge restaurant’s recipe below).
To begin, I pierced two sweet potatoes and popped them in my microwave for a couple of minutes on each side. Note: It’s important not to let the potatoes get too soft, as the texture is more interesting with a little “tooth” to them.
In the meantime, I finely sliced about half of the red onion and set it aside while I made a quick-pickle marinade with apple cider vinegar, salt & sugar, to taste. To do this, quickly heat the marinade in a little saucepan–just until clear. Then, toss in your onion slices. (I’ve done this with sliced carrot sticks and they’re yummy, too.)
By the time my onions were pickling, my sweet potatoes were ready to come out of the microwave. Before peeling them, I quickly ran them under some cold water to release the skin. Viola–the peels all but fell off. Quick and simple! Next, I cut them into cubes about 1.5″ squares and set them aside while I chopped some other veggies–cilantro (roughly chopped), a small shallot, one avocado, three cloves of smashed garlic and a jalapeno pepper (deseeded). Note: Orange sweet potatoes would work just as nicely.
Next, I heated up a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in my cast iron skillet; once heated, I added the chopped shallots and garlic to sautee until transparent.
As an aside, I love my cast iron pans–they are so versatile–and always bring back memories of my childhood family kitchen. I now have a nice assortment of cast iron since my mother, who loves to haunt neighborhood thrift & antique shops, has found a bounty of them on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
I pre-heated my oven to 350 degrees, wrapped the tortillas in foil and let them warm up for about five minutes.
The next step was to add my black beans (rinsed and drained) and the sweet potato cubes to the skillet. I seasoned the veggies with some Latin spice mix and added the half-jar of salsa. (I had tomatillo mango salsa on hand, but use whatever you’ve got handy.)
The cilantro sprinkled generously on top added a nice flavor and contributed beautiful color. (An artist, I enjoy making my meals as colorful and visually pleasing as possible.)
Since this was a casual night at home, Jay and I each created our own burritos right at the kitchen counter by placing a warm tortilla on each plate, topping them with the sweet potato black bean filling down the center (leaving room on each end to fold in) and chopped jalapeno (for mine), and added a bright punch of color with the pickled red onion slices.
To assemble, we simply folded each end toward the filling before rolling the tortilla up to make our burrito. Lime wedges were served on the side.
Side note: Jay is decidedly not a vegetarian, so while I was heating up the vegetables, he sliced up a chicken breast and quickly sauteed it in a little olive oil, seasoning it simply with salt and pepper. There are many other variations one could try–shrimp instead of chicken, crumbled queso fresco (Mexican-style cheese), or your favorite shredded cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese.
Start-to-finish, the meal took about 30 minutes with an easy clean-up.
I promised to share the recipe for the Latin Spice Blend with you, but first a little story…
One of my all-time favorite Philadelphia restaurants is Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby’s Vedge. The first time I ate there, I was alone and enjoyed sitting at the bar making new friends. I can’t recall what I ate that night, but I’ll never forget the amazing flavors, textures, and colors that make every meal at Vedge a complete delight. My new friends at the bar weren’t vegetarians and simply raved about their food, too.
Immediately upon my return to Maryland, I picked up a copy of Vedge: 100 Plates Large and Small That Redefine Vegetable Cooking. I have so many favorite recipes in that cookbook–and you can tell which ones from the smears on the pages. I also keep a variety of their seasoning blends on hand.
Latin Spice Blend (from Vedge)
[T.=tablespoon; t. = teaspoon]
2 T. paprika (I use a combination of hot, sweet and smoky paprika)
1 T. ground chili of your choice (such as chipotle, ancho, or cayenne)
1 T. ground cumin
1 T. granulated garlic
1 T. granulated onion
1 T. salt
1 T. freshly ground pepper
2 t. dried oregano
2 t. dried thyme
I have an extra electric coffee grinder designated for my spice blends. It makes the process super simple–just throw the spices into the grinder, give it a quick whirl and it’s done.
Laura and I both have a casual approach to food–no rules (unless baking). We encourage you to have fun cooking–turn on your music and relax. Always, adjust the ingredients to suit your personal taste. And, whenever possible, cook with family or friends surrounding you.