Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Cool beans and naughty fruit

I had plans on making vegan empanadas for my Latin America inspired dish, when who should come by the lab but Luis, a colleague who just so happened to come with us to the conference in Miami. Having read my blog (and critiquing my spelling) and learned of my culinary intentions, he decided to share with me one of his favourite recipes. I will attempt to recreate this dish and do it justice, although I will no doubt screw something up and hear about it in the lab tomorrow.

The thing that makes this really authentic is the bean. Luis is from El Salvador, and there the bean of choice is the "Frijol Rojo De Seda Salvadoreno" or the Salvadoran red bean. It is a variety of the common bean, Phaseolus vulgaris, a species which also includes many of the other beans commonly associated with South American cooking such as black beans, pinto beans, and kidney beans. I needn't belabor how good for you beans are, I feel that this ought to be common knowledge, especially if you are a vegan or vegetarian.

Luis didn't know what this dish was called, and the closest approximation of what he described that I can find is a Salvadoran dish called a "pupusa", which is basically a flat stuffed corn tortilla. It is usually stuffed with meat, refried beans, cheese, or a mix of all three in the case of "pupusas revueltas". To take this meal to the next level, he tops his pupusas with sliced avocado and chimole. Chimole is a fresh salsa made with tomato, onion, cilantro and lemon juice.

Avocados are a wondrous fruit, chock full of
goodness. They have the most fiber of any fruit, are high in potassium, folate, B vitamins, and vitamin E. In addition to it's well known benefits to the skin and hair, avocados are also excellent for reducing cholesterol when eaten regularly. This odd fruit with its large pit is believed to have co-evolved with now extinct large animals that would have eaten the fruit and dispersed the pit by excreting it. Lucky for us, cultivation by humans has likely prevented this species from going extinct with its natural disperser.

Factoid: According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the name avocado comes from Nahuatl word "ahuakatl" which means "testicle". The fruit was also believed to boost fertility.

Midway through describing the recipe, Luis stops and asks me "Do you know how to choose an avocado, or do you just think you do?" Feeling slightly intimidated, I let him describe how to correctly select a ripe avocado. Not too dark and squishy, that's past good, not rock hard, this isn't ripe yet. It should be dark on one end, still green on the other, soft but still slightly firm. Fortunately there were only 5 to choose from at the grocery store so the pressure was off, but I think I got a pretty good one. He goes on to warn me to never scoop the avocado from the skin with a spoon, claiming this to be bad etiquette. I'm not so sure about that one, but he will be pleased to know that no spoons were used in the making of this recipe!

Now, let's get on with the recipe! If you can't find seda beans, I'm sure pinto beans will do just fine, though I'm sure the recipe's creator would disagree with me. This recipe calls for Worcestershire sauce, which isn't often vegan, but there is a very good recipe in the Nutritional Yeast Cookbook that is fast and easy to make of you cannot find a store bought vegan brand in your area.

Luis' Seda Bean Pupusas with Avocado & Chimole

(the below quantities are meant to feed one, but you will have some leftover beans, which I put in a wrap the next day!)

the beans
1/2 cup dry Salvadoran red beans
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp seasoned salt
1 clove garlic
1/2 yellow onion, sliced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp vegan Worcestershire sauce
seasoned salt & cayenne pepper to taste

the chimole

1 roma tomato
1 green onion
2 tbsp chopped cilantro
1 tbsp lemon juice

1/4 avocado, sliced
tortillas, use corn to make this dish gluten free

Rinse the beans, and cover with lots of water in a pot with oregano, season salt, and garlic clove. Boil until soft. This took about 2 hours for me. Pour off liquid & blend beans into a puree. Set aside.

In a skillet, saute onion in olive oil until brown and caramelized. Remove onion, leaving oil in the pan. Discard onion (it is only used to flavour the oil). Add bean puree, Worcestershire, and season to taste. Fry the beans over medium heat until they form a thick paste (about 10 min).

For the chimole, chop tomato (removing the gooey seeds), green onion and cilantro and mix together in a bowl. Squeeze the lemon into a separate bowl until a few minutes before plating.

Spread bean paste on tortilla of choice and cover with either another tortilla (if using small ones), or folding in half (if using large tortillas). Bake in a hot oven until tortilla becomes crispy.

Slice the avocado and arrange on top of pupusa. Top with chimole and enjoy!

This was a delicious and fresh summer recipe, however it was less than refreshing to prepare. The hours of bean boiling and the oven being on left my kitchen hot and sweaty. Regardless of whether or not this would meet my friend's discerning palate, it was a satisfying meal that I will be sure to make again.

1 comment:

  1. Great post!

    "Chimole" is also called "Pico de Gallo" and goes great with fried or baked corn tortilla chips.

    Here is an authentic recipe used in the eastern part of El Salvador for refried bean pupusas. You can buy authentic El Salvadoran red kidney beans from most Latin American food stores. The taste isn't that much different compared to regular red kidney beans when made into a refried bean paste, however there is a noticeable difference in taste when using the beans for a soup. Here is the recipe:

    Refried bean paste (make sure you have the time for this recipe):

    2 cups of red kidney beans
    4 large cloves of garlic minced
    1/2 a small onion sliced
    1 roma tomato diced
    1 green bell pepper diced
    1/2 jalapenyo pepper minced
    2 tablespoons of ground cumin
    3 tablespoons of canola oil

    Place beans in a pot and fill with water about an inch over the beans. Bring to a rapid boil then drain all water. Fill with water again about an inch over beans. Add two tablespoons of ground cumin, onion slices, minced garlic, diced green bell pepper, minced jalapeno pepper, and diced roma tomato. Bring to a rapid boil then put on low heat and simmer for 5 hours. Keep checking the pot to see if water is needed. Do not burn the beans. Try to maintain a semi-thick broth within the pot when simmering. When beans are cooked through add 3 tablespoons of canola oil and mix thoroughly. Add salt to taste, typically 2 teaspoons. Remove from heat and use a potato masher to mash the beans. Do not use a blender. If the mashed beans are too thick add hot water to desired consistency, although it should not be runny and should stick to a spoon. Return to heat and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes stirring frequently. Remove from heat and put refried beans into a container. When the beans have reached room temperature they are ready to use for pupusas.

    I suggest you use instant corn masa flour instead of store bought tortillas. The MaSeCa brand is the most used instant corn masa flour for this authentic recipe. Simply place 2 cups of instant corn masa flour in a large bowl and slowly add water while mixing with your hand to form a dough. Make small 2 inch tall balls, poke a hole in the center and add refried bean paste. Slowly pat down the ball into a round corn tortilla. Keep your hands wet so the dough won't stick to your fingers. Add a little bit of canola oil to a griddle and cook pupusas until tortilla is no longer soft and has very few brown burn marks. Flip and repeat. Now you have an authentic El Salvadoran pupusa!

    Pupusas are served in El Salvador with curtido salad on top and drizzled with sofrito sauce.

    Curtido: Similar to sauerkraut. It contains pickled cabbage, carrots, and onions in a spicy vinaigrette made of dried oregano, vinegar, water, crushed black pepper, oil, and salt. Some places prepare it with a hint of sugar.

    Sofrito: A tomato sauce brought from Spain to El Salvador. It is a slow cooked sauce made of fresh minced tomato, minced onions, and minced garlic cooked in oil seasoned with salt. It is typical to get the fast-food style sofrito which is tomato paste, salt, water, onion powder, and garlic powder blended into a very watery sauce.

    Pupusas are a staple in the El Salvadoran diet. They are delicious and healthy when properly prepared. Beware of the fast-food ones which are greasy and not well prepared. In El Salvador November 13th is National Pupusa Day and this is when I make hundreds for my family and friends. I hope you enjoy this recipe!