Black Bean Taco Salad with Cheesy Poblano Pepper Dressing

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I love black beans.  A lot.  One of my favorite ways to cook them is what I call “taco style.”  And here’s a recipe!  (Bonus: for my “other” colors week, this recipe includes black beans, brown rice, and lovely purple-hued red onions!)

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Crunchy fresh veggies, creamy avocado, spicy beans, and a warm cheesy topping–so delicious and pretty healthy too!  I had trouble deciding if the yellow stuff should be called a sauce or a dressing.  I wanted to say “dressing” because it was going on a salad, but in my head I was going for something kind of like nacho cheese sauce.  Whatever it is, it works!

Black Bean Taco Salad with Cheesy Poblano Pepper Dressing
Vegan and gluten-free as written (just check the prepared ingredients carefully)
(This recipe has a hearty omnivore seal of approval from H.)

Yield: 4 servings
Time: 30 minutes

For the beans:
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp. olive oil
1 15-oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 15-oz. can petite diced tomatoes
1 tbsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
scant 1/4 tsp. ground coriander
(optional) 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
Salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
(or skip the seasonings and add 1/2 packet of taco seasoning mix)
(OR add whatever seasonings you like!)

For the Dressing/Sauce (makes 1 cup):
1 small poblano pepper, cut in half, seeds and membranes removed
1 cup unsweetened plain soy milk
1 tbsp. tahini
1/2 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. yellow mustard, like Heinz (use less if you don’t love mustard because the flavor comes through kinda strong)
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. turmeric (mainly for color, but I like the flavor too)
1/2 tsp. cornstarch or arrowroot powder
1 tsp. sriracha (or more!)
(optional) 1 1/2 tbsp. nutritional yeast (if you don’t like nooch then leave it out)

For Serving:
Head of romaine, washed and chopped
(optional) Red onion slices
(optional) Avocado slices
(optional) Cooked brown rice
(optional) Tortilla chips

To Make:
The Pepper: Preheat the oven to 425.  Brush both sides of each poblano half lightly with olive oil and place on a baking sheet.  Roast for 10 minutes, until skin looks blistery (P.S. – it smells SO GOOD when it’s roasting!).  Remove from oven, allow to cool, then peel off the skin and chop the peppers very finely.

The Beans: In a medium saucepan over medium heat, warm olive oil then saute garlic for 2-3 minutes, until fragrant and softened.  Add black beans, stir a few times, then add tomatoes.  Bring mixture to a gentle simmer, then lower the heat, stir in the spices, cover, and let it marinate for about 15 minutes.  Taste for seasoning, then turn off heat, remove cover, and let it sit some more to cool down a bit.

The Dressing/Sauce: Combine all ingredients except sriracha in another medium sauce pan over medium-low heat.  Heat gently until it starts to thicken and a few bubbles appear, stirring fairly frequently and watching it carefully so that it doesn’t burn.  Once the mixture begins to bubble, remove from heat and cover.  Let it sit for 5 minutes, then uncover and stir in the sriracha.  Allow it to cool slightly.

To Assemble:
Not that you need instructions on this, but here’s how I did mine:

1) Lettuce, topped with red onion slices and avocado (this avocado was in the top 5 best I’ve ever eaten, btw):
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2) Brown rice, topped with beans:
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NOTE: my rice was pre-cooked and cold from sitting in the fridge, so here I used it sort of as a buffer to keep the warm beans from ruining my raw veggies

3) Finally, drizzled with the dressing/sauce:
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I was thrilled with how this salad turned out.  As I mentioned in the ingredients list, the sauce on its own has a strong mustard flavor, and the flavor of the roasted poblanos is fairly subtle by contrast.  But once you mix it all up into your salad it just tastes GOOD.

H was also super-happy with his dinner and I’m so glad that his little omnivore taste buds have embraced vegan cheesy sauces to such a degree, because it’s opening up a lot more options for me in terms of making dinners we can both enjoy without me having to make omni adjustments.   His palate has definitely adapted to the taste of nooch too, because not only did he gobble this meal, but he loved the carrot and squash risotto I made on Saturday and has been reheating it for lunch every day at work since.

By the way, I’m planning on pouring the leftover sauce over a tofu scramble.  Yup.

What do you think–is it a dressing or a sauce?

Also, if you have a great vegan cheese sauce recipe, please share it in the comments!

Vegan MoFo Orange Week – Sweet Potato Power

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Good morning!  I am kicking off my day with a lovely orange breakfast of diced fresh mango:

sweet potato cakes 005Since I published a post fairly recently that was dedicated exclusively to my love for mangoes, I will not be working with them for Vegan MoFo.  Nonetheless, I am eating this one as I’m posting, so I thought it was okay to at least give a shout out!

Today I want to instead talk about sweet potatoes!  This is one of my favorite foods.  They are so versatile, and their gentle sweetness and soft, creamy texture  bring balance to savory meals.

Last night I used sweet potato to create Gingered Sweet Potato and Black Bean Cakes.

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Yield: 7 medium cakes, or 10-12 smaller cakes
Time: 25 minutes or less
(This recipe has been given the omnivore seal of approval by H.  In fact, he took all of the leftovers to work for lunch today.)

You need:
1 cup of black beans, rinsed
1 medium sweet potato
1/2 of a medium onion, finely chopped
1 tsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. whole wheat bread crumbs (or panko) (omit for gluten-free option)
1 tsp. grated fresh ginger
1/4 tsp. cumin
1/8 tsp. turmeric
1/8 tsp. ground coriander
1/16 tsp. cayenne (optional)
Pink salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Cooking spray

To Make:
First, use a fork to lightly mash the beans, then place them in a medium-sized mixing bowl.  You want to mash them just until no whole beans remain, but not so much that they come to resemble a paste.

Next, bake your sweet potato.  [For weeknight cooking, I recommend using the microwave (blasphemy, I know, but it’s SO much faster).  To do this, scrub the potato and poke it a few times with a fork, then place it on a plate and microwave for 3 minutes.  Test it by poking again with the fork.  If the fork enters easily, it’s done.  If not, continue to microwave it at 30 second intervals, testing each time, until it is cooked.]

While the sweet potato is “baking,” warm the olive oil in a medium or large skillet, then saute the onion in it until translucent (about 3-4 minutes).  Add the sauteed onion to the bowl with the mashed beans.

When the sweet potato is done, allow it to cool slightly, then use a spoon to scrape out the lovely orange flesh.  Mash it with a fork and then add it into the mixing bowl.  (My sweet potato yielded a little over a cup of mashed goodness.)

Add the breadcrumbs and all of the spices, including the grated ginger, to the bowl and mix well.  Taste the mixture for seasoning and adjust if necessary.

Lightly spray a medium or large skillet (I used the same one I had cooked the onions in) with cooking spray.  Using a 1/4 cup measure, press the mixture into the palm of your hand and shape it into patties.  Place patties one-by-one on the skillet and cook for 3-4 minutes on each side, until lightly browned.

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Serve with your favorite grain, or as a sandwich with condiments of choice.  Enjoy! I ate mine with quinoa and steamed broccoli, and H enjoyed his together with a scoop of quinoa on a hamburger bun .

And actually, after the photo, I made a sriracha-tahini sauce that was absolutely delicious spread on top of the cakes (it’s just 1 tbsp. tahini with 1/2-1 tsp. sriracha stirred in).  I also tried one with ketchup and it was even better; for some reason the ketchup really brought out the gingery flavor!

Don’t be afraid to get creative with these. 🙂

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The Finals Chow-down

Once again it is that time of semester when I am exceptionally busy and constantly exhausted. Law school finals are no laughing matter, and I’ve got four of them to contend with in the next two weeks, so wish me luck! After this post it’s back to studying Civil Procedure and Sales Contracts for the next 12 hours, with a 30-45 min. walk/run break. Joy.

Despite my impending exams, I’ve been feeling pretty great lately, mostly due to the major improvement in weather, and the fact that it lets me study outside! It’s also put me in the mood to cook light and edge toward more summery dishes. I cannot even express how excited I am for long, warm days and amazing summer produce…

Anyway, the theme of this post, I guess, is kind of a mixture of quick eats (suitable for finals time) and lighter stuff (suitable for days of lighter eating…yay summer!!).

First up, a beautiful Hummus & Tabbouleh Collard Salad that I threw together recently.

This baby is seriously filling, mostly due to the large quantity of raw collards that form its base.  This is 4 collard leaves, rolled into cigar shapes and then chopped, 4 T. of hummus, and 4 T. of tabbouleh.  The entire thing has less than 200 calories and contains around 8g protein and 7g fiber.   And it’s delicious, obviously!

Next is a little thing I like to call Taco Rice

Basically this is basmati rice that I cooked up with “taco” spices (chili powder, a little cumin, some oregano) with a similarly-spiced hodge podge of diced tomato, black bean, and Smart Ground.  This is a really fast dinner idea that works really well with variations, depending on what you have lying around that needs using up.  Last night I made another version that let me use up the remainder of a red bell pepper as well as a jalapeño.  I had the jalapeño leftover from….

GUACAMOLE!!! 

Oh my goodness.  Whole Foods had a sale on avocados this past week–$1 each.  I couldn’t resist, and made 2 batches of guacamole, one for a dinner with friends, and one just to have around.  I also shared some with our neighbors since it unfortunately lasts, like, a day.  But it was soooooo good!!!   To make this, I used 4 ultra-ripe avocados (I spent time at WF finding some that were so soft that they’d probably have to get thrown out the next day), 1/3 chopped red bell pepper (orgaaanic of course), 2 T. lime/lemon juice, 2 tsp. sea salt, a few sprinkles of black pepper, and of course, a whole diced jalapeño.  The first batch I made was perfect, but the second one was not nearly spicy enough, so it eventually contained 1 3/4 whole jalapeños as well as a couple dashes of cayenne pepper.  Perfection!

Two more things (sorry for such a long post but I have been gone far too long!):

1) Scripp Networks has recently launched a really interesting new food & beverage website, Food2.com.  They have asked me to contribute blog posts on there, which I am obviously thrilled about!!! As the only vegan contributor, I will be doing sort of product-review/trend alert sort of posts, and posting about once a week. You guys should check it out 🙂

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2) I’m participating in Chocolate Covered Katie’s New Foods Challenge, and here is my first entry!  Funny enough, I discovered that there aren’t all that many fresh foods in my WF that I haven’t tried, probably because I have such a love affair with produce!  So anyway, these caught my eye and I tried them: Dark Chocolate Covered Mulberries

I wasn’t aware that mulberries were, like, a real thing existing outside of a children’s song, but there you are. They are delicious and right up Katie’s alley! Highly recommended.

Beanie Babies

Chickpea Cutlets from Veganomicon by Isa Moskowitz and Terry Romero (which have been seen frequently in the blogosphere!)

The picture doesn’t quite do them justice…

I have made these four times.  The picture is of my fourth batch, which is the only one I baked (the others were fried).  I also made these with black chickpeas that I had soaked and cooked.  I left out the lemon zest that the recipe calls for because I had no lemons, and I think I actually prefer them this way.  They smelled unbelieveable while baking!  I ate one on a whole wheat hamburger bun with agave nectar-dijon dressing and a little ketchup.  I pretty much consider these a staple in my diet.

Chipotle Veggie-Bean Burritos from Vive le Vigan by Dreena Burton

These were scrumptious.  No other words need be applied.  My dad and I made them and our only deviation from the recipe was that we used fresh tomatoes instead of the canned diced called for. (This was before the current poisonous tomato season began, obviously.)

Cheater Baked Beans from Veganomicon (except that they are technically “peas”, and we didn’t “cheat”!)

Dad and I decided to make these for J’s girlfriend’s graduation party. We thought it would be cool to soak the beans overnight before cooking the recipe rather than relying on canned, despite the fact that the recipe’s title refers to the very fact that canned beans are used! But no matter. We used black-eyed peas, which we soaked overnight, and then proceeded in the morning to make the delicious sauce (we doubled the recipe), add the beans, and put it in the oven to bake for an hour. When we took the beans out of the oven, my dad sampled them and was a little surprised to find that the peas were fairly crunchy…much crunchier than one would expect from baked “beans”. We suddenly realized that we had neglected to cook the beans before baking them!! It was pretty funny actually. We ended up pouring the huge vat of beans into casserole dishes, adding water, and microwaving them for a few minutes at a time in an attempt to cook the beans. In the end they actually came out really well and were a hit at the party (about 2/3 got eaten!). Cooking is fun :-b

Smoky Grilled Tempeh from Veganomicon

Did. Not. Like.  This is the most disappointing thing I’ve ever attempted to cook.  I can’t figure out what went wrong.  All I know is that despite all the great stuff that went into the marinade, the only thing I could taste was the liquid smoke and I just couldn’t eat it 😦 Farley loved it though 🙂

Black Bean Burgers also from Veganomicon (not pictured)

These were so-so.  I made the recipe for a barbecue we hosted when my a cappella group was visiting my house and so I doubled the recipe.  The burgers tasted good but were overly gluteny.  I think that maybe gluten doesn’t need to be doubled even when the rest of the recipe is.  If I made these again I would definitely use less.