Tuesday, April 9, 2013

rocky mountain high

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If you’ve been hanging around here much it should not surprise you to know that I still think about a burrito from 1997. The burrito in question was from Big City Burrito in Fort Collins, Colorado and I don’t know if it was the expertise of the establishment or the crisp, Rocky Mountain Air that made it so memorable. The shocking thing is that it wasn’t even MY burrito. It was my sister’s and I only got one bite; but that bite lodged itself into my subconscious only to be unearthed 16 years later in a small kitchen in Quincy, Massachusetts.

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At the time, my sister was a vegetarian so in lieu of carnitas or pulled chicken her burrito was loaded with garlicky wilted spinach and crispy roasted potatoes. At the young age of 17, even though I only ate a very limited number of (mostly) animal-based food groups, with that one bite I knew the combo was something special. I mean, potatoes in a burrito!? Why I NEVER! My mind was BLOWN.

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So it’s no wonder the memory of that burrito came back into my brain, on a Wednesday evening in late winter when I found myself without much in the fridge beside tortillas, a big bunch of Swiss chard and some leftover roasted potatoes. Since we always have black beans and avocados in the house this Veggie Taco spread is what came together. The resulting meal was so tasty that it has assumed a permanent position in our weeknight dinner repertoire. Everybody can dig on taco night, here’s a tasty, healthier way to hit that Mexican food craving right where it counts.

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a/k/a TACOS del BENSON

Everything for these tasty tacos comes together in the time it takes to roast the potatoes. You can slice the potatoes any way you choose, I prefer to cut them into thin disks, so they end up like fat potato chips. These are fairly messy, but not impossible to eat. Have napkins handy and for best results, layer ingredients as follows:

Whole wheat tortillas
Shredded cheese (Jack or Cheddar works)
Quick Simmered Black Beans
Crispy Roasted Potatoes
Garlicky Swiss Chard (easily sub spinach or kale here)
1 avocado, thinly sliced
Hot Sauce

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While the potatoes roast and the black beans simmer: prep the chard, slice and set out the avocado, grate the cheese and set the table. Wilt the chard, or whatever greens you’re using just before serving. To heat your tortillas, you have two options: you can wrap them in aluminum foil and set them in the oven for a few minutes; or, you can toast them abuelita style like I like to do: on an open flame, for just a few moments on either side, almost burning my fingerprints off every time (I think it adds a little something special—an element of danger!). Serve with chips and salsa, a green salad or seasoned rice.

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1 can black beans
½ small onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp. cumin
Hot sauce
Salt, pepper

Bring all ingredients to a simmer in a small sauce pan. Season to taste with hot sauce, more cumin, salt and pepper, as needed. I think depending on the brand of canned black beans some need a little extra help. Just adjust the seasonings to your liking. These quick simmered black beans are one of my favorite things to toss into a tortilla with some cheese and hot sauce for a supremely messy, five minute burrito.

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2 russet potatoes, washed and thinly sliced
Oil, canola or olive
Salt, pepper

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Toss potato slices in olive oil on two baking sheets and sprinkle with salt, pepper and a few small pinches of cayenne. Set to roast for 30 minutes, turning over once about halfway through. Do your best to only open the oven once or twice, this will ensure the taters crisp up real nice.

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1 bunch Swiss chard, trimmed and chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
Olive oil

Heat oil in a pan over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, about one minute. Add chard and cook until wilted, about five minutes.

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Serve everything taco bar style, with condiments on the side. Pile the fillings high on blistered tortillas and thank me later. Do not wait 17 years for your first potato-burrito/ potato-taco experience. Double starch is on point.

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