What do Halloween, the 1st Amendment and a Vegetarian Bean Burrito with Salsa have in common?
Hope I piqued your curiosity.
I’ll explain. Halloween is once again upon us. So JP, my guiding beacon and news editor, suggested I write about Halloween food like candied apples and such. So when I remind him about his initial offer for me to write about what I choose, I get the lost puppy-dog look, like his input isn’t appreciated. That addresses “freedom of the press.” My freedom is to say, “ No, I don’t wanna.”
I had the luck, (luck?) to be born on Halloween. Kids can be so cruel in grade school about such things. Some adults find Halloween doesn’t fit into their religious belief comfort zone.
Child obesity and diabetes is on the rise “bigly,” so downing an entire shopping bag of sugar in a matter of a few days may be huge fun for many, but not the kind of thing a food writer can support or ignore. Candy companies and costume makers are the only winners. Let’s not even get into this clown-costume debacle that threatens to ruin the holiday for many.
So this year, I’m going to offer a totally unrelated topic that is healthful, fun and super easy. We are going to make vegetarian bean burritos with homemade salsa and fresh-cooked beans. If you can fill your kids up with that meal first, then maybe the candy will last a week or more.
• 1 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes
• 1 8-oz. can whole pickled jalapeño peppers
• 1 bunch fresh cilantro
• 1 medium onion
• 1 lime
• 1 fresh jalapeño for extra heat, if desired
In a bowl, pour crushed tomatoes, then add all the juice from the can of jalapeños. (Don’t touch your face or body with pepper juice on your hands.) Slice the stem off the jalapeños and discard, then slice the peppers in half the long way. Using a spoon tip, scoop out the seeds and discard. Finely dice the pepper and add to the bowl.
Finely dice the onion and add to the bowl. Cut the stems off the cilantro and discard, then dice up the leaves and add to the bowl. Squeeze in the juice of half of the lime (no seeds).
For extra heat, do the same with the fresh jalapeño or add some hot sauce. Mix well and taste for heat, add salt and pepper if desired. Feel free to customize.
• 2-lb bag of pinto beans — fresh from store, not old ones
• 1 good-sized onion (I like white, but brown will work)
You need a good-sized crockpot (5 qt. or larger) or you will have to make fewer beans. Beans are often ruined and people are afraid to make them. The usual reason is old beans take too long to cook. The other main reason is people add salt too soon — it will make them tough.
Rinse beans well in a colander and remove any debris. Place in crockpot with the onion nicely diced. Add boiling water to beans and have the water be 2 inches above the beans. Turn the crockpot on high. Check in an hour and add water to maintain the 2 inches of liquid above the beans. You want that extra water; keep checking.
Bean juice is delicious. At the five-hour mark, check them for tenderness.
If they are soft enough, it’s time to salt them. But, if they are not soft, let them keep cooking, even if it’s for two or more hours. If the beans are older, they can take up to 20 hours. Usually not, however. When tender, add salt to taste. Make the juice a bit saltier than you think is right as the salt will cook into the beans. Let ’em cook another few hours. Don’t jump the gun and salt too soon. Make sure they are tender first.
Some folk cook them overnight and it smells terrific. Just make sure you keep the water level above the beans. Start early in the morning or they will need to go overnight. I was a reluctant bean cooker until Pedro Anderson showed me the way.
This will make a lot of beans. You can freeze some or give some away. They are so much better than canned. Seriously.
Now it’s time for dinner. Buy the tortillas of your choice. (I like the 10-inch flour ones, but they are all good.) If you are a vegetarian, make sure the ingredients have no lard.
Warm the tortillas on a pan or any way you choose — just don’t burn them or dry them out. Add a pile of beans with a slotted spoon, some shredded cheese and perhaps some avocado. Pile on the salsa, then fold and enjoy. If you like, you can add some meat, but it doesn’t need it. Be creative.
If you want to, invite JP over for dinner — just make sure you have craft beer.
If you’re still hungry later, then raid the kids’ candy bag. Happy Halloween! Boo!