Previous in ToC: Low Carb and Vegan: Spicy Tofu with Roasted Veggies
Next in ToC: East Meets West Black Bean Burrito
Vegan Black Bean Tacos from Scratch
A few months ago, I set a little challenge for myself. I love the black bean tacos at the local Mexican burrito place. The challenge was to duplicate these beauties at home using just the basic raw ingredients. And by that, I mean starting with a pound of dry black beans and two cups of corn flour. Well, the last few months have included a few, umm let's call them learning experiences. Some of them were even edible. But they didn't make me happy the way the restaurant tacos did. After a lot of trial and error, I got to something homemade that I consider tasty. The main thing I learned is that I don't like making refried black beans with a potato masher. They turn out too gritty. I go the blender route to get something smooth and uniformly spicy. The other thing I learned is that you don't need to go too crazy with the spices, salt, lime and salsa. The sheer volume of different flavours kind of demands a toning down of the individual ingredients so that no one part of the taco overpowers the others. It's a little tough to get right at first, but when the black beans and the guacamole are in a balance with eachother, the flavours mingle beautifully. Finally, we have some basic laws of physics to deal with—we need to fight the temptation to overload the tacos past the tensile limit of the fresh corn tortillas. As you can see from the photos, I still have some work to do fighting that urge.
This project starts with soaking the beans the night before. Once soaked, they're also going to need 5-6 hours in the slow cooker with the spices, so some advance planning is required. For the full taco experience, you may also want to make your own tortillas. It's a fun and easy part of the process once you have a few batches under your belt. I actually find it a little bit relaxing to watch them cook. And they smell delicious. If you'd like a primer on making fresh corn tortillas, I did one a few weeks ago in anticipation of this project.
Chipotle Refried Black Beans
See the separate recipe for chipotle refried black beans (opens in a new tab)
2 cups long-grain rice
3 cups vegetable stock or water
1 small onion, diced
2 Tbl olive oil
4 cloves garlic, finely minced with a little salt
3 Tbl tomato paste
1 Tbl fresh lime juice
salt to taste
2 ripe avocados
1 Tbl lime juice
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, chopped (optional)
12 corn tortillas
head lettuce, shredded
3 tomatoes, chopped
3 green onions, greens only, in 1/4" slices
medium salsa of choice
Make a batch of chipotle refried black beans.
Bring rice and vegetable stock to a boil in a medium pot with a lid. Reduce heat to low and simmer 12-15 minutes until liquid has been absorbed. Turn off heat, stir, replace lid, and let rest for another 10 minutes. In the meantime, heat up the olive oil in the skillet over medium heat and add the diced onion.
Fry for 8-10 minutes until onions are soft and tanslucent.
Add the minced garlic.
Cook for another few minutes, but don't let the garlic brown. Add the tomato paste and mix well.
Add the rice.
Add the salt and lime juice. Mix until everything is uniform. Reduce heat to low and cover.
Start with the two ripe, beautiful avocados.
Carefully cut them in half and remove and discard the pits.
Carefully slice the flesh into a checkerboard pattern and scoop into a bowl with a spoon.
Juice lime and add 1 Tbl of juice to the bowl along with the 1/2 tsp of salt. Mix well.
I'm going to pause here for a short aside on storing cilantro. You may already be aware of this trick, but I wasted a lot of it until I knew it. The secret to storing cilantro in the fridge is to cut off the bottom couple of inches of stem and put the bunch in a large heavy cup, half filled with water. Then, cover the whole thing with a plastic bag and refrigerate. The cilantro should keep for a couple of weeks using this method.
Pull out a few stems of cilantro and carefully remove the leaves and place them in a bowl. Repeat until you have about 1/4 cup of leaves.
Fill the bowl with cool water and soak the leaves. Remove them in small bunches, shaking any loose dirt off while still underwater. Discard the water and repeat the soaking process a second time. That should take care of any guacamole-ruining grit. Dry the leaves with paper towels and chop fine.
Mix the cilantro with everything else and you've got your guacamole.
Putting it All Together
Putting a soft taco together is a personal thing. I've already talked about the whole less-is-more thing, but what you do with it at this point is up to you. I fill a plate with three of these beauties and serve with a big bowl of nachos. Enjoy!
Want more like this? Please subscribe via the RSS Feed so you can read new posts on your favourite news reader.
Posted: Friday, March 20, 2015