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Turn a can of black beans into a vegetarian supper

This image shows a recipe for black bean enfrijoladas. Milk Street via AP

Beans and tortillas are a classic pairing served in numerous configurations, usually with the beans served in or on the tortilla. But for Oaxacan enfrijoladas, lightly fried tortillas are dipped into and completely coated by a black bean puree. For the enfrijoladas recipe in our book “Cook What You Have,” which draws on pantry staples to assemble easy, weeknight meals, we use canned beans for ease. We cook the beans down with an aromatic mix of onion, garlic and cumin, then blend everything until smooth and creamy. A standard blender works fine, but if you own an immersion blender, you can puree the beans directly in the pan. Briefly frying the tortillas until they start to puff and brown but don’t quite crisp keeps them pliable enough to dip, but also ensures they don’t turn to mush when sauced. Garnishes make this simple vegetarian dish a meal and add contrasting color, texture and flavor. We think chopped onion, crumbled cotija cheese and cilantro are essential, but you can add sliced avocado and Mexican crema for a little richness, or a squeeze of fresh lime juice to brighten. Black Bean Enfrijoladas

Start to finish: 45 minutes

Servings: 4


2 tablespoons plus ⅓ cup grapeseed or other neutral oil, divided

1 large white onion, ¾ thinly sliced, ¼ finely chopped, reserved separately

2 medium garlic cloves, smashed and peeled

1 to 2 teaspoons chili powder

2 teaspoons ground cumin OR ¼ teaspoon ground allspice OR both

15½-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

Eight 6-inch corn tortillas

3 ounces cheddar OR Monterey jack cheese, shredded (¾ cup) OR cotija cheese, finely crumbled (about ½ cup)

½ cup lightly packed fresh cilantro, chopped

In a large saucepan over medium-high, heat 2 tablespoons oil until shimmering. Add the sliced onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the garlic, chili powder and cumin; cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the beans, 2 cups water and ½ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer, scraping up any browned bits, then cook, uncovered and stirring occasionally, until the water is just below the level of the beans, 10 to 12 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a 12-inch skillet over medium, heat the remaining ⅓ cup oil until just beginning to shimmer. Slip 2 tortillas into the oil and cook just until they begin to puff and brown, 20 to 30 seconds, flipping the tortillas with a spatula halfway through; do not allow the tortillas to crisp. Transfer to a baking sheet and cover with foil. Warm the remaining tortillas in the same way, reducing the heat if the oil begins to smoke; it’s fine to overlap the tortillas on the baking sheet.

When the beans are done, remove the pan from the heat and cool for about 10 minutes. Using a blender and working in 2 batches to avoid overfilling the jar, puree the bean mixture until smooth, 15 to 20 seconds. Return the puree to the pan. (Alternatively, if you own an immersion blender, puree the mixture directly in the pan.) Cook uncovered over low, stirring occasionally, until heated through, 3 to 5 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Using tongs, fold a tortilla in half and submerge it in the bean puree (still over low heat), then transfer to an individual plate. Repeat with the remaining tortillas, placing 2 on each plate.

Spoon the remaining bean puree over the enfrijoladas and top with the cheese, cilantro and the chopped onion.

Optional garnish: Sliced avocado or Mexican crema (or sour cream) or lime wedges or a combination.

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