Black beans can provide the start of something good

March 16, 1994|By Bev Bennett | Bev Bennett,Los Angeles Times Syndicate

Canned tuna used to be my emergency dinner, when I needed something fast. Occasionally it still is, but now I'm just as likely to open a can of beans.

I used to think of these as desperation meals. However, the flavors are so good that I prefer to think of them as 15-minute menu marvels. For example, there's:

* Beans and diced salami, celery, onions, oil and vinegar in a salad.

* Beans wrapped in flour tortillas, topped with a little salsa or guacamole.

* Beans, chilies, tomatoes and onions minced together and served with tortilla chips.

* Beans and a package of frozen vegetables, sometimes with a little browned bacon or kielbasa added, and simmered in beef broth -- the world's quickest bean soup.

* Beans mixed with tuna, some cilantro, oil and vinegar, which combines cupboard staples into a robust meal with a Mediterranean accent.

But when I have the inclination to get fancy, I make it a black bean occasion. Black beans mashed and sauteed with onion and garlic in olive oil make a delicious puree that I'm tempted to eat right from the skillet. However, when it's spread on a tortilla and topped with shredded Monterey Jack cheese, it's a beautiful entree. For color and a tangy accent, I recommend adding tomatillo guacamole.

Tomatillo guacamole

Makes 2 servings

1 small clove garlic

1 medium shallot, peeled

2 tablespoons coarsely chopped cilantro

2 medium tomatillos, husks removed, cored and quartered (see note)

1 medium-large avocado, peeled, pitted and diced into 1/2 -inch cubes

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

juice of 1/2 a lime

salt, pepper

Mince together garlic, shallot, cilantro and tomatillos in food processor or by hand. Spoon into serving bowl. Stir in avocado, red pepper flakes, lime juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside 5 minutes for flavors to blend.

Note: Tomatillos, which resemble husk-covered green tomatoes, are available in produce sections of large supermarkets and in Mexican food stores. Green tomatoes are an excellent substitute.

Black bean roll-ups

Makes 2 servings, 2 tortillas each

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup finely diced onion (1 small onion)

1 clove garlic, minced

1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained

salt, pepper

4 flour tortillas

1/2 cup shredded jalapeno-flavored Jack cheese

tomatillo guacamole (recipe above)

Heat oil in large skillet. Add onion and garlic and saute until onion is tender, about 5 minutes. Add beans. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook and stir mixture over low heat, while mashing with back of wooden spoon.

When hot and pulpy, remove beans from heat. Spread 1/4 of mixture on each of 4 tortillas. Top each with 2 tablespoons shredded cheese. Arrange tortillas on baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees until cheese melts, about 5 minutes.

To serve, top each tortilla with 1/4 of tomatillo guacamole and roll up tortillas, or serve open-face, topped with guacamole, or as third alternative, roll up tortillas and serve guacamole on the side.

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