Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Swiss Chard, Caramelized Onion and Black BeanTacos

A transplanted Texan, I truly can't get enough Mexican food.  And surprisingly, it doesn't have to be heavy or full of fat if you make it yourself or if you're not dining at a Tex-Mex restaurant.

True Mexican food, as I've learned from studying Mexican cuisine more closely is that beyond the presumably limited diet of rice, beans, tortillas and cheese, grilled meats, interesting vegetables and a huge variety of salsas round it out and blend to make an extremely flavorful cuisine that is full of complex flavors.

As usual, I have my requisite bunch of greens in my veggie box this week along with an extra bag of "braising mix" which are the baby leaves of winter greens all mixed together.  (If you've been following long, then you know that when you are getting veggies from a farm or CSA* you are limited to what they have harvested for that week. From December to early June that means all different kinds of greens, both cooking greens and salad greens.  So if you're new and wondering why there are several recipes sporting the same ingredients, that's why.  My recipes are based on what's available at the moment.)

This week's use for greens is one of my favorites.  My kids actually love it and I get to feed them very healthfully since chard is a Super Food second only to spinach.  I originally found the idea in Rick Bayless' book Mexican Everyday then I took it from there over the years as I've made them during this season each year.

The smoky salsa (my own creation adapted from several ideas from Bayless' book) and almost charred onions are really the secret to this recipe being so addictive.  Don't skip these.  If you want all of my salsa recipes download Everyday Mexican recipes. (Yes, as I'm typing this I realized the striking similarity between the book mentioned above and my own collection of Mexican recipes.  Didn't realize until now...)

By the way, though this has lots of steps, it will actually come together quickly if you chop everything at once and have all the burners going to do each task simultaneously.


Veggie Box Items -  Chard, green garlic

CWYG Items - black beans (cooked ahead), onions, chipotle chile, canned tomatoes, cilantro, garlic, corn tortillas, feta cheese, spices

Swiss Chard, Caramelized Onion and Black Bean Tacos

2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups black beans, undrained (1 15 oz can)
3 cloves garlic, minced, divided use
1 teaspoon cumin
2 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
2 bunches chard, stems removed and leaves thinly sliced
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar (or other mild vinegar)
1 14 oz can whole or diced tomatoes
1 chipotle chile (from a 7 oz can, freeze the rest in ice cube trays then store in freezer bag)
1/2 cup chopped cilantro


For serving:

a dozen corn tortillas
feta or cotija cheese 

In a very large skillet, saute the onion in 1 1/2 tablespoons of the oil until several pieces are beginning to blacken on the edges.  Turn down to medium low and cook until very soft and brown.  This will take about 10 minutes so you be cooking beans and prepping tortillas for heating while waiting.

Meanwhile, prepare the beans.  In a medium skillet, heat the beans and mash partially.  Add 1/2 the minced garlic and 1 teaspoon of cumin.  Keep stirring over high heat until the liquid has reduced by half.   Turn to low and keep warm.  Taste and add a bit of salt if necessary.

When the onions are well caramelized, remove 1/2 cup (or a big spoonful) and reserve to prepare salsa.  Add the sliced garlic to the remaining caramelized onions.  Cook for a couple of minutes then add the chard.  Sprinkle with salt then toss to coat with the onion mixture and turn to medium low. Cook until wilted then add the cider vinegar.

While chard is wilting, combine the reserved onions with the canned tomatoes and chipotle chile in a blender container.  Blend until pureed.  In a large saucepan, heat the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of oil over medium high.  Have a lid handy, then pour part of the tomato puree in and cover quickly to avoid spattering.  When it calms down, add the rest of the puree along with the remaining minced garlic.  Cook for a couple of minutes covered then remove from heat.  Stir in chopped cilantro and a little salt.  Taste and add more salt to taste.  If the salsa seems to sweet or like it needs a little acidity, add some lime or lemon juice. You will have lots of salsa left and it will freeze for up to 3 months or you can use it on eggs for a Mexican scramble.

Heat the tortillas and layer with beans, chard, salsa and cheese.
*Community Supported Agriculture - which means that a farm receives money up front in exchange for members getting a "share" of what grows on the farm each week.  Services vary from farm to farm.  To find out more and see what you have available in you area go to http://www.

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