Thursday, March 29, 2012

Vegetarian Burrito with Homemade Refried Beans

One of my favorite things to do is try to recreate my favorite restaurant dishes at home. Not only can I save some money by cooking at home, I can alter it even more to my own tastes. Sonoma Taco Shop has one of my favorite south-of-the-border dishes, a vegetarian burrito that is loaded not only with beans and cheese, but delicious pan-grilled vegetables that until I tried it, would never have thought that they "belong" in a burrito. Sadly, the nearest Sonoma Taco Shop restaurant to me now is up in Santa Rosa on Brookwood, near Memorial Hospital.

On the day I decided to do this at home, I was searching my cupboard for a can of refried beans, and I couldn't find it (turns out my mom had used them the day before). Luckily for me, we keep a good collection of canned beans on hand, like black beans, kidney beans, chickpeas, and pinto beans. I also keep a healthy assortment of herbs and spices in my kitchen for creating.

The Beans
*1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
*1/2 Knorr vegetable bouillon cube, crushed
*2 Tbs butter or olive oil
*2 Tbs tomato paste (I buy tomato paste in a tube instead of cans)
*1 cup warm water
garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, chili powder to taste
a hint of cayenne pepper (
less than 1/8 teaspoon)

The Veggies
*1/2 red onion in thin half-moon slices
*red or yellow bell pepper, sliced in strips
*1/2 cup broccoli florets, cut into bite size pieces
*2 julienne carrots (cut into strips like your peppers)
*1 zucchini, julienne in strips
*2-4 cloves of garlic, pressed, minced, or chopped
*2 tbs butter or olive oil
*1/4 tsp kosher or fine sea salt
*optional - 4 Tbs fresh chopped cilantro or 1 Tbs dried cilantro flakes

Other Stuff
*Burrito size tortillas (whole wheat, flour, or an herb flavored tortilla would be great)
*shredded cheese/s (jack, pepper jack, medium cheddar, or your favorite Mexican blend - I love Trader Joe's finely shredded mix for about $2.79)
*sour cream
*pico de gallo or salsa of your choice (Calavo sells a great mild salsa called "salsa Lisa" that I love. You usually find it in the fresh produce or fresh deli area of your store.)

Refried Beans:
1) Drain and rinse the canned beans and pulse them in a food processor a few times; they should still be quite chunky, just broken up. Alternatively, you can mush the beans up with a fork in a bowl.

2) Heat your butter or oil in a sturdy pan over medium-high heat; add the beans and start stirring. Add the bouillon seasoning and half the hot water, and keep stirring. It should look kind of like a smooth bean soup right now; if not, add the rest of the water. Bring just to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer with tiny bubbles and lots of steam.

3) Start adding the spices - I do this by eyeballing about 1 tsp. each, with a little more cumin. Also add the tomato paste at this point. Keep stirring. You'll want to cook out most of the water we added, concentrating the flavors into the beans. If you don't stir, though, you will burn the beans. Taste, and adjust the spices as needed to make them taste yummy to you.

4) The beans are done when it's a smooth paste that surrounds bean chunks, and is kind of a reddish-orange color. Remove from heat and scoop into an oven safe bowl, cover with foil, and keep warm in the oven.

The Veggies:

1) Wipe down the bean pan with a paper-towel and return to medium-high heat. Heat the oil or butter and add all your veggies to the pan with the garlic, and a just little bit of fine sea salt or kosher salt, and the cilantro, if using.

2) Gently cook the veggies, stirring with a wooden spoon. Don't let them burn, but if you let the broccoli get some dark spots, it tastes really delicious. If you're using zucchini, you may want to hold them off to the side for about 5 minutes, then throw them into your pan for the last 3-5 minutes of cooking.

3) Remove from heat when the carrots are soft enough to eat; not crunchy but not mushy either.

Build the Burrito

1) Heat the tortilla for about 15 seconds in the microwave; alternatively, you can wrap a stack of tortillas in foil and heat them in the oven at 325ยบ while you're cooking the vegetables and beans. Heating the tortillas will keep them from breaking when you fold them over the ingredients.

2) Spread some cheese over the tortilla, then spread hot beans on top. Add your vegetables, more cheese, sour cream, and salsa.

3) Roll it up and enjoy. You can also place it in a hot skillet with a little cooking spray, seam side down to make a grilled burrito.


Add rice of your liking to the burrito for a different texture - Mahatma's yellow saffroned rice is pretty good.
Add guacamole for a creamy flavor and healthy fat instead of the sour cream
Mix a little ranch dressing powder and hot sauce into the sour cream
Mix your salsa and sour cream together for a different dressing
Use frozen pepper strips - if you do, cook them first, so that you can get the extra water to cook off and then add the other veggies, so that they can get those yummy grill/burn marks

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