Step by Step-Black Bean Tacos
It has been nearly a year since I last added a new post. My excuse is not original. I have been busy. Very, very busy with the honor of testing out my culinary skills commercially at a street food venue located in a small park in the city of Malmö, Sweden. The majority of my days were focused on the one woman show called, The Shack. A small out building owned by Bloom In the Park, Malmö’s premier fine dining restaurant. The Shack was equipped with three hotplates, an ice cream machine and a sandwich toaster along with some stray pots and pans. The seating arrangement consisted of a few park benches and borrowed blankets to lay on the lawn. A charming little spot, but very weather dependent.
How did this happen? In February of last year I had a moment of to hell with it and contacted Bloom’s owner Igi Vidal, an acquaintance of mine, hoping for some career advice. I seemed to have caught him at just the right time. After some grilling he decided I might be able to do a test run with one a little builiding they occasionally used to sell ice cream from in the summer months. I was told go home and make some sketches and be ready to present my concept to the head chef Titti and the man himself.
I wasn’t too worried about presenting Igi with my ideas, despite his famously abrasive demeanor. However, presenting my food to a gourmet chef, a female chef on top of it-women scare me by the way, was terrifying. I spent a month sketching ideas and then a week testing ideas. The night before I was to present I was up to 3 am testing again only to be utterly disappointed by the results and feeling deeply unprepared. I was very close to calling it off when I decided to sleep on it and see how I felt in the morning. A night of fretful sleep behind me I rolled out of bed bleary eyed, by this point I had come to a couple of of hard won conclusions. If they say no they say no, you at least stood up to the challenge. You did the best you could and that is enough. Just minimalize. There will be no running for cover from you today.
I trimmed down my sample menu by a lot! In retrospect even if all my ideas had been a great success cutting back the number of choices was none the less necessary. My tendency to get overzealous with food is well known in this house. My eagerness in sharing all of my favorite meals at once often gets the best of me. Thus, I opted for the simplest examples. I packed everything down in neat little glass jars and colorful towels, salsa fresca, home made corn tortilla chips, guacamole, grilled then marinated vegetables, Korean wraps filled with grilled pork neck.
Titti remained skeptical to my skills, but Igi liked my idea and gave me the go ahead to start a street food venue with a constantly changing menu that would reflect my American background and travel experiences. This is when the real adventure began. It has been exciting with lots of learning, lots of long hours, mandatory mistakes and some very welcome appreciation from my guests. I think the part I liked best during this nine month stint was having the time between the small rushes to chat with my customers and honestly get to know them. A couple of them are real and true friends of mine now, which is probably my biggest accomplishment. Yes, I did some fun things in the kitchen and I got some really lovely feed back for my efforts, but cooking for me has always been about the people and the sharing. I suffer from over zealousness and when I eat something amazing I just want to buy the world a Coke and keep it company as the commercial once went. Only forget the coke and make it a big old batch of yummy food for everyone, on me! I just get unreasonably excited about food. Making that come alive at The Shack, creating a personal experience for whoever dropped by, feels really good and that they were willing to pay for it. Wow!
The Shack is now on hiatus due to the weather. As much as I love my little darling, this adventure has in fact led me to another, even bigger adventure. The Shack will hopefully live on without me. I am not sure yet, but I hope it does. There is surely someone else out there with a love for food looking for a golden opportunity.
Any how I hope that someday in the future when I finally start my own place, probably places because I have just too many ideas to have just one, I want it always to be a personal experience for everyone, and I mean everyone.
Black Bean Tacos
Makes 6-10 tacos.
Black bean tacos are embarrassingly easy. Or at least the beans are. Actually each step is easy, but I understand if you find them collectively daunting. But, if you want to break it down to the simplest common denominator buy yourself some good medium to hot salsa, not taco sauce but salsa. Then buy either some fresh corn tortillas or some flour, a good American or English cheddar-more about this below-and some cream fraiche. All you need now is a couple cans of already cooked black beans, cumin seeds, onion, garlic and a fresh pepper. OK you can cook your own black beans but that does take a while.
How to assemble a black bean taco.
Take a warm soft tortilla fill it with beans, cheese, salsa, creme fraiche and top with some cheddar cheese fold in half.
How to eat any taco.
Turn your head to the side and take a bite, then another until your left licking your fingers clean, then start digging into those bits and pieces that fell onto your plate or into the wrapper or on to the floor, yeah!
REFRIED BLACK BEANS
2 cans BLACK BEANS
1 large RED ONION, chopped medium
1 TBS CUMINS SEEDS, essential to the flavor
2 GARLIC CLOVES, chopped fine
1/2 CHILI PEPPER, chopped fine
In a heavy bottomed pan, I use a cast iron pan, first saute the cumin seeds in a TBS of oil, when you start to smell the aroma you are ready for your onions, garlic and chili. Saute until tender. Meanwhile, drain your beans saving the water. Push the onions, garlic and chili to the back of the pan. Add a bit more oil to the empty part of the pan and let it get warm. Add a large spoonful of the beans at a time to the new oil and let it lightly fry while you smash the beans roughly about 30 sec or so. Push the spoonful of beans to the back with the onions and repeat until all your beans are “fried”. Stir the beans and the onion mix at the back to keep the onions etc from burning. Once you have all the beans in your pan add a bit of the left over water from the can to get just the right consistency. If you want to use it as a dip add a little extra water from the can, if you are using the beans for tacos then maybe a bit thicker, but not too dry.
Serve in a lightly warmed soft tortilla with a small scoop of salsa, creme fresh and a sprinkle of cheese. You can even add guacamole or some avocado slices if you want.
FLOUR TORTILLAS makes 8
These require a bit of elbow grease but are in reality easy as well and if you ask me well worth the effort. Here is a little hint: you can warm the tortilla up in a pan, flipping a couple times. Don’t let the tortilla get crunchy you want it soft and pliable. Then spread a small click of butter so that it melts then a sprinkle of salt. Roll it up, lightly bend in the middle to keep the butter from dripping and take a bite. It’s a bread and butter extravaganza.
2 cups flour, in Sweden I use Dinkle which is an unmodified wheat, that orignates from the Stone Age. It’s what wheat should be and has all the proteins and vitamins still in it, making it a healthier choice bringing bread back to the four food groups.
2 TBS lard or cooking oil
1 tsp salt
5-6 TBS warm water
In a large bowl add the two cups of flour and salt then mix. Cut the lard into small chunks and cut into the flour with a pastry knife, a couple of knives, or you can use a food processor being careful not to over process it. You want to roughly cut the lard into the flour. If you are using cooking oil then just cut it in with a fork.
Now is the time to be careful. Add the warm water one TBS at a time. You don’t want the dough to get too wet. You can start by stirring it in with a fork, then start massaging it in with your hand to help you keep control of the situation. You want a soft pliable dough that isn’t sticky to the touch. Once you have that all done knead the dough for about 5 mins. Wrap in plastic and let rest for 20 mins.
Once you have let it rest pull off golf ball sized chunks from the dough make a rough ball and then sort of lift the edges into the middle kind of like folding the corners in, except it’s round and there are no corners. Then turn it over and roll in your hand to make a nice even ball of dough. Keep going. You want smaller tortillas make smaller balls or vice verse.
If you have a tortilla press then great. If you don’t then use a pot. Press the balls into flat circles. They won’t be thin enough so you will need to get your rolling pin out. Or use a wine bottle. Roll the dough out turning it to keep the round shape. Dust with flour when needed ot keep from sticking. You know it’s thin enough when you can almost see through it.
Heat up a pan to medium/high. I again use a cast iron pan. Don’t use any oil. Lay the tortilla on the pan and let it puff up for about 30 sec. on each side. Don’t press the air out of it. The air pocket helps with the fluffy texture. I don’t know why, but most tutorials will tell you to squash them down. Don’t believe them.
You should get light brown spots. If they are getting black and crunchy you either have left them on too long or have the heat too high.
Put the warm tortilla in a folded dish towel or a tortilla warmer serve directly. If you have leftovers store them in a plastic bag in the fridge and just toss them a couple times in a pan to warm them up.
NOTE: To make corn tortillas buy masa harina and follow the directions on the package. Then cook them as described above. You won’t need to roll them out if you have a tortilla press. They will squash down perfectly.
Pico de Gallo makes for a few meals.
The key to pico de gallo is the chili. You really do need a smokey chili like the chipotle, you can get the chipotle at LUCU Foods in Malmö. I like to use chipotle in adobo sauce. You can get the cans in Sweden now in a few different places. I saw it last at Mix Mat in Rosengård. You won’t be able to use the entire can of chilies so keep what you have left over in the freezer in a ziplock or container. Just hack off what you need when you need it.
250-300 gr. CHERRY TOMATOES, chopped
1 RED ONION, chopped fine
75 gr FRESH CORIANDER
2 LIMES, squeezed
1 tsp CHIPOTLE IN ADOBO SAUCE
SUGAR (optional) I use agave syrup, LUCU Foods
SALT to taste
Chop up your cherry tomatoes, you can decide if you like them fine or a bit rough. Chop up the onion and cilantro then put it all in a bowl. Add your lime, chili and stir. Add a bit of sugar or Agave syrup if your tomatoes are a bit sour. I use cherry tomatoes as they last longer and they are usually sweeter than large tomatoes. Put in a jar and let marinade at least an hour before using. You can keep it in your fridge for a week or so depending on how cold you keep your fridge. Use it on just about everything.
Okay let’s make sure you know that I am referring to actual cheese, not the plastic wrapped in plastic crap McDonald’s puts on their burgers. THAT is not cheese in my book. I am talking about a basic cheddar usually orange colored in the US, but in England, Scotland and Ireland it is just as often white. I prefer either the British or American cheddar’s to Swedish as they have a tangy quality that works well as a garnish. Or heck just chopping a nice fat chunk off and munching on it right there in your underwear with the refrigerator door open. Yeap that is how I eat it most of the time.
You can get Scottish cheddar on occasion at City Gross. The price goes up and down, but it is fairly inexpensive and great for topping your tacos, making your mac & cheese, your potato au gratins etc.
Willy’s also has a English Cheddar that is of lesser quality, but still works for cooking etc. Not as nice to munch on in the buff though.