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Top Latin beans, greens with green salsa

Beans and greens are a theme in my most recent food section column.

For a six-day rafting trip that entailed camping and eating on the banks of the John Day River, my group of boaters produced a surprisingly diverse lineup of bean dishes — without any prior coordination, just enough outdoors savvy to know that precooked beans travel well in such circumstances.

Six days of variety is possible when cooks look to the numerous culinary traditions that favor beans. Beans and greens, more specifically, are a Southern staple as black-eyed peas and collards. In old-school Italian-American restaurants, cannellini beans and escarole are a beloved dish that often adds hot sausage or banana peppers with a sprinkle of Parmesan. The duo goes Latin in this recipe from the vegetarian cookbook, “Leaf,” by Catherine Phipps.

Actually three recipes in one, Phipps’ features a tomatillo salsa and fresh, cilantro-studded tortillas. Food writer Gretchen McKay, who tested the dish for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, confirms the tortillas can be eaten as tacos, filled with the beans and greens. I’d be more inclined to add an over-medium egg, as McKay recommends, and serve this for breakfast.

Tribune News Service photo

Pinto Beans and Greens With Coriander Tortillas

For salsa:

10 1/2 ounces tomatillos, dehusked

2 jalapenos

2 garlic cloves, peeled

4 spring onions, trimmed

Sea salt, to taste

Juice of 1 lime

Few sprigs of cilantro

Few mint leaves, roughly torn

For tortillas:

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup blue or yellow masa harina

4 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 3/4 ounces vegetable shortening, melted and slightly cooled

For beans and greens:

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 red onions, peeled and thinly sliced

2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

Pinch of ground cinnamon

14 ounces spring greens, kale or chard, shredded

8 ounces cooked pinto beans

2 ripe tomatoes, chopped

Make salsa: Put the tomatillos, jalapenos, garlic and spring onions in a frying pan, preferably cast-iron. Cook over medium-high heat for 15 minutes, shaking the pan, until everything is charred. Keep a close eye and remove garlic and chiles when they blacken.

Remove from heat. Finely chop pan’s contents or put in food processor and pulse to a chunky puree. Add plenty of salt and the lime juice, then stir in the cilantro. Set aside.

Make tortillas: Put the flour, masa and cilantro in a bowl with the salt. Pour in the shortening, then 2/3 cup tepid water. Mix thoroughly — if it’s crumbly, add a little more water, a few drops at a time. Keep mixing to a minimum, so you don’t work gluten too much. You should end up with a soft, slightly tacky dough that will firm up more as shortening re-solidifies.

Divide dough into 16 equal balls and roll out as thinly as you can, or press in a tortilla press, making sure dough is pressed between plastic wrap or nonstick baking paper. Heat a cast-iron frying pan and when medium hot, cook tortillas for a couple of minutes on each side until they are dappled brown. They may also puff up a bit, but will subside as they cool. Keep warm until ready to use.

Make beans and greens: Heat the oil in a large lidded frying pan or Dutch oven. Add the red onions and cook over medium-high heat until softened and slightly charred. Add the garlic, cumin seeds and cinnamon; cook for a couple more minutes. Add the greens to pan along with 1/2 cup water. Press down in pan then cover.

Cook until greens have just wilted, for about 5 minutes, or 10 minutes for a softer texture. Stir in the beans and tomatoes and cook just long enough for everything to be piping hot.

Check for seasoning and adjust accordingly. Stir the mint into salsa and serve with tortillas.

Makes 4 servings.

— Recipe from “Leaf” by Catherine Phipps (Quadrille Publishing; 2019).