Menu: Vegetarian Burritos and Backyard Greens with Roasted Beets
Local ingredients: tortillas, Anasazi beans, salad greens, beets, radishes
Sometimes, life runs away from us. This is one of those times. For our family, the past two months have been an avalanche of vacations, road trips, business travel, out-of-town visitors, birthdays, and celebrations. I’m not complaining: the calendar has been packed too-full for all the best and happiest of reasons. I am, quite simply, crammed full of life. But the shadow side of coming out of a period like this is that I have a tendency to feel “bloated” – or, as my mother would have put it, “oogie.” My impulse is to scrub the slate clean, both emotionally and physically. I crave wide swaths of open space in my day planner and quiet time alone. I am possessed by a raging desire to clean out the closets and swab the floors. Last week, when I closed my eyes for a nap, the words “start over” sprang out of the darkness from behind my eyelids.
When I’m overcome by this urge to simplify, my eating and cooking follows suit; lately, all I can think about is rice and beans. It just seems like something I should eat more of. I mean, does it get any more basic than that? Maikael spent four formative years of his childhood living in Costa Rica, a country whose national dish, gallo pinto, is comprised of rice and beans left over from the night before. There is something homey and romantic about that notion, and I keep dreaming that I will be organized enough to make a big pot of rice and beans on a Sunday night, which I will refashion into different meals as the week marches on. But until that day comes, I fixed my mind on vegetarian burritos, which seemed a little “down market” for our normal Sunday dinner, but sounded so satisfying. “Are you okay with that?” I asked Maikael. “I mean, it’s just basically rice and beans and some vegetables.” “That’s pretty much what I ate every day growing up,” he gently reminded me.
So with that I dug through my pantry to unearth the bag of Anasazi beans I had been hoarding since a trip to Mesa Verde in southern Colorado four summers ago. I bought them from a local vegetable stand just outside of Pagosa Springs; the woman who sold me these beautiful pink beans, dappled with white markings, made the bold claim that I would never taste a better bean. According to the package, the beans were one of the few crops cultivated by the Anasazi and were found in ruins in the Four Corners area in the early 1900s, which are now cultivated in the same region that the Anasazi inhabited. Sweeter than their more popular pinto bean counterpart, Anasazi beans boast a quick cooking time and require no soaking. I was worried that the beans would be past their prime, but after a quick rinse and 45 minutes of gentle simmering in a pot of water, I was met with a plump, unusually creamy bean that was the ideal vehicle for my burritos.
While the rice and beans cooked I roasted some beets I had from Skarsgard Farms. I topped the burritos with local radishes, avocados, sour cream, and salad greens from my friend Brie-Anne’s beautiful garden. With lots of stunning greens and beets left over I composed an impromptu salad. By the time I was finished with the meal, which Abra ate with gusto, I felt lighter in body and spirit. I think I might have even felt the oogies dissipating.
I just ordered a 10-pound bag of Anasazi beans in the hopes of making more meals like this one. As a firm believer in the axiom that action follows thought, it seems like as good of a place as any to start down the path of toward a simpler summer.
Elizabeth Grant Thomas writes regularly at her site, elizabethgrantthomas.com, and can be found here every other Tuesday chronicling her family’s journey “back to the table.”
Adapted from Vegan Fusion World Cuisine
These burritos are really simple to make and highly adaptable. The most time-intensive part is the time is takes for the rice and beans to cook, but it’s perfect for a weekend meal, where you can lounge on your patio, sipping a cool beverage, while keeping an eye on the simmering pots (at least that’s what I do). Once the rice and beans are ready, it’s just a matter of assembly. You can dress your burritos to your liking with whatever vegetables and toppings you have on hand, or skip the tortilla altogether and create a “bowl,” which is what I did with the leftovers the second day. If you are a vegan or a meat-lover, this recipe is easily altered to accommodate a variety of palates.
1 dry cup of brown basmati rice, cooked according to package directions
½ dry cup of Anasazi or pinto beans, cooked according to package directions
4 Tablespoons salsa
4 Tablespoons sour cream
4-6 beets, roasted
4 radishes, cut into thin rounds
1 avocado, sliced pole-to-pole into thin wedges
½ cup shredded cheese, such as Monterrey Jack
Handful of fresh lettuce or salad greens
4 flour tortillas
- Cook rice and beans in separate pots according to package directions. If you buy rice and beans from the bulk foods bin and don’t have package directions, I usually cook rice with a 1:2 ratio of rice to water. For the beans, rinse them, place them in a 3-quart saucepan, cover with enough water to submerge the beans, and simmer. The cooking time will depend on the age and type of beans you are using; they are ready when they are soft, but not mushy. Both the rice and the beans should be brought to a boil before covering and then lowering the heat to maintain a gentle simmer.
- While rice and beans cook, assemble vegetables and toppings. If you use beets, wrap them in two layers of aluminum foil, place on a cookie sheet, and roast for 1-1 ¼ hours in a 400 degree oven. When cool enough to handle, peel the outer skin of the beets and slice into rounds.
- Place equal portions of rice and beans on each warmed tortilla. Top with salsa, sour cream, beets, radishes, avocado, cheese, and salad greens. Enjoy!