Red Bean Vegetarian Burrito and Why not to kill a Mocking Bird.

COURAGE is not a man with a gun in his hand. It is knowing you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and see it through, no matter what – Atticus Finch.

Red bean burrito

Red bean burrito

Some writers impress, some inspire while some simply fade away in the light of day. But Harper Lee, with just one glorious book under her belt, sits firmly in my head – bag, baggage and all. I just can’t seem to replace her. A lot many others try to occupy the coveted seat, but she just won’t budge.

‘To kill a Mocking Bird’ is not an ordinary book. And Atticus Finch is no ordinary hero. The book is a bolt of lightning. A revelation. And Finch’s kindness, courage and tenacity – invigorating.

To each his own

To each his own

Now what does a burrito have to do with Finch, courage or any mocking bird. Well.

I introduced the story to my eight year old this summer in her holidays. And although she seemed more fascinated with Scout and Boo and the title itself, it was Atticus Finch’s character that the relentless mother chose to dissect. Now, at our own very personal level thus began a truly interesting character dissertation of Mr. Finch. All this, while we prepped lunch using whatever we could find in the pantry. The detailed explanations were simplified for her unpolluted mind. What does an 8 year old know about racism or tolerance or black or white or courage without a gun? Though exhausting, the discussion was a revelation.

Tomato salsa

Tomato salsa

Untainted, pure minds have the most basic humane questions, to which, mostly you will have no answers. It is the way it is, was all that I could say. Their usually winged imagination falls short when human nature is in context. To explain that it takes more courage to stand up for your beliefs than to hold a gun was an insightful discussion for both of us.
At one point, I felt I rather stop, maybe I’m destroying her innocence. But I wasn’t.

Innocence is not crushed by an honest dialogue, rather it is enlivened and enlightened. It was a good thing that the deep discussions were laced with good food. This way you make happy memories and remember things for a longer time. She associates salsa and beans and guacamole with so many aspects of the book. Somehow, the food rendered the analysis less morbid, less sad and more hopeful. While little hands assembled the wrap, the mind too voiced it’s own opinions. How she would have punished Bob for being ‘so bad’ and how Tom would not die and how she would like to smack some more sour cream if I let her.

As you like it

As you like it

A red bean burrito is as satisfying to prepare and enjoy as it to read a well written book. Well, almost 🙂

The recipe:

To make 4 burritos –

Ingredients

4 flour or corn tortillas
8-10 tablespoons of red beans corn mix(recipe below)
4 tablespoons of guacamole
4 tablespoons of sour cream
4 tablespoons of tomato salsa
4 tablespoons of cabbage onion salad
a handful of olives and jalapeños for taste.
lime wedges, tomato salsa and hot sauce to serve

For the Red Bean Vegetable Mixture:

1. 1 cup boiled red beans or rajma
2. 1/2 cup sweet corn
3. 1/4 cup chopped peppers
4. 1 tsp minced garlic and ginger
5. 1 big onion, chopped
6. salt, pepper powder and paprika according to taste
7. 1 tbsp olive oil

Method

For the red bean mix –
In a skillet, heat oil, sauté ginger garlic and onions, till they sweat and turn pink. Add chopped peppers and corn. Stir fry for a couple of minutes. Then add boiled beans along with salt, pepper powder and paprika. Mix well. Coarsely mash with the back of the ladle. Remove from flame. Keep aside to cool.

To assemble:
Take one tortilla, spread 2 tablespoons of red bean mix lengthwise in the centre. Top with guacamole, salsa, red cabbage salad and sour cream – all one tablespoon or more. Garnish with olives, jalapeños and a dash of lime. Fold and serve immediately with more salsa n cream!

stack, smear, dollop

stack, smear, dollop

Note: You can add any other vegetable with red beans if you like. Broccoli, zucchini or tofu will be equally delicious

Note: Cheese lovers – grate some up before the final folding.

Note: The cabbage onion salad is nothing but thinly sliced veggies marinated in little salt and lime juice for an hour.

A bit of hot sauce to liven it all up

A bit of hot sauce to liven it all up

I asked for the moral of the story in one or two lines only.
And this is what she said – To not be bad like Bob and to be good and courageous like Atticus. Hmm…. I think she got that right?

Good to go

Good to go

I painted a pretty decent picture without stressing on the heart breaking pathos of the story but I’m glad I introduced it to her this early. Later at every stage when she reads it, the book will reveal something new to her, as it still does to me.
It’s quite magical, isn’t it?!… This process of reading.

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Spicy Sprouts Vegetarian Fajitas

He doesn’t get the difference between a burrito and a fajita.
‘Why have different names, when they have essentially the same stuff in it’….. I don’t have any witty piquant rhetoric for it. So I try to elucidate the serving styles which are remarkably different. Also the analogy that we have million names for chappathis which are made in slightly varied way doesn’t convince him either.

Spicy Mexican Fajitas - Vegetarian!

Spicy Mexican Fajitas – Vegetarian!

I go back to assembling my warm fajitas. I know before making them they would be appreciated because … I know the kind he likes 🙂

He absolutely loves Guacamole, then top with some sour cream and a bit of more lime and I know for sure, the lunch is good. But its the stuffing that I am weary about. To substitute the meat, I sautĂ© mixed sprouts with some julienne veggies. Ah.. this was going experimental. I add another succulent sweet sour salsa to top – the mango salsa. What am I doing??….I am combining disparate flavours and hoping for it to be devoured like never before. Sigh! Wishful thinking this.

Guacamole and Mango Salsa by the side

Guacamole and Mango Salsa by the side

SPICY SPROUTS VEGETABLE MIX

Ideally beans/rajma is used in the vegetarian version of Tex Mex cuisine. But I had a bowl of sprouts to finish before they went bad. Bored of its presence in salads and currys, the family ostracized these protein rich germinated grains. But when you throw them in a wok full of thinly sliced veggies, and season with herbs they are so delicious, you forget that you hated them a while back.

My meat substitute!

My meat substitute!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup julienne vegetables, peppers, mushrooms, carrots, broccoli, corn etc
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 green chillies, minced – optional
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped coriander leaves
  • 1 tsp olive oil

Method

Heat oil in a wok, stir fry garlic, green chilies and onions till they turn translucent. Throw in the other veggies, along with salt and pepper. Cover and cook till almost done. At this stage, add the parboiled sprouts along with oregano and chopped cilantro leaves. Mix well. Keep aside.

SOUR CREAM

Another surprise that day was the sour cream. I made a faux one with yoghurt – its fat free and healthier! Tis so easy peasy, that I find myself making it every other day now.

Sour Cream substitute, made with yoghurt

Sour Cream substitute, made with yoghurt

In a cup of hung curd, add juice of half a lime, crushed garlic, bit of pepper powder and salt. Mix in a tbsp of cream. Churn or mix well for a creamy consistency – Thats it!!

ASSEMBLING THE FAJITA

To assemble 4 fajitas:

Ingredients

  • 4 flour tortillas, I used whole wheat. You can use flour or corn, anything you like.
  • 8 tbsp sprout veggie mix
  • 4 tbsp guacamole
  • 4 tbsp mango-salsa
  • 4 tbsp sour cream
  • sprinkle of taco seasoning on each fajita
Assembling the Fajita

Assembling the Fajita

Method

Warm each tortilla, place 2 table spoons of the sprouts veggie mix, top with guacamole, salsa and sour cream. Sprinkle taco seasoning. Serve immediately.

Warm tortillas

Warm tortillas

Note: Go experimental by replacing mango salsa with tomato or peach salsa.

Note: Replace the sprouts with beans or cheese or meat

Sweet, spicy and the tartness intact - all at the same time

Sweet, spicy, sour, tart – all at the same time

Vegetarian Chili

It was a cloudy cold evening, the sun ready to bid us adieu. Outside the breeze was crisp and biting. The White Plains country side offered such majestic views that I for once sat awestruck and tongue tied throughout the drive. It was my first visit in the US. You know how it is with the firsts. We always remember those moments vividly. What is it about them that makes it so special… is it the visuals? Or maybe the setting sun or those beautiful stone imperial houses which carry a sense of mystery around them. The triggers are many. But for me, one thing that remains etched in my memory is the aroma. The divine cumin flavored fragrance which was so intriguing that it haunts me even now.

Vegetarian Chili with brown rice

Vegetarian Chili with brown rice

We were invited by his boss for dinner. I was to meet them for the first time. And I was anxious, not to forget vegetarian and exotic in my cuisine, 10 years back, included just chinese and pizza-burgers. I ate a bit before we left fearing that what would a firangi feed? Maybe canned food or some frozen pizza.

Well, we reach his august house, set in the outskirts of White Plains, NY. Dreading an anxious evening ahead, I was at my reserved best. I had decided to speak little, smile more and hardly eat.
Ah! well, preconceived notions about a culture or a country can be so misleading! It isn’t really what Hollywood or those silly sitcoms show you – realized it pretty soon.

The Spens family turned to be the most gracious hosts, ever! They greet us like they have known us all their lives, the man’s formidable appearance gets shadowed by his bear hug, the lovely delicate wife’s soft warm hands envelope mine in simple affection. The kids are so well mannered and amiable that I vowed to trash all my prized albeit deceitful DVDs. The house inside is warm, cosy and so inviting, a contrast to the august exteriors. The genial ambience made me chatty and smiley more than what I had planned! 🙂

Protein Packed

Protein Packed

Inside on the stove, sat a simmering pot. A pot which emanated such amazing whiffs of cumin and spices and tomatoes and garlic. The entire house radiated with its essences. Apparently Mr Spens is the cook in the family. And that night, he made us a bubbling pot of Mexican Chili, a vegetarian version of the famous Chili Con Carne. Chili is a spicy stew consisting of meat, spices, tomatoes and cheese. But te vegetarian version replaces the meat with a meat analogue, such as textured vegetable protein or tofu, or a starchy vegetable, such as potatoes. These chilis nearly always include beans.

Goes great with rice

Goes great with rice

The Recipe:

Ingredients

  • 2 cups cooked red kidney beans or rajma
  • 1 cup assorted vegetables, zucchini, broccoli, potatoes, mushrooms, chopped
  • 1/2 cup tofu – optional
  • 1/4 cup, mixed bell peppers, chopped
  • 1 big onion, chopped
  • 5-6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3-4 green chilies, minced – optional
  • 2 tomatoes, red and ripe, chopped
  • 1 cup tomato puree
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp paprika or red chily powder
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp oregano powder
  • red chili flakes, optional
  • salt to taste
  • Cheese to garnish
  • Coriander leaves to garnish

Method

In a deep thick bottomed pot, heat oil. Saute onions, garlic and green chilies. Once slightly pink, then add the peppers. After a couple of minutes, add the tomatoes, along with some salt. Cover and cook till almost done. This will take about 10 minutes. At this stage add the chopped vegetables and pre cooked beans. Give it a mix. Add the tomato puree, along with paprika. Mix well and let the entire thing smolder for at least 15-20 minutes. Keep stirring in between to avoid burning.

Season with cumin and oregano. Just before serving, garnish with cheese and chopped coriander leaves.

Serve hot with rice or enjoy as it is.

Rajma with vegetables

Rajma with vegetables

“Simmer… simmer as long as you can.. thats what brings out the flavors of the spices..”, he advices. He served the delicacy with basmati rice and some red wine. Needless to say, our dinner was divine.

Memories

Memories

No matter how long I bubble, the spices I add or the beans I cook, I somehow fail to replicate the taste of the that night. Is it because it was my first, I wonder.

Mexican Red Rice and a Burrito

Mexican Red Bean and Corn Rice

Mexican Red Bean and Corn Rice

Mexican Rice is basically white rice simmered in a tangy tomato gravy – I lectured to my rapt mother. It’s a different feeling when you are educating someone who has actually tutored you all their life. The scene was no different from my 6-year-old playing teacher-teacher with me. Well.

‘Ah! Tomato bhaath’, mom said. I took a deep breath, ‘yes, tomato bhaath made a little differently’. Mom likes to relate anything she eats for the first time to something that she is familiar with. She does that a lot! For instance, Mexican chili is nothing but rajma rice with lot of vegetables for her or all our fancy dips are chutneys or Thai green curry is Kerala stew! But my almost 60 year old mum is game to new cuisines with such an infectious zest that she usually leaves you smiling and wondering what else could she come up with. 🙂
Sweet mother of mine!

I used corn and beans in my rice, topped with jalapeno and cheese.. umm yum! Wait, there is more. Layering with guacamole, fresh veggie salsa and loads of rice on soft tortillas – the lunch was a massive crowd pleaser and for once mother found nothing to compare it with. Yay!

Mexican Red Rice Burrito

Mexican Red Rice Burrito

Mexican Red Corn Bean Rice

Simmered in tangy skewed tomatoes

Simmered in tangy skewed tomatoes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup rice, washed and soaked for 30 minutes. I used white, can use brown rice too.
  • 1/2 cup boiled red kidney beans/rajma beans or any beans of your choice.
  • 1/4 cup corn kernels
  • 3-4 tomatoes, washed
  • 1-2 tsp olive oil, or any oil
  • 4-5 pods of garlic, minced
  • 1 medium-sized onion, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp red chili powder/paprika
  • 1 tsp oregano powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin powder
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Garnish: chopped jalapenos, corinader leaves and grated cheese

Method

In a pot of hot boiling water, make half way incisions on whole tomatoes, drop them in boiling water. After a couple of minutes. Remove the tomatoes, peel the skin, liquidize in a blender to get about a cup of tomato sauce.
Now, in another pot, heat oil. Fry garlic and onions till they turn translucent. Then add corn and beans, along with the soaked rice(no water). Saute the rice, corn and beans for a couple of minutes. Now add tomato sauce, sprinkle cumin powder, salt, pepper, paprika and oregano. Simmer for another minute or so. To this add another 1/2 cup water. Cover and cook till the rice is almost done. If required, add more water. Once done, cover and keep for some time, say 10 minutes. The covering makes the rice fluffy and soft.
Garnish with cheese, chopped jalapenos and coriander leaves.

Melted Cheese, Jalapenos add magic

Melted Cheese, Jalapenos add magic

Mexican Rice Burrito

This burrito is healthy, filling and so tasty! I made it with whole wheat chappathis/Indian flatbread, you could use corn tortillas too.

Corn for a bite, beans for the texture

Corn for a bite, beans for the texture

To make 2 burrito:

Ingredients

  • 2 tortillas, any kind. Corn, Maida/Flour tortillas can be used. I made mine with chappathis.
  • 4-6 tbsp of mexican rice, or as much as you want.
  • 2 tbsp of guacamole
  • 2 tbsp of tomato salsa OR 2 tbsp of freshly thinly sliced veggies like carrots, onions, cabbage, peppers – all mixed with salt and lemon juice.
  • 2 tbsp of jalapenos, minced
  • 2 tbsp grated cheese
  • sprinkling of mexican spice mix – I used a mixture of dried herbs like oregano and some chaat masala. Feel free to add any flavor you like.

Method

On a tortilla, spread 1 tbsp guacamole. Line your salsa or veggies in the center of the tortilla. Place 2 tbsp of mexican rice on the bed of veggie-guacamole. Now, top with jalapenos, cheese and mexican spice mix. Try to make a tight roll. Place a toothpick to hold it in place if required. Serve immediately.

Note: The original recipe called for tomato salsa, I didn’t have any, so I substituted with mixed thinly sliced vegetables.

Note: Mexican Spice Mix is readily available in stores, but since I had none, oregano and chat masala came to my rescue.

Note: Serve the burrito with sour cream by side – divine!

Note: The husband likes things crisp and extra roasted. So I roasted the filled burrito on a hot flat griddle again, with the help of little olive oil. You can serve the burrito as it is too.

Makes a beautiful burrito

Makes a beautiful burrito

Veg Burritos

My entry to Vardhini’s (Cooks Joy) “Dish It Out – Lentils/ Legumes and Vegetables” Event:

Dishing it Out!

Dishing it Out!

Mexican Burritos are essentially wraps with an assortment of leftovers. To arrange beans, Veggies, salsa, sour cream and cheese on maize flour tortillas, is really no big deal. But the result is soul satisfying. When you are famished, and lucky enough to have the right ingredients in your fridge, it will take no time to make this quick simple and healthy wrap. Devour it with a drink, in front of your television set or with a fabulous book in your hand. You might just end up eating more than you should.

Mexican Veg burritos.

Mexican Veg burritos.

To make 4 Veg Burritos –

Ingredients

  • 4 corn tortillas
  • 1 cup refried beans
  • 4 spoon full’s of sour cream
  • 4 spoon full’s of tomato salsa
  • ½ cup of thinly shredded veggies – cabbage, tomato, onion, carrot
  • red sauce and green sauce to taste
  • 2 spoon full’s of grated cheddar cheese

Method

For the beans: You could saute onions in oil along with bell peppers. Add the refried beans. Mix well and keep aside. If you dont have the time, use the refried beans as it is.

For the red sauce: mix tomato ketchup and red chili sauce.

Now, Place a tortilla on a board, take a big spoon full of beans and place it in the middle. Then, spread 1 spoonfuls each of sour cream and tomato salsa. Top with little shredded veggies. A few dots of green sauce and red sauce. 1/2 a spoon of grated cheese, and you are done decorating the tortilla. Now roll it up tightly. Traditionally the burritos is served as it is, but I tweak it into my Indian style by toasting the rolled up package again on a flat griddle, till it is crisp.
Carefully remove on to a serving plate, serve with sour cream, salsa on the side. We like extra refried beans and veggies beside our burrito. So that’s how I plated it up.

Note: I used corn tortillas, you can also flour tortillas .

Essentially a frankie with rajma and hung curd!

Essentially a frankie with rajma and hung curd!

Filling and satisfying.

Filling and satisfying.

Green Sauce

Green Sauce is used extensively in mexican cuisine. In tacos, burritos, fajitas. As a dip with chips. Uses are multiple, execution is super easy. You could make a good quantity of it and freeze for up to a month.
Recipe Courtesy: Tarla Dalal

Green Sauce

Green Sauce

Ingredients

  • 4-5 raw green firm tomatoes
  • 1 big onion
  • 4-5 green chilies
  • 1 tsp of vinegar
  • salt to taste

Method

Chop all the vegetables. Boil together for 5-8 minutes. Cool, remove excess water and grind to a fine paste.
Add vinegar and salt.
Store in an air tight container, keep refrigerated.

Tangy and spicy

Tangy and spicy

Broccoli Corn Cheese Quesadillas

Rummaging through the refrigerator yielded long forgotten sweet corn and a few florets of broccoli. When my comatose mind did not come up with something exciting, I tried the home bound. Coaxing the family into suggesting something interesting with my neglected veggies didn’t turn fruitful either. But then suddenly, saw a huge bowl of extra milk.. and lo! the sluggish mind swung right back into action! I made cottage cheese from the milk. So, I had paneer(cottage cheese), broccoli and corn! Great stuff to make a filler.
So this is how my quesadilla was born.

A helluva snacker.

A helluva snacker.

Ingredients

For the Filling:

  • 1/2 cup sweet corn, roughly chopped( yes, I chopped each tiny corn, I had some time on my hands.;))
  • 5-6 broccoli florets, roughly minced
  • 1/2 cup cottage cheese minced cubes
  • 1 onion, chopped fine
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, chopped fine
  • 1 green chili, minced
  • salt to taste
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp olive oil

For the Tortillas:

  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour(maida)
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • a small blob of butter
  • salt to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • warm water to make the dough

To assemble:

Method

In a skillet, heat oil, saute the garlic, green chili and onions. Once done, add the chopped corn and broccoli. Saute till the broccoli is half-cooked. Add the cottage cheese and salt and mix well. Once done, remove and keep aside.

Colors of health.

Colors of health.

Now, for the tortillas. Mix all the ingredients, without water. Rub the butter with the flour. Gently add in the warm water and Kneed into a semi soft dough. Keep aside for 30 minutes. After, that roll out thin nice rounds and slightly toast on a flat griddle. I would suggest make all the tortillas. Once cool, keep them covered in a box. Use within a day.

Now to assemble:
Take a tortilla, spread 2 spoonful of filling, grate cheese evenly over it. Cover with another tortilla. Now carefully pick this ensemble and toast with a little olive oil on both sides on a flat griddle. Be careful so that the filling doesn’t fall out.

Cut into neat triangles, arrange on a serving plate and serve with tomato salsa and sour cream on the side!

Tempting Triangles.

Tempting Triangles.

Tomato Salsa

This chunky flavourful mexican chutney literally yells out to you. Don’t believe me? Try it out and see for yourself.
Chips, quesadillas, burritos, nachos.. u name it, this tomato salsa is great with anything.
Recipe courtesy: Tarla Dalal

Tomato Salsa

Tomato Salsa

Ingredients

  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 medium sized capsicum
  • 2 big red ripe tomatoes
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • salt to taste
  • 1/4 tsp sugar
  • olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp chilly vinegar

Method

Make 4 incisions on your tomatoes, avoiding to cut it fully. Now put them in boiling hot water for a few minutes. Remove the skin and chop roughly. Now, using a fork, char your capsicum directly on the flame. Scrape the charred skin off, and mince roughly. Then in a pan, heat oil, saute the onions till pinkish. Then add all the ingredients and cook for a couple of more minutes. That’s it you’re done. Remove and store in a jar. Will easily last you for 2-3 days.

Up Close.

Up close.