Tuesday, 13 December 2011

chef surprise or old-new world cuisine

I tried my developing skill—well interest or perhaps just curiosity, at a more complicated dish: black bean and sweet potato tortillas. The process, messier and a little more demanding, was a reflective one, going from skepticism at the combination, the clashing colours and textures—the orange sherbet of the grated sweet potato and the oil-gush of black beans from a can—to thinking about how all the ingredients are native to the Americas. The sweet potato, a vegetable distinct from the Asian fruit of the yam, the tomato, chile, the black beans (frijol negro), the corn (we call it maize) tortillas are all native to the Americas. The cheese, too, I suppose, but I think it could be reduced or almost eliminated since it didn’t really carry the meal, unlike in a lot of cases. I am an advocate for supporting local farming but old world choices would really be impoverished without new world discoveries.

Makes four servings
  • About 800 ml of whole, peeled tomatoes (28 oz can)
  • 6-8 corn tortillas
  • 2+ teaspoons of chili powder, oregano, salt and pepper to taste
  • 3+ tablespoons of cooking oil
  • 2 garlic cloves and a large onion
  • 2 small to medium sweet potatoes
  • 500 g shredded cheese (Cheddar or a spicy mix)
  • 450 g of black beans (14 oz can)

First, peel and grate the sweet potatoes coarsely for about a 500 g (two handfuls) yield, chop and dice the onion and put aside. Preheat the oven to 230°C (450°F). Start heating up a skillet on the range, on medium heat with about a tablespoon of cooking oil and toss in about half of the diced onion and the garlic. While that is cooking, with a food processor or hand mixer, puree the tomatoes, the other half of the onions with a bit of oil, salt and pepper until smooth and transfer to a bowl and set aside. To the onions and garlic on the range, stir in the grated sweet potato and black beans with the chili and oregano and let cook an additional 5-6 minutes. Take a casserole dish and spread the tomato mixture on the bottom, covering the pan but not too thick. Remove the beans and sweet potatoes from the heat and stir in a couple handfuls of cheese and allow it to gel for about a minute. Spoon the bean and sweet potato mixture on the tortillas, roll, and place in the casserole dish. Afterwards, top with the remaining tomato mixture and the rest of the cheese. Pop the casserole dish in the oven for about 20 minutes, until the cheese browns and bubbles and the excess liquid cooks away.