G Daniela Galarza
THE WASHINGTON POST – I grew up on fast food. As a young kid, KFC’s fried chicken – original, not extra-crispy – was my favourite meal, and I loved ordering Taco Bell’s bean and cheese burrito, which happens to be the inspiration for tonight’s recipe. Even into my teens, McDonald’s was a regular road trip stop, and every once in a while, a tired parent dropped a bag of Burger King on the dinner table.
It’s not hard to see why fast food is so popular, especially among busy, working parents: Massive corporations spend millions of dollars engineering food that’s designed to make us salivate. A careful balance of salt, sugar and umami guarantees that everyone age two to 92 will want bite after bite. Billions of dollars in marketing helps maintain demand. And economies of scale, both on the purchasing end and the production side, keep the price of this food extra low. In a lot of ways, if you’re on a tight budget, a fast-food dinner is a sure bet.
But if you have the time, a kitchen and a little extra cash, almost any home-cooked meal is going to beat the pants off a fast-food dinner.
So tonight I thought we might re-create some of the flavours of my youth and make saucy, creamy refried beans for bean and cheese tacos. It’s an easy formula that requires just one pan and comes together in under 30 minutes.
You’re going to start by making what I think of as cheater refried beans: Saute onions and garlic, add beans, seasoning and a splash of water, and use a fork to mash them. (For a smoother texture, puree this mixture in a food processor). Stir in the juice of a lime to give it a little brightness, and keep it pretty hot on the stovetop.
Then, heat up some tortillas – I like warming each one over the flame of my gas burner, but you could also warm them in a pan or steam them in the microwave.
Then, assemble: Sprinkle cheese on each tortilla and top with the hot, creamy beans, letting the warmth of the beans melt the cheese. Fold the tortilla over and assemble the rest. Serve as-is, or with salsa, sour cream or crema, and/or hot sauce on the side.
Tonight’s recipe cost me a total of USD7.38, or USD1.85 per person for four people.
The majority of Americans purchase most of their food at their nearest grocery store. All of the shopping for this week’s Eat Voraciously recipes was done the week of September 5, 2022, at a grocery store in downtown Washington DC. Store discounts and coupons were used when applicable and available.
Cooking oil, salt, pepper and optional ingredients were omitted from the cost of these recipes.
I am very fortunate in that I don’t have to rely on fast-food restaurants for a hot meal.
These days, I try to spend my dollars at businesses that source their raw ingredients with sustainability and nutrition in mind and pay their workers living wages.
BEAN AND CHEESE TACOS
Two to four servings (makes four to eight tacos)
– Three tablespoons coconut or vegetable oil
– Quarter small white or yellow onion (about 1 ounce), coarsely grated
– Two cloves garlic, minced or finely grated
– One (15-ounce) can pinto beans, preferably no-salt-added, drained and rinsed
– Two teaspoons sazón, plus more to taste (see NOTE)
– Two tablespoons fresh lime juice (from 1 to 2 limes)
– Four to eight (five- or six-inch) tortillas, preferably flour
– Six ounces cheddar cheese or other melting cheese, grated, plus more if desired (about 1.5 cups)
– Sour cream, for serving (optional)
– Pico de gallo or other salsa, for serving (optional)
– Hot sauce, for serving (optional)
In a small skillet over medium heat, heat the oil until it shimmers. Add the onion and cook, stirring constantly, until it begins to brown, about two minutes. Reduce the heat to low and add the garlic, cooking just until it is very fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the beans and sazón. Using a fork, mash the beans into a rough paste. Stir in the lime juice and taste, adding more sazón, if desired. Remove from the heat and cover to keep warm. (If beans start to dry out, stir in a splash or two of water to loosen).
Wrap the tortillas in a clean, damp kitchen towel and microwave for 30 seconds to one minute, until hot. Or, heat tortillas in a dry skillet or individually over a gas burner, until lightly burnished on both sides.
To serve, spread a scant 1/4 cup of shredded cheese (about one ounce) in the centre of each hot tortilla. Top with a thick layer of hot refried beans. Sprinkle with additional cheese, if desired. Fold the tortillas over and serve hot, with sour cream, salsa and hot sauce on the side, if desired.