Wednesday, August 25, 2004


I don’t love beans, but black beans are exempt, especially when they’re all seasoned and cooked and smushed up as they are here (cold, whole beans = ewwwww). This recipe is an old standby from my more vegetarian days, and I find it comforting, satisfying, and easy to prepare. Even A, who loves beans even less than I do, consents to eat it, smothered in salsa. “Real” flautas are, of course, fried, so these are more like baked burritos. I like how the tortillas get crisp and toasty, and although they’re less crisp the next day, these still make for good leftovers.

This may be one recipe I wouldn’t describe as “summery.” It’s not a heavy meal by any means, but a warm pot of beans always seems hearty and wintry to me. Plus, unlike so many of the dishes I seem to be making lately, you don’t need your produce to be especially high-quality or in-season. So, eat flautas with impunity all year round.

2 16-ounce cans black beans (including liquid)
2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
12 6-inch flour tortillas (actually, I usually use the 8-inch variety, and they seem to hold the fillings in better)
6 scallions, white parts plus 2 inches of greens, minced
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 cup grated cheddar cheese (Monterey Jack, plain or with jalapeno peppers, works well here, too)

1. Open the cans of beans and dump all the contents into a medium saucepan, then add the garlic, chili powder, cumin, and bay leaf. Simmer all this over low heat for about 10 minutes (maybe a bit longer; I like my beans to break down as much as possible).

2. When the beans seem done, remove the bay leaf. Then drain out most of the liquid from the beans—always a messy procedure, in my experience. Sometimes I’ve just held the lid over the pot to keep the beans in while I’ve poured out the liquid, and sometimes I’ve just poured everything into a strainer. Either way, reserve the bean liquid you drain out (using one of the empty bean cans works well). After draining, mash the beans with a spoon or fork, adding back in some of the bean liquid until you reach your desired consistency. For me, that’s not too paste-like, but not so runny that they’ll leak out of the tortillas while cooking.

3. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and then set up a little assembly line of tortillas, beans, scallions, tomatoes, and cheese. Fill each tortilla with one or two heaping tablespoonfuls of the beans and then top that with scallions, tomatoes, and cheese. (I always have to be careful not to use too much of each ingredient, so there’s enough to fill all the tortillas, but typically I do use a little more cheese than the recipe asks for.) Roll each filled tortilla into a tube shape and place them, seam sides down, in a 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish. When they're all assembled, bake them until they're lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Serve with salsa if desired.

Serves: 6 (2 flautas per serving)
Time: 45 minutes

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