Friday, January 19, 2007


Tuesday was about the third time I’ve made these, but I’ve resisted accepting the recipe into my repertoire because (a) It’s somewhat similar to other recipes I make regularly (in that it involves tortillas, cheese, and black beans), and (b) It’s one of those recipes so simple that it’s nearly intuitive, leading me to think, “I could have come up with this! Why do I need a recipe?” But of course, I didn’t come up with this; Cooking Light did. And it’s easy and speedy and delicious—like little personal taco pizzas, basically, with pureed, seasoned, lime-spiked black beans for the sauce.

I think Cooking Light suggested using storebought rotisserie chicken as a convenience, but the reason I find this recipe so genius is that it’s the perfect way to use the extra meat I sometimes end up with after roasting a chicken or making chicken-noodle soup, or even from other recipes with complimentary flavorings, like Israeli Spice Chicken. As with pizza, you can modify the toppings however you like; the original recipe calls for adding shredded lettuce and sour cream after cooking, but we don't use them, preferring instead cilantro and a drizzle of salsa. For extra zest, we also use pepper Jack instead of plain Jack. Although I think the seasonings are just about right in this recipe, it's OK to mess around with a lot of the quantities--the original recipe had very precise measurements, because that's how Cooking Light operates, but I'll admit I don't bother with measuring out exactly 3 tablespoons of cheese or 1/4 cup chicken for each tostada; I just use however much looks like a good amount to cover the tortilla.

The finished tostadas make OK leftovers, but the tortillas don't stay crisp. Sometimes I don’t want more leftovers when my fridge is already packed with them, but it's awkward to halve the recipe because then you end up with a half-can of leftover black beans. Luckily, this recipe is so versatile and easy to assemble that if I don't want 4 tostadas immediately, it's easy to prep all of the components but then only assemble 2 tostadas, storing the extra chicken, tortillas, cheese, and black bean mixture in the fridge all ready for later, perhaps a nice quick lunch on the weekend. (The avocado mixture won't last more than a day or two without turning brown and getting mushy, but you can just use storebought salsa instead if you like.)

Now that I look back at the recipe, I see that it's actually called "Soft Black Bean Tostadas." That's weird to me--a soft tostada? Why call it that when the crisp tortilla crust can be so nice? The original recipe has you broiling the tostadas, but back when my broiler was nonfunctional, I got into the habit of baking them at 450 instead, and this makes the difference--because the heat comes from below when you bake, the tortilla gets crisper while the toppings stay moister. I think this method is preferable, even though it might take a few more minutes. But if you want the "soft," super-quick version, feel free to broil instead.

1 medium avocado, peeled and chopped
1 tomato, seeded and chopped (I've sometimes used about 3/4 cup halved cherry tomatoes instead)
¼ cup thinly sliced green onion
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
½ teaspoon ground cumin
⅛ teaspoon salt
⅛ teaspoon ground red pepper
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
4 (8-inch) flour tortillas
1 cup shredded cooked skinless, boneless chicken breast
¾ cup (3 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese (I use pepper Jack)
Salsa and/or cilantro, if desired

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

2. Combine the first five ingredients (avocado through ¼ teaspoon salt) in a small bowl. Toss gently and set aside.

3. Combine the next six ingredients (water through black beans) in a blender; process until smooth.

4. Place the tortillas on baking sheet(s) and spread ¼ of the black bean mixture evenly over each tortilla. Top each evenly with ¼ cup chicken and 3 tablespoons cheese. Bake until cheese melts and tortilla edges begin to brown.

5. Top each tortilla with ¼ of the avocado mixture (and salsa and/or cilantro, if desired). Cut each tortilla into 4 wedges and serve.

Serves: 4
Time: 25 minutes

No comments: