Dinner and a Novel

I am reading  a wonderful novel, The Lacuna  by Barbara Kingsolver. The first half takes place in Mexico. Frido Kahlo, Diego Rivera and cast of other real life personalities show up to interact with the fictional hero.  There is much cooking and detailed decriptions of what everyone was eating morning, noon and night. So it’s no wonder that I found myself with a taste for jalapenos, mole, and chayote. 

I had a fridge full of food and we’ve been eating out quite a bit, so going to a Mexican restaurants wasn’t an option. And I needed a break from meat- too much of that the past week. So using what I found on hand, and perhaps drawing inspiration by osmosis from my reading, I put together a version of  vegetarian chalupas. The game changing ingredient was sweet potato.

It was a really good meal- not an authentic one by any stretch of the imagination, but one that was delicious, healthy, and satisfied my craving for Mexican flavors. Here’s the how.

1. Dice 1 onion, 1 carrot, 2 stalks celery, 1 large clove garlic. Saute until soft in a small amount of oil.

 2.Add 1 can drained black beans, half a sweet potato diced, 1 jar of good quality spicy, chunky salsa (I had wonderful homemade stuff canned by my son Nathan last summer),  1 tablspoon tomato paste, and 1 teaspoon Thai fish sauce (to give it depth) diluted with an equal amount water (very important).

 3.Simmer over low heat until potatoes are fork tender. Add water or another spoonful of tomato paste diluted with water, if more liquid is needed. Salt and pepper to taste.

To serve: Spoon hot bean and sweet potato mixture into warm edibile taco bowls. Top with a sprinkling of grated cheese ( mine was a pre-shredded packaged mix of Monterey Jack, Cheddar, Queso Quesadilla, and Asadero from Sargento).  Then layer on the following: shredded iceberg lettuce tossed with fresh lime juice,  chopped scallions, diced red pepper, and green pimento stuffed olives ( no reason for these over black ones- that’s just what was in the cupboard), and 2 ripe avocados sliced. Spoon salsa over all, plus a dollop of thick middle eastern style yogurt (labna) and a squeeze of lime.   

Two of us ate until we felt full and happy, very happy, and there’s till some left for lunch. I’ll eat it while reading the next chapter.


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