Spilling the beans on a quick, flavorful meal

What's Cooking

December 15, 2009 

Black beans are high in anti-oxidants and offer flavor, nutrition and good value. (Ken Hively / Los Angeles Times)

Black beans are high in anti-oxidants and offer flavor, nutrition and good value. (Ken Hively / Los Angeles Times)

I'm done with the holidays.

Well, at least I'm done with holiday food. I've cooked turkey and stuffing. I've baked cookie after cookie. I've made fudge. Lots of fudge.

I've perused recipes for the newspaper. Lots of recipes. If I encounter one more dish that calls for a stick of butter, I am going to break down in tears.

Who eats this way? I don't know of anyone who gets home from a hard day at work — or an afternoon of battling crowds at Toys R Us — and just can't wait to pipe frosting on sugar cookies or brine a 17-pound turkey.

Enter this week's recipe for crispy black bean tacos. It has nothing to do with the holidays. No butter, no cream, no melted chocolate.

It does, however, have an unusual mix of ingredients. Black beans and feta cheese? Cole slaw with lime juice dressing? Do these things really go together?

I was skeptical, but gave it a try. My husband did the shopping and picked up flour tortillas instead of corn. I didn't deem that worth a return trip to the store, so we forged ahead.

Preparation was a breeze. Mash beans, make dressing, pour in pre-cut slaw.

Really, if I didn't live in an age with salad in a bag, I don't know what I would do.

Frying the tacos went quickly. Three teaspoons of oil didn't seem like a lot, though, so I added a touch more before frying the last two tacos. Mistake. Those tacos were a bit greasy. My advice is to stick to the recipe.

The final product was a delicious mix of hearty bean filling and tart cabbage slaw. The feta added a tang. I didn't miss the meat.

If I make this again — I am sure I will — I would use corn tortillas and less filling. A little of the tangy taste goes a long way.

As one of our testers suggested you could even cut the tacos in half and serve them as appetizers for a holiday party.

Did I say holiday party?

Bee staff writer Kerry McCray can be reached at kmccray@modbee.com or 578-2358.

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Wow! These tacos were fantastic. I added chopped red onion and cumin to the slaw for more zip.

— Jan Gibson, Modesto

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I was a big fan of the cilantro/cabbage mix (and the leftover gave my tuna sandwiches a nice kick). I also liked the feta.

— Ann Griffith, Modesto

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I was excited to make these because I could taste them just by reading the recipe. The beans, cumin, lime, onion, cilantro and feta together were everything I knew they'd be. Very fresh and very flavorful. We always use Tapatio Hot Sauce and I would recommend that over a tomato salsa or a picante sauce for this ... we think they would be too sweet and drown the flavors. I didn't mash the beans because we like them whole and I microwaved the beans to warm them rather than fried them on tortillas.

— Karin Reenstierna, Modesto

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These were really delicious. The only changes I made were sautéing ½ cup of yellow onions (no green onions) and adding them with some red pepper flakes to the mashed beans. The slaw was tangy and the beans were meaty. I think the olive oil for frying was tasty, too.

— Sandy Loya, Modesto

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This sure made some happy vegetarians and I did enjoy one taco made according to the recipe, which I tripled. My next move was to put the beans alongside my rice, and put a chunk of crispy baked fish on my taco ... so much better. Be sure to offer lime wedges to squeeze onto the tacos, as it really adds a bright freshness. I didn't have feta, so I used Gorgonzola. If I make this again, I will use the little 2-bite corn tortillas to make the tacos. I think this taco might be more appetizer than entree.

— Carolyn Conser, Modesto

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I made the tacos the old-fashioned way — frying them submerged in hot oil until nearly crispy, folding them and letting them drain on paper towels. I wanted the beans warm, so I microwaved them. Then we made the tacos complete by adding the beans, feta, cole slaw and hot sauce. They were delicious. The cole slaw recipe given here is worth saving, especially if your olive oil is flavored with jalapeños.

— Ralph Moore, Modesto

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I love tacos, but was at first skeptical of ones with Greek cheese, not to mention no hamburger. These, however, are a delicious, easy vegetarian version.

— Joan Peck, Modesto

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The slaw adds just the right amount of crunch and the feta cheese sort of melts so it is creamy and adds a wonderful, different taste.

— Ann Waldron, Sequim, Wash., formerly of Modesto

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