Veg*n Cooking and Other Random Musings: Pinto Bean and Chard Quesadillas with Mexican Slaw and Guacamole

Friday, May 15, 2009

Pinto Bean and Chard Quesadillas with Mexican Slaw and Guacamole

This meal was not only super tasty, it was a nice way to use up both the local ingredients we had on hand, as well as some of the non-locals that have been hanging around to help fill the void of fresh produce. I love trying new things, but for some reason - perhaps I have seasonal affective disorder :-) - I seemed to have lost my cooking mojo in the early part of the year. I am happy to say it is coming back and so far I've had pretty good luck with what I've tried.

I love using simple whole foods, tons of fresh ingredients, and pair them in simple ways that take them to another level. I don't think food has to be pretentious - in fact, that just isn't my style. It also doesn't have to be complicated - by technique, number of ingredients, or some nutritionist logic of combining specific nutrients for "utmost effectiveness". Food doesn't have to be challenging, difficult, or confusing - it should be simple, straight forward common sense, and a pleasing experience to be shared with others.

It is sad to see so many people who come to see food as an enemy, they see it as merely fuel, when food is not only the source of life, it has been, in history, an expression of culture. The problem in reality is that Americans seem to have the one cultural diet that doesn't work. The way we view food, our relationship to it, it's purpose, and the scientific lens we have put it under has caused a culture of obesity and degenerative diseases. Interesting that the more we think we know, the more we tinker with food, the worse our health gets, and the harder it becomes for us to figure out what it is that we should be eating.

That is why I am a proponent of the cultural diet. Humans can be healthy and thrive on an incredibly diverse number of different diets. These diets, passed down over generations, by necessity have been the healthiest diets for the people in the region. The cultural diets are expressions of the land, and the people's ability to coax, combine, and create combinations of food that are celebrations and also sound nutritionally. The American diet has never been this way and as we see it spread across the world, we see our health problems being outsourced right along with it.

The cultural diet we tend to live by is, obviously, Mexican, Latin, or Southwestern. The combinations of many fresh veggies, healthy proteins in the form of legumes, pulses, and nuts, healthy fiber in the form of the fresh veggies, whole grain rice, and grains like quinoa in concert provide a wonderful level of nutritional benefit. There is also much flavoring provided by sauces loaded with tomatoes, peppers, onions, and garlic - things we all know are good for us - but are much better in combination, better still in combination with beans and rice, though scientists don't really understand why. This is again part of the problem with reductionist science - these folks seem to think that there is one thing that can be isolated and added to something else that would provide the same level of nutrition and health as the whole foods in combination. It doesn't appear to work like that, and explanation or not, folks who subscribe to a cultural diet (and also don't fret over calories, antioxidants, cartenoids, and all the other buzz words in today's nutritional mine field), seem to be happier, healthier, and have a better relationship with food, community, and their land.

The point of all this - there are always so many fads going around as to the "keys to perfect health", it is always based on one nutrient, one compound, or more often still, something you should avoid. Whole foods are more than the sum of their nutrient parts, whether it can be explained by modern reductionist science or not, and that is a basic lesson that makes "what to eat" a lot easier to figure out.

Pick a type of food you like and see where it takes you. We like Mexican and have been subscribing to a vegetarian cultural Mexican, Southwestern, Latin (or inspired) diet for about three years and in that time I have lost about 30 pounds, become healthier, more active, my hair looks better, my skin looks better, Brett is more active, and I never worry about calories, fat, nutrients, etc. My eye sight has improved as my diet has improved. I truly don't understand it. I used to have to wear glasses when I read as my eyes would begin to have trouble focusing and everything would go blurry for a little while. A couple of years ago, a few months into our new way of eating, I noticed I didn't need the glasses anymore. I haven't needed them since. I still don't get it. We also enjoy our food far more - there are boundaries based on the typical flavor profiles we are choosing to use, but there is so much room for creativity, variation, and improvisation.

The moral of the story? Food should be fun, it should be enjoyed, and there are ways of simplifying the way we look at food that will not only make our food choices easier, but likely provide significant improvements to our health. Now this is just my opinion, I am no doctor or nutritionist, but I can say that I trust my own body and my common sense and this is what works for me.

I am getting off the soap box now and moving on to the recipe. :-)

The local booty legend (aka revealing my sources):
no asterisk = grocery store
+ = local produce from The Root Cellar
++ = The Peace Nook (will denote whether product is local or just from the Nook)
* = farmer's market
** = CSA
*** = Container or Community Garden
**** = the non-profit buying club, Blue Planet or Purcell Mountain Farms

Mexican Slaw:
2 cups red cabbage, shredded fine
1 carrot, peeled and shredded
1/4 yellow onion, sliced thin
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped fine *
2 tbsp veganaise
1 tbsp lime juice
1 tsp cumin
black pepper

Combine all the veggies in a small bowl.

Whisk together veganaise, lime juice, and seasonings to taste.

Pour dressing over veggies and combine well.

Refrigerate for at least an hour to allow flavors to meld.

Pinto Bean and Chard Quesadillas:
2 cups pinto beans, cooked ****
1/2 onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tomatoes, chopped *
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped fine *
6 cups fresh chard, chopped *
1 tbsp canola oil
a squirt of sriracha
black pepper

Heat canola oil in a medium skillet. Add onions and garlic and cook for about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes, cilantro, beans and seasonings and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Add the chard and stir frequently until chard is wilted.

Simmer on low for about a half an hour. The beans, veggies, and seasonings will create their own tasty sauce.

Once the bean mixture is finished, layer cheese (if desired) and the filling in a warmed tortilla. Fry and serve with Mexican Slaw and Simple Guacamole.

Well, Happy Friday everyone.

'Til next time.


DP Nguyen said...

I do agree with you on keeping cultural diets. Eating healthier does make you have more energy and recharges you. when I eat fattening food, I tend to feel very bloated.

The meal looks yummy.

Daphne said...

I love Mexican food too. Beans are one of my favorite foods. Yum.

Heather @ SGF said...

I love your philosophy on food and eating! I pretty much stick to a constant diet, although I don't know that there's a culture for it - lots of fruits, veggies, nuts, beans, rice, and wheat berries. I only eat bread products when I eat out and then only whole grain.

I love my diet. It's tasty, easy, and is composed of 100% whole foods.

Ok, now to that meal. Pass the quesadillas, please! You're making me hungry!

Anonymous said...

I am a fan of simple ingredients too--how can you go wrong with simple, whole foods?! Yum!

That slaw looks so pretty with the purple cabbage and carrots and cilantro! Beautiful and delicious :o)


jessy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jessy said...

pinto beans + chard = mmmmmmm! totally sounds like a combination i would adore, Jennifer – and i too love using super fresh and whole ingredients – nothing beats them! yay! dan & i are always saying when we cook “keep it simple” – it’s our new motto & i puffy heart it the most! i like your idea with the cultural diet, Jennifer! i’m gonna have to try & pick a food type and see where it takes me! that’s too awesome on the benfits you guys have seen on yours! wow! i couldn’t agree with you more – food should fo ‘sho be fun! and i can’t wait to try your quesadillas & slaw! hooray! happy friday to you too and enjoy your weekend! superw00t!

Catherine said...

Happy Friday to you, too!

I enjoy the cultural diets, too -- I just happen to visit several different cultures in one week. :) Hooray for whole foods!!

Anonymous said...

I feel exactly the same way - somehow I don't like the overly complex food, the simple fresh ingredients, and just a few of them paired together do much more to make me happy. Just something to share with others, or even just enjoy on my own.
On the cultural diet - I'd never thought about that before. I guess I'm heavily influenced my my Indian background, but I don't make only strictly Indian dishes. Actually, I remember once I came up with a combo of two veg that, in India, are both eaten separately but that people would *never* think of pairing. But doing so just seemed right to me.... imagine the gasps when my family came to the table. But hey, once they got over the "that's not right!" they loved it and thought it made sense.
I guess you could say that it is just seasonal, fresh produce, lots of legumes/beans, whole grains, and combinations that "sound good" to me. Making things at home I think connects me to food much more than any other aspect.
Pinto beans and chard are both favs of mine, so I am definitely saving this recipe idea. Too bad chard isn't ready yet - I don't like to wait!

Chessa said...

Those quesadillas look amazing! I tend to overlook the quesodilla since I equate it so much with cheese. But it really doesn't have to have it. Yum!

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