Feb 25, 2012

Pinto Bean Picadillo

The way I see it, there are three ways to cook vegetarian: 1) you ignore that meat ever existed and just come up with your own dishes that only use the ingredients you eat; 2) you find meat recipes and substitute the meat with mock meat; or 3) you find meat recipes and adapt them for your kitchen. Not surprisingly, options one and three are the ones I follow in my kitchen. While I'm sure there are wonderful mock meat products out there, I like my food to taste like itself -- not pretend to be something it isn't. I also have the luxury that, if I'm really dying for some meat, I'll eat it.

But before we get into a political discussion about why people eat vegetarian, let me tell you about this Pinto Bean Picadillo. I first heard about Picadillo last month when the New York Times Dining & Wine Section posted a recipe for Party Picadillo. It was a one-pot dish (and, with the addition of rice, a complete meal). Moreover, they described Picadillo as a "versatile, richly seasoned ground-meat dish from Latin America" and, well, I was hooked. I'd already started making out my grocery list when I realized "wait, if I make this, what will the vegetarian have for dinner?" The ground beef is added too early in the recipe for it to be easy to take out and, moreover, so much of its flavor depends on everything melding together. So I bookmarked the recipe (maybe when we have company for dinner and I make enough sides to satisfy him?) and forgot about it.

Luckily, in search of inspiration, I stumbled on it again. And this time I thought -- let's vegetarianize it! So out went the beef and in went some pinto beans. To reinforce their flavor, I added in some safflower oil and white onions. Finally, because pinto beans are more delicately flavored than ground beef, I upped all the spices. Serve over plain brown rice for a complete protein. Enjoy with a glass of Merlot, followed by a slice of Banana Sour Cream Bread. Bon appetit!

Pinto Bean Picadillo
inspired by The New York Times

In a bowl, mix pinto beans and Merlot together well. Let sit so the flavors can meld. Meanwhile, heat oil in a very large pan over low heat. Add onions, bell peppers, jalapeno peppers and garlic and gently saute until softened, about 10 minutes. Stir in olives and raisins, increase heat to medium and add bean and Merlot mixture, including all the liquid that wasn't absorbed. Toss everything together and let cook 10 minutes.

Stir in oregano, cumin, tomato paste, kosher salt and cayenne pepper. Lower heat back to low and cook, covered, 30 minutes. (This is a really good time to make your rice if you haven't already done so).

Top with almonds and serve warm over rice. Serves 6.

Links to other pinto bean delicacies:

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