Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The best laid plans of taco nite

I adore Amy Green's blog, so when she she came out with a cookbook I went right over to Amazon to preorder! Since the happy day that it arrived in my mailbox I have been trying things out and loving every single one, with the possible exception of carob. I feel for people who are avoiding sugar and dairy, and thus inadvertently depriving themselves of a lot of chocolate. Chocolate is proof someone, somewhere loves us. But I digress. Taco Nite! She does a recipe for sweet potato and black bean tacos that I have been dying to try and this was the perfect event! Except I couldn't find my steamer. Hmm. Well, what about parboiling, then roasting? I can do that. And I have black beans in my pantry; I wasn't going to go spend money on canned beans when I can soak beans during day then cook overnight. (yes, if you are new here, OCD is often mentioned in connection with me, however did you guess?) And then I caught some show on the Food Network with Bobby Flay doing a sweet potato taco-where he used some glaze with maple syrup and chipotle. Hmm.... So the resulting tacos were more of a homage to both of these amazing chefs.

Sweet Potato & Black Bean Tacos

3 largish sweet potatoes (approximately 3lbs)
3 cups black beans, cooked with cooking liquid. (I soaked for 8 hours while at work, then cooked slowly in crock pot overnight. Amy used cans of black beans (use 3). you choose!)
1 yellow onion, chopped.
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1 tablespoon Chipotle Tabasco
1 tablespoon ancho chile powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt (but really, salt to taste-this is just a guideline)
1 tablespoon scotch
2 limes, juiced.
4 limes, cut into wedges

Corn Tortillas
Toppings of your choice

Cut the potatoes into bite size pieces. Yeah, a pain, but the more even your pieces, the faster and more evenly your potatoes will cook. Put in a large stockpot and just cover with water and bring to boil. Now, we are parboiling these, so just boil long enough so that they just start to give when pressed, but are not soft enough for a fork to go through! Maybe 5 minutes. Drain and place in a large bowl.
Preheat oven to 425 degreesF.
In a small bowl, whisk the syrup, Tabsaco, scotch and spices together. Now add lime juice to taste- I like lime, you may not, but all that smokey spicy sweetness needs a tart counterpoint so please use the juice of at least one lime. Now pour over the sweet potatoes and toss to coat. Line a rimmed cookie sheet (don't want sweet potatoes escaping onto your oven floor) with aluminium foil (you don't want to clean maple syrup off your pan) and place into your hot oven. Roast potatoes for 25 minutes or so til all is smelling wonderful and there is a little crisp edge to the potatoes. Take them out and let cool slightly. Turn oven down to 200 degreesF and throw in a group of tortillas to warm through.
While the potatoes are roasting, heat oil of your choice (we used safflower) over med/high heat and saute the onion in a large skillet. When the onion is nearly translucent and smelling lovely, add in in 1 cup of the beans. Mash the beans into the onion. You may need to add a little of the cooking liquid (or can liquid) to get it to a nice consistency. Now add in the remaining beans and combine thoroughly. I like the combination of some mashed, some whole; feel free to mash all the beans if you choose. Ok, potatoes done. Beans done. Toss them together in a large bowl. Serve with tortillas, and taco toppings of choice. We followed Amy's suggestion of queso fresco for those who could have dairy, Daiya cheese for those who couldn't, shredded red cabbage, squeeze of fresh lime juice and Amy's great carrot and jicama slaw. Do as you will! served about 8, generously.

flush of success

Replete with coconut milk caramel, I decided that there has got to be more ways to use this luscious milk. Case in point-Whole Foods sends me these little recipe emails and one of them was featured a flan recipe. I thought how serendipitous! I am having taco night and flan will go with that beautifully! Except for the fact that Leslie can't have eggs or dairy. Ok, so sub dairy with coconut milk-check. Eggs? How do you do custard without eggs?? This took a bit more pondering, eating of sugar, then it hit me: agar agar!! It helped set up the lemon bars, so hey I bet it would set the milk. Turns out, I am right, which is always a beautiful thing; as opposed to when I am wrong and have wasted ingredients on something that looks as if evil trolls left it in my kitchen for a cruel prank. The next time I might try using half coconut milk, half hemp or almond; this tasted lovely, but like coconut. So if you think you might want a more neutral flavor to your flan, a mix of milks is the way to go. I used agave in the custard itself, since several of us are trying to lessen the refined sugar we eat. So, you could, conceivably, have panna cottas from this recipe if you can't have any sugar. However, I have not had much success with caramelizing other sugars- anybody have any suggestions for this? If so, please rush your mouse right over to leave a comment!

Submitted to Slightly Indulgent Tuesday and Allergen-Free Friday
Coconut Milk Flan

2 cans of unsweetened coconut milk (Use at least one can for the 'cream', to help with the consistency of the custard. I used the 365 brand)
2 tablespoons agar agar flakes
1 tablespoon triple sec (I thought orange would be nice-feel free to sub vanilla)
1/4 cup of light agave nectar
1 cup sugar

In a heavy saucepan, heat the sugar by itself over med/high heat. DO NOT MOVE THE SUGAR! You want to let it melt and caramelize evenly and if you try to muck about with it now, you will not get smooth, luscious caramel. Now, when you start to see the edges go brown, and brown spots appear in the middle of the white expanse of sugar, take the pan off the heat and swirl like a madwoman. (you can stir like a madwoman with a heat proof spatula, I suppose. But what fun is that?) This will help the rest of the sugar melt and it won't burn to an unrecognizable blob that has to be chipped off your pan. Now you should have a lovely liquid pure caramel-pour it VERY QUICKLY into a 9 x 13 pyrex and try to spread it as much as possible before it starts to harden-which it will! So important to start pouring and spreading AS SOON AS all the sugar has melted. Set aside somewhere warmish-I set mine on the back of my stovetop.
Ok, the milk. Pour the two cans of coconut milk in a heavy saucepan and whisk until the 'cream' has combined back with the more watery looking milk. (I keep my cans in fridge-if you don't, then this may be super quick for you) Now bring the milk to a simmer. Add agave, whisk in completely. Add agar agar. Bring to a boil. Be careful to watch this pot! Boiled over milk just stinks-literally, and it is a waste of money. When it has reached full boil, lift it up off the burner and whisk like a dervish. You will still see little floaty wisps of agar agar. Set the pan back on hot burner and bring to boil again, then immediately turn heat down to med, to let the 'custard' simmer gently until all of the agar agar has dissolved, another 10 minutes or so. Now, pour this still very hot (be careful not to burn yourself)'custard' into your prepared 9 x 13 pyrex. You will hear hiss and pop as the hot liquid hits the sugar-that is normal. Let it cool a bit at roomtemp, then cover with plastic wrap (if you try to do this immediately, it will steam, which you don't want) and refrigerate for 8 hours. This makes a very thin flan, which I prefer- feel free to use a smaller pan for a thicker slice of flan. served 10 with small pieces.