This first effort to recreate the Mexican food experience has evolved into a family favorite and is a real staple in our house. Eventually it also taught me how much bias I brought with me to the kitchen with respect to nightshades: I thought I simply HAD to find a way to replace the savory elements of the pepper powders I had always liberally sprinkled in. I didn’t realize that many authentic Mexican refried recipes actually don’t contain peppers at all, relying on the infusion of onions and garlic instead.
Still, I’m very happy with what the kalonji and amchur provide, and we make them regularly both with and without the meat. Roll this in a burrito, scoop it into a taco, or serve a dollop with huevos and it will stick to your ribs the way refrieds are supposed to. For salsa, slaw, and other complementary dishes, look under Flex-Mex.
- 2 cups of dried pinto, maya coban, or black beans (that’s 3 to 4 twelve ounce cans)
- olive oil for sauté
- 1 large onion
- 4 carrots, chopped (between 1 and 2 cups)
- 1 pound ground turkey
- 1 cube of nightshade-free vegetable bouillon
- 1 heaping tablespoon kalonji seeds
- 1 tablespoon amchur powder
- 1 tablespoon Mexican oregano
- 2 tablespoons cumin
- 2 teaspoons coriander
- 1 teaspoon table pepper
- 1 tablespoon garlic granules
- 1/2 teaspoon salt (skip if using canned beans with salt already in them)
1Cook up the beans. Drain and reserve the bean water. Puree about 1/3 of the beans, or use a potato smasher to rough up about half of them.
2Put a large, heavy skillet or Dutch oven on medium heat. Add the oil, and sauté the kalonji seed for a few minutes. While they will sometimes pop, they aren’t as lively as mustard seeds, so be careful not to burn them or get the oil too hot.
3Add the onions and sauté until soft, usually 5 to 7 minutes. A touch of caramelization here is good. Add the carrots and continue cooking until they begin to soften. (Sometimes carrots cook slowly; a splash of the reserved bean water can hurry things up.)
4If using meat, clear a space in the middle of the pan and add, breaking up with a fork as it cooks. I like to sprinkle the cumin, coriander, pepper, oregano, and garlic granules on top of the meat. If you’re skipping the meat, you might want to add a vegetable bouillon cube for flavor depth.
5Take some of the bean water and dissolve the bouillon and the amchur. Once the turkey is fully cooked add the mixture and bring to heat, then add the smooshed beans and the whole beans.
6Bring to a simmer and adjust water, adding the reserve as needed. You’ll need enough to finish the cooking without the beans sticking, but not so much that they are too liquid.
Variations: Add a cup of corn or a large handful of chopped greens, particularly if you’re skipping the meat. Chard or beet greens are my favorite, but spinach is easy.