Issue 12  •  Spring 2013

Fajitas for Dinner

Written by Melissa Levin
Cooking is amazing, which is why I’m sorry I don’t have more time to do it. Like most of my friends, I work full-time and often get home late. Over the years, I’ve discovered that, if you have a few versatile recipes in your repertoire, you can cook dinner even after a long day of work, school, or anything else you might find yourself doing.
The following fajita-style meal can be made for one, two, or many more. It’s perfect for a quiet night at home or a buffet style dinner. It can be vegetarian or not. And it can be as homemade or store-bought as you want it to be.

What makes it really easy is that you basically prepare everything, and then just set it out for self-assembly! (That way your friends who hate cilantro can totally avoid it!)

Below are recipes for vegetarian fajitas for two people and maybe some leftovers; a salad; and caramelized bananas over your favorite ice cream. Because this is an assemble-it-yourself kind of meal, you can easily add or subtract any ingredient. If you are not a vegetarian, for example, add chicken or steak!

While I include salad and dessert suggestions, like many parts of this meal, these are also optional.

FAJITAS
What you will need:

1 tablespoon of unsalted butter
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 large onion (red or white, sliced thin)
a few pinches of kosher salt and freshly ground pepper (S&P)
a pinch of chili powder
a pinch of coriander
a pinch of cumin
1 red pepper (sliced thin)
1 yellow pepper (sliced thin)
a few splashes of balsamic vinegar
a squeeze fresh of orange juice (optional)
2 cans of black beans (preferably organic with no salt added; you can also use dried beans if you prefer)
3 garlic cloves (chopped)
6 scallions (white and light green parts chopped)
cilantro to taste (roughly chopped)
1 avocado (sliced)
2 limes (cut into quarters)
1-2 cups of jack cheese or mild white cheddar (grated)
1 package of small flour tortillas

1. For the fajita filling, heat a sauté pan over medium heat. Add butter and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Stir in onions. Add a few pinches of S&P, the chili powder, cumin, and coriander, and then stir again.

2. After a few minutes, when the onions begin to soften, add sliced peppers. Stir and add more olive oil if needed. Add another pinch of S&P. Stir together and let caramelize for 15-20 minutes over medium heat. Just before serving, stir in a few splashes of balsamic vinegar and a squeeze of orange.

2. While the onions and peppers caramelize, drain and rinse the beans and put them in a small pot over medium heat. Add chopped garlic, scallions, and S&P to taste. Let the beans heat all the way through, stirring occasionally. Cover and set aside until ready to serve.*
 
3. Once the beans are heating and the veggies are caramelizing, you can chop, slice, and grate the cilantro, avocado, limes, and cheese.

4. Right before serving, I like to heat the tortillas, which you can do in a dry sauté pan over medium heat or wrapped in tin foil in the toaster oven (on the bake setting at a low heat, like 250 degrees).

5. Assemble and lightly dress the salad and serve right alongside the fajitas.

6. Plate everything—the beans, veggies, grated cheese, chopped cilantro, quartered limes, sliced avocados, and salsa—and arrange for assembly. Set out a stack of warm tortillas. (If it’s just for you, or you and a close friend, you can serve yourselves straight from the pots and pans too!)

7. DIG IN!
 
*If you are using dried beans, follow instructions you like for soaking beans—there are a few ways to do it. Click here for a great link with detailed instructions. When you have 10-15 minutes of cooking left, add garlic, scallions, and S&P.

SALSA—You can buy it at the store or make it yourself up to one day in advance!
What you will need (if you are interested in making it yourself):

2 tomatoes (chopped)
1 red onion (chopped)
1 jalapeño pepper (finely chopped)
2 garlic cloves (finely chopped)
1 handful of cilantro (chopped)
lemon juice to taste
S&P to taste

Mix everything together for a tangy salsa.

SALAD
What you will need:

mixed greens or arugula (washed and spun dry)
tomatoes (roughly chopped)
hearts of palm (roughly chopped)
anything else you might like (the last time I made this, for example, I included leftover roasted squash, squash seeds, and fresh cilantro and mint)

Mix everything together and you will have a great salad.

VINAIGRETTE—Like the salsa, you can buy this at the store or make your own.
What you will need (if you are making your own):

1⁄4 cup of olive oil
1 shallot (finely chopped)
lemon juice from 1⁄2 lemon
teaspoon of good dijon mustard
S&P to taste

Mix ingredients together with a fork or whisk.

CARAMELIZED BANANAS OVER ICE CREAM
What you will need:

2 tablespoons of butter
3 tablespoons of sugar
1⁄2 of an orange (juiced)
2 bananas (sliced into rounds)
1 pint of favorite ice cream

1. Melt butter in a pan over medium heat. Add sugar and orange juice. Let sugar dissolve for a minute.
2. Add bananas. Caramelize for 5-10 minutes until there is a delicious sugary crust on the banana rounds.
3. Serve hot over scoops of your favorite ice cream.
 
Photos by Melissa Levin 

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