Wednesday, November 12, 2008

In the Mood for Black Beans

It is a rare day when I'm in the mood for black beans as part of Southwest flavored food. It isn't that I don't enjoy chili and burritos and the occasional tamale or taco salad, but most of the time the appeal isn't there. Then, for no apparent reason, a day today...when I want to make something with southwest flavors.

The casserole that resulted from that rare yen can easily be a vegetarian entree. If you make the sauce with unsweetened soy milk, it can be vegan. Since I'm absolutely not a hot pepper lover, my version has mild green poblano peppers, but you can add as much heat as you like. I used a little cayenne pepper for just a touch of heat, but most people would want more. Other additions that would go well are things like cumin, black olives, hot pepper sauce, etc.

The basic casserole starts with fresh onions, red peppers, and celery, sauteed in some oil or butter. Since this oil blends with the flour that later thickens the sauce, don't leave it out. Olive oil, grapeseed oil, margarine and butter all work. The vegetables are super easy if you have access to a frozen mixture that combines corn, black beans, mild green chilies and red (or red and green) bell peppers. I like using the frozen mix because then I really can make this when the mood strikes. Even better would be fresh corn, freshly cooked black beans, fresh chilies and more fresh bell peppers. In a pinch you could just use the frozen mix and make the sauce without any additional vegetables, but you would lose the crunch of the fresh veggies, as well as some of their flavor.

Since Sweetie is a 'meat and potatoes' kinda guy, I also sauteed two boneless, skinless chicken breasts and then cut them into bite sized pieces, which I mixed in after the frozen mixture was added to the sauce. Since he went back for a second helping, I think he found that pleasing. You could also use turkey, so this might be a good recipe to keep in mind for November 28th!

For a topping I scattered sliced green onions (scallions), including some of the tops, followed by a layer of about a cup of shredded cheddar cheese. It all bakes until bubbly and the cheese turns golden brown and crusty.

Served with a mixed green salad, this is a fine cool weather meal.

Southwest Skillet Bake
Serves 4 - 6

1 medium onion, chopped
3 ribs celery, sliced
1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and cored, chopped
4 tablespoons oil (butter, margarine, olive, grapeseed, vegetable)
4 tablespoons all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Optional: hot pepper sauce, cumin
12 oz evaporated milk (I used non fat) or unsweetened soy milk
14 - 16 oz. mixed frozen vegetables that contains corn, black beans, red bell pepper, and green chilies
OR fresh or canned vegetable equivalent

Optional: hot peppers, sliced black olives

Optional: 1 cup or so cooked chicken or turkey, cut into bite sized pieces

2-3 green onions sliced, including some of the green tops
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

In a skillet, heat the oil and then saute' the onion, red pepper and celery in it for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally.

To the sauteed vegetables, add the flour and cayenne and black pepper (and cumin if you are adding it). Stir to completely coat the flour with the oil in the vegetables and cook over medium heat on minute, stirring occasionally to cook the flour.

Add the milk or soymilk all at once, stirring constantly. Continue to stir and cook the mixture until it thickens. Remove from heat.

Stir in the mixed vegetables, the pepper and/or black olives if using, the chicken if using. Stir until well mixed, then smooth the top of the mixture.

Sprinkle the green onions evenly over the mixture. Sprinkle the cheese evenly over that.

Bake in preheat oven for 20 minutes, or until cheese is melted and golden brown and mixture is bubbling.

Serve hot.


  1. I'm always ready for black beans. I guess they mush just be a favorite.
    This looks excellent with a few more and warmer pepper :) Just my kind of food.

  2. I think you and my husband would get along! He doesn't like the spicy, and rarely wants black beans. But I think this looks fantastic!