red bean and green grain taco bowl

red bean and green grain taco bowl

I swear, this wholesome-looking meal isn’t penance for anything. It’s not a budget-friendly apology for the frenetic unplanned redecorating project or atonement for the fact that I’ve basically only wanted to eat chocolate, peanut butter, bread and pasta for the last 22 weeks. It’s not compensation for the frosting that didn’t make it onto the cake and was eaten instead with a spoon, or the impulsive meringues last weekend. It’s only ever-so-quietly a warning that the next thing coming on this site is so decadent, you might wish to advance yourself some greens, grains and beans.

red beans
wheat berries, onion, garlic, poblano and the devil's herb

It is, however, something of a compromise. Just about the only vaguely nutritious thing I’ve consistently craved since our newest family member started making its presence known are things we could put on, in, or near a tortilla for dinner. I’ve made ground beef tacos, scrambled eggs on soft tortillas, chicken fajitas and charred cauliflower quesadillas and I’ve tried to branch out (look, pork chops! And hey, it’s a salad!) but I always come back to the fact that if didn’t contain avocado, pickled onions, hot sauce, and an unholy amount of ground cumin, it was always second choice.

blending green sauce

it's really green
saucy red beans

So, in an excuse to find more ways to eat more things that taste like tacos, and to chip away at the egregious amount of dried beans and grains I realized I apparently hoard when taking these photos this month, this is my grain bowl take on the green rice you often see in Mexican cuisine, and a quick way to make plain red beans better. Together in a bowl, my hope is that it’s bright, colorful and spring-like enough that it follows my current cooking mantra, as suggested by Dinner: A Love Story: “Cook for the season you want, not the one you’re stuck with.” Guys, I think it’s working.

green grain and red bean taco bowl

One year ago: Broccoli Cheddar and Wild Rice Casserole
Two years ago: Coconut Bread
Three years ago: Potato Knish, Two Ways
Four years ago: The Best Baked Spinach
Five years ago: Warm Mushroom Salad with Hazelnuts and Coconut Milk Fudge
Six years ago: Crispy Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies and Pita Bread
Seven years ago: Big Crumb Coffee Cake and Alex’s Chicken and Mushroom Marsala
Eight years ago: Strawberry Rhubarb Pecan Loaf

And for the other side of the world:
Six Months Ago: Chocolate and Toasted Hazelnut Milk
1.5 Years Ago: Zucchini Parmesan Crisps
2.5 Years Ago: Fig Olive Oil and Sea Salt Challah
3.5 Years Ago: Roasted Eggplant with Tomatoes and Mint

Red Bean and Green Grain Taco Bowl

You can go high or low, fast or slow, with these ingredients. I used hard white wheat berries, which take a full hour to cook, but have a tiny chewy bite that’s my current favorite, but you could use farro, freekeh, barley, quinoa, brown rice or another grain you like here, just adjust the cooking time and liquid amount to the package directions. I used red beans I’d soaked and cooked this weekend, but you could use canned as well, to save time. (Goya are my absolute favorite for reliably intact and un-mushy beans from a can.) Minus the sour cream or any added cheese, this dish is vegan as well as vegetarian. Finally, my grains aren’t terribly green because I’m distracted these days, but if you hold back some green puree until the end, it will brighten up the whole dish.

Serves 2 to 3

2 fresh poblano chile peppers
1 cup cilantro leaves (picked from 1 bunch)
3/4 medium white onion, roughly chopped (I save the last 1/4 to finely mince as a topping)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3 cups water or broth (amount needed for wheat berries, adjust if needed)
1 cup uncooked wheatberries
Salt to taste

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 to 1 finely chopped chipotle from a can, a rehydrated and finely chopped dried chipotle or in a pinch, chipotle powder to taste
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup water or broth
1 3/4 cups cooked small red beans (from a 15-ounce can, or cooked from about 1/4 pound dried)
Kosher or coarse salt to taste

Minced white onion or picked red onions, lime wedges, hot sauce, pickled jalapenos, sour cream or Mexican crema, sliced avocado, pico de galo, crumbled or shredded cheese or some crumbled tortilla chips if you’re having trouble convincing your child to try it

Make green grains: In a blender or food processor, combine poblanos, cilantro, onion and garlic with a splash of cooking broth or water and puree until smooth. In a medium saucepan, combine wheat berries, remaining cooking water or broth, 3/4 of green puree and salt to taste over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce to a very low simmer and cover, cooking for 1 hour, or until grains are chewy-tender. Add remaining green puree and cook for 5 minutes more.

Meanwhile, make red beans: In a smaller saucepan, heat olive oil over medium. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds, just until sizzling. Add chipotle, cumin, oregano and tomato paste and cook together for 1 minute. Add water or broth, beans and salt to taste and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook for 10 minutes on low.

Assemble and eat: For each bowl, I like about 2/3 grains and 1/3 beans, but you can go half-half as well. Top with desired fixings, don’t hold back. (The sour cream was particularly awesome here, in our opinion, although decidedly un-vegan.) Repeat as needed.

* Cilantro: If you’ve been following along for a while here (although I cannot imagine why my persnickety ingredient preferences would hold your attention), you might have heard me refer over the years to cilantro as “the devil’s herb” as I am one of the unfortunate ones for whom it tastes mostly like dirt. Yes, unfortunate, as it comes on or in almost every cuisine I adore. I don’t know what came over me this week, but I went to the store with a plan to replace the cilantro with parsley, as I often do, and bought the evil greens instead. And cooked with them. And ate them. Maybe it’s the blending with peppers, onions and broth that mellowed it. Maybe, for once, these food cravings could be for good, and not just butter. Either way: hooray!


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