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Carrie Havranek


Five Easy Dinners That May or May Not Be Vegan


I was talking with my barista friend Ian today, who asked me for "five dinner ideas that I can do." To spare him and his digestive system from having to order cardboard with cheese for dinner (a.k.a. Domino's), I've taken our conversation between the espresso machine and bakery case, where I endorsed the merits of braising chicken thighs and the versatility of lentils and he shared his disdain for tofu, to the next level. We all have this problem. And in less than five minutes I learned a lot about him. Well, I mostly received confirmation of things I already knew: he wanted something simple, direct, unfussy, delicious, and easily executable after standing up and interfacing with humans all day. I will add some veganizing tips for those nights when he's cooking for his main squeeze. That being said, I decided I'm not going to write a recipe; I'm just going to write instructions, and I'm going to start with one recipe, today, and post another one Monday. If anyone wants more specifics, ask away. I'm happy to provide. But in the interest of keeping this simple and knowing he can do it, I've taken this fast and dirty approach. I made this the other night—sorry, no photos, this is strictly utilitarian stuff, people—so it was on the brain. Adapted from Cooking Light's black bean and goat cheese quesadillas. I've made this dozens of times, and usually a little differently each time.

Here's the first one. I'll post another one on Monday. Enjoy!

1. Black Beans and Goat Cheese Mexican Tortilla Filler

Take  a can and a half (or two cans, it's your choice) of black beans. Rinse them and set aside. With a tablespoon of your favorite cooking fat or oil, saute a small onion (any kind, including a whole bunch of scallions will do) over medium heat in a 8-10 inch skillet or cast iron pan until they soften. Add your seasonings of choice: chili powder, cumin, coriander, paprika (I like cumin); add the beans, 1/2 cup to 1 cup of salsa of your choice. You may not need salt, between the beans and the salsa, but taste it. Let it simmer. It will come together fast. If it looks like it's getting dry, add some hot water. Finally, crumble a 4-ounce log of goat cheese into the pan and let it melt over medium heat, stirring to combine. Turn off the burner, and add about 1/2 cup to 1 cup of chopped fresh cilantro and stir to incorporate. If you have a lime, it won't hurt to squeeze half of it over the finished product.

You can serve this loose, with more water/salsa in it, as a dip with tortilla chips or the chip of your liking. You can cook off most of the water and it makes a great filling for tortillas. You can land it somewhere between dippy and dry and slide it in between the folds of a tortilla and turn it into a quesadilla. Or just eat it with a spoon. I don't police it; I just share it.

To veganize: take half the mixture and put it in a medium bowl, add half the cilantro, and stir. Add half the package of goat cheese to the black bean mixture left in the pan, and proceed as directed. But you probably figured that out on your own.....