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Thursday, October 01, 2009

black bean tostadas with seared zucchini & roasted garlic

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Local Food at the Bear Tooth Grill!

In the middle of the summer, Dan and I had a real, honest-to-goodness night out—sponsored by our dear friend Alice, who had given us a gift certificate for dinner at the Bear Tooth Grill, and a night of babysitting!! What a treat for us!

I hadn’t been to the Bear Tooth Grill in several years, but remembered big, juicy, yummy burritos and even bigger margaritas. I was glad to be hungry after the movie and was anticipating a nice meal. But right away I noticed something different about the menu and the specials board… local vegetables were being highlighted! This was new and very promising! As soon as we got a table (even on a Monday night the restaurant was hopping!) I ordered a margarita and the Build-Your-Own-Taco with Zucchini, Cheese and Toasted Corn.  Here’s the description from the menu:

Pan-seared zucchini, toasted corn, salsa fresca, poblano chiles, and jack and cheddar cheeses sautéed to order.  Garnished with toasted pumpkin seeds and served with tomatillo-cilantro rice and refried black beans.

 
I have to tell you, it was fantastic. I slurped up every last bit of that zucchini with my refried beans and (house-made) taco shells. Something had definitely changed at the Grill since the last time I’d been there, and I was thrilled that they were using Alaskan zucchini and other Alaskan produce!

So then I started thinking about how to copy this dish at home, since I happened to have four large zucchinis on my counter from my CSA boxes. And I love to make tostadas.  My first version didn’t have onions, just garlic at the beginning and then a little grated sharp cheddar at the end. By the time I made my second version I thought of using roasted garlic (I always have some in the ‘fridge left over from the batches I make for our Alaskan cheese & roasted garlic sourdough bread) instead of the cheese. You could use either one.

So I’d been making these tostadas every other week (every time my zucchinis started to build up) when I got a call from Clayton Jones, the executive chef from the Bear Tooth Grill! Tomorrow they start a special event, their Alaska Local Food and Film Festival. I had heard about the event, and had planned to attend a movie or two, but I hadn’t expected a call from Chef Clayon! Sure enough, he’s the reason for the local vegetables and the new exciting stuff on the Grill’s menu! He was calling to find out more about our Rise & Shine Bakery’s sourdough breads made with local Alaskan ingredients…  he’s looking for locally-made products, and maybe he’ll use our Alaskan potato bread or our spent grain sourdough bread in lunch specials. That would be pretty cool!

But whether that happens or not, the exciting thing is that Clayton and his team are really working hard to create exciting dishes that feature Alaskan produce! Isn’t that great? I’m excited to attend the film festival, too; I’m going to see Food, Inc. tomorrow, and Fresh on Monday…  and I just found out from Clayton that we can even order food from the Grill side to eat during the movies! Ooh, I can’t wait for those zucchini tacos again. Even though I’ve just eaten my home-made version for the last two nights. Hmm. Maybe I should branch out and see what else is looking Alaskan and vegetable-y on the menu!!  Like maybe the calabacita chimichanga special…  that’s bound to be full of zucchini! Or I could always go for the blackened halibut tacos. Ahh.  Decisions, decisions…

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black bean tostadas with seared zucchini & roasted garlic

Although you can add diced avocado, cheese, and other things, I like to keep these pretty simple because I like to taste the zucchini. You probably already guess that I make big batches of the refried beans and freeze them for when I want a quick meal!

corn tortillas
refried beans (recipe follows)
seared zucchini & roasted garlic (recipe follows)
plain yogurt or sour cream
salsa (if desired)

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Set the corn tortillas on baking sheets in a single layer and toast them in the oven for 15 minutes, until crisp, fragrant, and just starting to get golden brown. Toast 2 or 3 tortillas per person.
2. Let each person top their tortilla with beans, then zucchini, then yogurt/sour cream and salsa. Eat with plenty of napkins at the ready!

seared zucchini & roasted garlic

2 large zucchini (or 3 medium ones)
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, minced
Sea salt or kosher salt
1 bulb roasted garlic (see recipe, below) or ¼ cup grated very sharp cheddar cheese
chipotle chile powder, or other chile powder (optional, but very nice)
¼ cup green pumpkin seeds (pepitas), toasted in a skillet over medium high heat until puffed and golden-brown

1. Cut the ends off the zucchini, slice in half lengthwise, and then cut the zucchini into ¼-inch-thick half-moons.
2. Heat the olive oil in the largest (preferably non-stick) skillet you have, add the onion and about a ¼ teaspoon of salt, then sauté the onions over high heat until they are golden-brown.
3. Add the zucchini, another ½ teaspoon of salt, and sauté over high heat. Let them fry without stirring for a while to let some of the pieces get brown, then stir and repeat until the whole mess is just tender, brown and yummy.
4. Squeeze the garlic cloves out of their skins and mash them up into a paste; alternately, grate some cheddar cheese.
5. Turn the heat off under the zucchinis, and stir in the roasted garlic or cheese. Add a sprinkling of chile powder (I use about ¼ teaspoon). Combine thoroughly and add more salt and chile to your taste.
6. Top with toasted pepitas, then pile onto your tostada!

refried beans
This recipe will give you plenty of beans for a couple of days’ leftovers (always a good thing, in my book). They freeze really well, too, so make as many as you like and freeze them (well-labeled) in plastic containers for future tostada meals.

3 cups dried beans: black turtle beans, pinto, or anasazi beans
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
3 large onions (1 for quartering, 2 for dicing)
10 garlic cloves, peeled (4 to be left whole, 6 to be minced)
2 bay leaves
4 teaspoons cumin seeds, toasted in a skillet and freshly ground
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon chipotle chili powder, or regular chili powder
sea salt or kosher salt

1. Soak the beans in water for 4 hours or overnight.
2. Quarter 1 of the onions, leaving the root end on so the quarters stay intact. Cover the beans in water by a couple of inches, and add the quartered onion, 4 whole garlic cloves and the bay leaves. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down and simmer, partially covered, until the beans are completely tender. When the beans are tender enough to easily squish between your tongue and the roof of your mouth, turn off the heat. This could take from 30 minutes to an hour or longer, depending on how old the beans are. Just make sure the beans are nice and soft. Turn off the heat and let the beans cool for a bit. If you have time, let them sit, covered, until they are completely cool. Remove the quartered onion, bay leaves, and whole garlic cloves and discard.
3. Chop the remaining 2 onions into small dice, and mince the remaining 6 garlic cloves. Saute the onions with 1 teaspoon salt in a wide skillet over medium-high heat until they start to brown—5 or 10 minutes. Then add the garlic, cumin, oregano, chili powder, and 1 more teaspoon salt, and sauté for 5 minutes more.
4. Add the beans and 1 cup of their cooking liquid. Raise the heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes or so, partially mashing some of the beans with the back of a wooden spoon, a potato masher, or an immersion blender.
5. Season with plenty of salt and pepper to taste. The beans can take a lot of salt, so just keep tasting until they are perfectly seasoned. You may need to add more salt when you reheat them—just taste and see.


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