I’m told that my mother ate a whole lot of spicy Mexican food during the nine months she was pregnant with me. I never got over it. There have been at least nine birthdays since that I’ve been set on something Mexican. I turned sixteen and my parents sent me to San Francisco, where I had the fattest burrito of my life. It was all wrapped up in a tortilla that I could have wrapped twice around my head like a turban.
At twenty-three, I settled into several soft shell tacos before tumbling into the uncertainty that is a quarter of a life. Alas, tacos have become a heady food just as easily as they were a hearty, homeward one. But, few foods know better how to start from the beginning than enchiladas. My hippie mother’s home-baked enchiladas, smothered in cheese, sometimes refried beans from the can.
Having said all of that: it seems so often that I don’t have what it takes to make something simple as a great burrito. The avocados are too hard or too soft, the tomatoes have wilty skins and mushy walls. The cilantro, which you bought with such excitement and care, has gone brown before you could try again to find a good avocado, the kind they make so easily and so well further west.
Put simply, the best way I’ve learned to prepare Mexican-inspired dishes, that reach back into that pyrex pan of my mother’s pregnant ambition for enchiladas, is to trust in fresh things.
For any burritos: explosively bright-colored tomatoes, meaty avocados of the creamiest mint. That’s more than half of all it takes. Then, there’s something to the skill of warming the edges of a tortilla before folding it neatly over an overly ambitious bump of beans and corn and sour cream. Plump.
For the burritos:
- 1 20 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
- 4 large flour tortillas
- 1 cup fresh corn, roasted
- 3/4 cup red or green pepper, chopped
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 1/2 jalapeno, minced
- salt and pepper to taste
For the guacamole:
- 2 avocados, chopped
- 1 tomato, diced
- 2 tablespoons onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- juice of 1 lime
- 4 tablespoons cilantro
- salt and pepper to taste
Additional toppings (as desired):
- fresh salsa and/or tomato, diced
- 1/4 cup feta cheese, chopped
- sour cream
Saute onions and red pepper with cumin and chili powder on medium-high heat. Add 2 cloves garlic and jalapeno and saute until fragrant. Lowering heat, add beans and continue to saute before stirring in roasted corn.
Meanwhile make guacamole. In a small bowl, mash avocado to desired consistency with a fork, then stir in a couple tablespoons of onion, 2 cloves garlic, salt and pepper. Fold in tomatoes and cilantro and squeeze over with lime juice.
To assemble the burritos, warm tortillas according to package instructions and then assemble burritos, by laying tortillas out flat and scooping bean mixture out onto center of tortilla. Add guacamole and more chopped tomato if desired, then sprinkle with feta cheese and top with a dollop of sour cream. Fold and roll burrito so that it forms a neat and sturdy package for eating. Enjoy warm.