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Tuesday dinner with The Misanthropic Hostess

By Ann | October 2, 2012

I love Mexican food but I never make it at home because it seems super labor intensive and full of ingredients (like lard!) that I’d rather consume unknowingly. So when my friend Shannon Faris from The Misanthropic Hostess mentioned she had a fast, healthy recipe for crispy black bean tacos, I begged her to share the recipe as a Tuesday Dinner.

Shannon and I met at UCLA when I joined a sorority and she was the president. Though we weren’t close then — mainly because I was a sweaty-palmed kid from the suburbs and she was, you know, the president of the sorority — through the magic of the internets, I’ve recently discovered that we share a love of tortoiseshell flats, homemade baked goods and UCLA football. (Oh, yes, there’s a lot you don’t know about me, isn’t there, dear reader?)

I love Shannon’s blog because of her meditations on hipsters, salted caramel and Girls, her obsession with Christina Tosi’s Momofuku Milkbar Cookbook, and the fact that she constructed UCLA’s iconic Royce Hall out of gingerbread. Behold:

In between cookie construction, Shannon works as a high-powered academic and university administrator. She’s married to the lovely TD and they live in Los Angeles with two cats who appear to be the size of King Kong. I’m thrilled to welcome Shannon to ponder important things like taco semantics — and share a recipe, of course:

Misanthropic Taco Tuesdays
by Shannon Faris of The Misanthropic Hostess

Full confession? TD and I are near failures at pulling off the weeknight dinner. Disparate travel, work and extracurricular schedules mean that many nights we find ourselves wolfing down peanut butter and jelly sandwiches as the clock nears 9:00 PM just so we’re no longer hungry. Sometimes, if we’re feeling fancy, we’ll use paper towels instead of leaning over the sink. That’s assuming we actually eat dinner together. On the frequent nights when I fly solo, I generally revert to my secret single dinner a la Sex and the City: the quesadilla. Said sandwich is always eaten sitting on TD’s side of the bed watching some sort of ABC Family teen drama like Bunheads. Eating while in bed is strictly forbidden at all other times.

But…

There is one dinner item in the Faris and Davis arsenal that triumphs over all. It knocks out the after-hours conference call and obliterates post-work errands. I’m talking about the taco. Humble and often unassuming, this common street food is what brings us to the table on weeknights. To be clear though, for us, the taco is only a panacea at the conceptual level. The rest? Is philosophical.

Allow me to explain. I come from Southern California. To me, a taco is some sort of protein-based filling plus cilantro, radish and a crumbled soft cheese (queso fresco anyone?). All of it is wrapped in a warm blanket of the double corn tortilla and accessorized with a liberal shot of lime and hot sauce. Tapatio or Cholula are preferred though Tabasco or even Sriracha will do.

TD’s experience of the taco? Ground meat, chopped tomatoes, iceberg lettuce and shredded cheese (generally yellow…and yes, I mean yellow as the kind of cheese) all embraced by a — gasp — premade taco shell. Not a fried shell, I’m talking out-of-a-box, pre-molded shells. TD is the first and only person I’ve ever met who not only eats these things voluntarily but prefers them. Prior to this I thought the cardboard-like half domes were only available via distribution to cafeteria ladies and Taco Bell.

This dilemma has lead us to wax philosophical about the taco on many occasions. What, exactly, is a taco? Why do they exist? Or do they? If you had a taco named after you, would what be in it and why? If you were a taco, would you eat yourself? All of these are serious and enjoyable questions that have resulted in deep discussion.

Unfortunately, critical consideration does not fill an empty stomach. And so, as we agreed in our wedding vows, tacos in our casa are a compromise (well, we acknowledged that marriage is a willing and informed compromise. I can’t remember if tacos were specifically mentioned). We take turns on fillings and filling cases. I even bought TD some accessories for his hard shells. Behold, the Taco Proper (pronounced “taco propa” around our dinner table). I happen to think they’re a bit like putting lipstick on a pig, but TD feels the same way about radishes, so, you know.

There are easily a thousand-and-one ways to make a taco. Most require only a pantry raid and a little creative initiative. But, if you are looking for something special, the crispy black bean taco recipe that appeared in the February 2009 issue of Bon Appétit is the way to go. These babies are a feast of flavors, textures and colors. The creamy and spicy beans are countered by crisp cabbage, smooth feta and the crunchy indulgence of a fried shell. Bite into one (or two or three) for a Tuesday dinner and you’ll feel anything but typical weeknight. And, we haven’t even talked about how they come together in less than half and hour and just happen to be unabashedly vegetarian. Dinner is served, taco proper optional.

Crispy black bean tacos
Via Shannon Faris, adapted from Bon Appétit

Note: This is one of those rare recipes where the ingredients magically add up to something greater than their sum of their parts, with the fried corn tortilla and raw cabbage creating layers of chewy, crunchy texture. For those who live in a black-bean- and corn-tortilla-free zone, I made a second version with kidney beans and flour tortillas that was different but just as delicious.

1 can beans, black or kidney, drained
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Juice of 1 lime
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups coleslaw mix (or shredded cabbage)
1/3 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
2 green onions, chopped
1 small chili, finely chopped
4 tortillas, corn or flour
1/3 cup feta cheese, crumbled
Olive oil for frying
Salt and pepper
Hot sauce (Tapatio, Cholulu, Tabasco)

In a bowl, combine the beans and cumin and mash lightly. In a large bowl, toss together the cabbage mix, cilantro, green onions, chili, lime juice, and 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat 2-3 teaspoons of olive oil over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, spread 1/4 of the bean mixture onto the surface of each tortilla. When the oil is hot, place as many tacos in the skillet as possible (bean-side up) and fry for about 1 minute, before folding them in half. Continue frying until lightly golden and crunchy, about 1 minute per side. Repeat with the remaining tacos.

Remove to a plate and pry open the tacos — careful, they’re hot! Top each one with the cabbage mixture, feta cheese, a dash of hot sauce if desired, and maybe an avocado slice. Fold again and eat.

(Photos courtesy of Shannon Faris, except for the taco photos, which I snapped before devouring.)

P.S. Here’s more Tuesday dinner.

 

Topics: Tuesday dinner | 18 Comments »

18 Responses to “Tuesday dinner with The Misanthropic Hostess”

  1. Lindsey Says:
    October 2nd, 2012 at 1:46 pm

    Love the recipe, love the story! And of course, LOVE the cats!! Recipe looks completely foolproof, can’t wait to try it!

  2. Jenny Beaumont Says:
    October 2nd, 2012 at 2:21 pm

    Wow, that sounds delish! My favorite tacos are the Baja style tacos, or the ones often served around the Lake Chapala area in Jalisco : big pieces of battered, deep-fried fish or jumbo shrimp served on two soft corn tortillas with shredded lettuce (and/or cabbage), pico de gallo (chunky tomato salsa) and crema, a very liquid sour cream. Oh, and an extra squirt or two of fresh lime juice, claro! Have never made them at home, but…think I’m gonna have to try now!
    And will def give this one a go. Thanks for sharing, and am happy to discover the Misanthropic Hostess!
    Buen provecho !

  3. Sherry Says:
    October 2nd, 2012 at 3:20 pm

    You know I love both of you ladies! How fun! So, my version of the taco sounds a lot more like TD’s. BUT, since I’m trying to up the healthy factor in our family meals, and since my kids seem to be voluntary vegetarians, I’m going to try Shannon’s version. Sounds great!

  4. Betty Says:
    October 2nd, 2012 at 5:09 pm

    Sounds delicious & I actually have all the ingredients in the house. So Tuesday night dinner here we come! The gingerbread Royce Hall is awesome.

  5. Andi Says:
    October 2nd, 2012 at 5:48 pm

    I love Shannon’s “voice” I am sure she is an absolute ball to be around! She is very LA, total UCLA couple – cute! I grew up eating the Old EL Paso shell taco with ground hamburger, iceberg lettuce and shredded Velveeta! Crazy! Then I came to CA to go to college and was introduced to the “real deal”. I’d still eat both, but my preference is the authentic one. I only get them for lunch as my French hubby cannot stand Mexican food, something I knew full-well when I married him…but somedays, I think I might have reconsidered (kidding) because I LOVE Mexican food so much!

  6. Camille Says:
    October 2nd, 2012 at 6:51 pm

    Would you believe I found a place I can buy cheap canned black beans in Paris? Well, I did. The corn tortillas, on the other hand,remain elusive. I do have masa, but that is a weekend project for sure! Still, thanks to you and Shannon for making my tummy rumble!

  7. Alison | a girl defloured Says:
    October 2nd, 2012 at 7:51 pm

    Loved your intro, Ann. And I too am still in awe of Shannon’s gingerbread Royce Hall. As for the tacos, they look so amazingly delish…and something my whole family could eat too. Yay!

  8. Shannon Says:
    October 2nd, 2012 at 7:55 pm

    Ann-

    Wait…I was a suburban kid with sweaty palms too…especially when I was president. I can’t tell you what a thrill this was to write and how honored I am that you thought of me. Now…can you please speed up the publication date of book #2?

  9. Voie de Vie Says:
    October 2nd, 2012 at 8:59 pm

    Another great Tuesday night dinner! Well-penned, love the cats (!), and that gingerbread architectural marvel – did someone have too much time on her hands? :)

    I do wholeheartedly agree with Shannon – get that publisher to stop sitting on its printing duff and get.us.that.book.

  10. Luisa Says:
    October 2nd, 2012 at 9:20 pm

    Ann, thanks for sharing. I LOVE Mexican food.
    I hope all is well.

  11. Lynde Says:
    October 2nd, 2012 at 11:58 pm

    I’ve been making the Bon Appetit recipe for years. What is different about yours?

  12. Betty Says:
    October 3rd, 2012 at 12:19 am

    That was delicious! I didn’t have enough feta for all of them, so I can tell you it even is fantastic with goat cheese. Thank you so much.

  13. CK Says:
    October 3rd, 2012 at 1:01 am

    1) Hail to the hills of Westwood!

    2) As an Northeasterner, coming to California for college (sadly not UCLA) was a total revelation on the Mexican food front … So I have envy for Jenny B and Shannon et al and real empathy with Andi!

  14. Shut Up & Cook Says:
    October 3rd, 2012 at 2:17 am

    Just about all Mexican food is great for a quick weeknight dinner, but this looks particularly good! Love this new segment of Tuesday dinner posts…great idea!

  15. Ann Says:
    October 3rd, 2012 at 3:55 pm

    Lindsey — Shannon’s cats are the stars of her blog! Well, along with her hilarious writing and delicious baked goods. I bet you’d love it!

    Jenny — Ohhhhh, I am reading this description and dying. I must make it Mexico one of these days. And love seeing your Spanish skills, chica!

    Sherry — I think you’ll love them and I KNOW your wonderful adventurous eater of a baby boy will eat them. He’s a man after my own heart!

    Betty — Isn’t gingerbread Royce hilarious? And I can’t tell you how delighted I am that you made the tacos last night! Goat cheese is a fantastic addition — great idea!

    Andi — I must admit, I love all tacos, even the kinds with hard shells and Velveeta (yum) cheese. Isn’t it funny how adverse some people are to Mexican food? My mom is the same way. But I LOVE it!

    Camille — Black beans in Paris! Can you, well, spill the beans on where???

  16. Ann Says:
    October 3rd, 2012 at 4:06 pm

    Alison — Yes, this recipe is perfect for your vegetarian, semi-gluten-free family — and fast to boot! It’s like Shannon is reading your mind ;)

    Shannon — Are you kidding me? Thank YOU for sharing something so funny and delicious. I’ll be looking for YOUR book next!

    Voie de Vie — Thanks for reading! Shannon has more hilarious photos of her curious, hungry cats and their Gingerbread Royce, er, investigations on her blog.

    Luisa — Thanks for stopping by. I love meeting other fans of Mexican food.

    Lynde — Im so glad you liked the recipe!

    Shut Up & Cook — You’re right Mexican food IS great for weeknights, isn’t it? Especially with the mid-week margarita ;)

  17. katy Says:
    October 3rd, 2012 at 10:57 pm

    I’m really loving this series. It’s lovely getting a glimpse into different bloggers’ tried and true Tuesday night methods.

    And besides the black beans and feta, I was sold at “crispy.”

  18. Ann Says:
    October 4th, 2012 at 4:07 pm

    Katy — Thanks! I love learning new time-saving tips, too. And these tacos are the *epitome* of crispy!

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