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Sweet Potato Pinto Bean Skillet with Avocado Quinoa Mash

February 26, 2012

My friend Melody introduced us to a version of this sweet potato fajita skillet in January when we cooked together at the cabin in Blue Ridge. I was surprised at how quickly it came together and how tasty it was. Usually sweet potatoes at our house are baked in the oven for an hour or so while I am at the gym. I have neglected to explore other weeknight applications for them!

These two recipes lend themselves to many mix and match uses. You can forget the quinoa mash, and serve the sweet potato mixture over rice or salad greens, with the avocado chopped up and sprinkled on top. You could roll the sweet potato mixture and quinoa up in burritos, fold and mash them into a quesadilla, fill a tortilla shell that has been baked into a taco salad-esque bowl, or spoon them over corn chips as a chunky nacho topping. You can also eat the quinoa-avocado combination by itself. My sister loves to throw it together as part of a simple lunch or dinner.

Of course, feel free to omit any vegetable listed below that you don’t have on hand. This is how we have come to like it best, but by all means adjust to your tastes and refrigerator. Kale might be a fantastic alternative to the spinach, though I would probably add it to the skillet earlier, with the beans instead of with the tomatoes.

Sweet Potato and Pinto Bean Skillet with Avocado Quinoa Mash

(inspired by Magic Foods by Robert Barnett)

5-6 Roma or vine-ripened tomatoes (get these into the oven first, before you chop and prepare the other vegetables)

extra virgin olive oil

smoked salt or finely ground sea salt

black pepper

1 cup quinoa (get this started right after the tomatoes, before you chop and prepare the other ingredients)

1 cup yellow onion, cut into 1/2 inch dice

1 large yellow bell pepper, cut into 1/2 inch dice

3 cloves of garlic, minced

4 tsp. ground cumin

1/2 tsp. dried oregano

1 tsp. paprika

1 medium or medium-large sweet potato (peeled, or unpeeled and scrubbed), cut into 1/2 inch dice

3/4 cup vegetable broth + more if needed

15.5 oz. can of pinto or black beans, rinsed and drained

3 cups spinach, coarsely chopped

1 avocado, peeled, pitted, and coarsely chopped

1/2 tsp. finely ground sea salt

sliced black olives

optional garnishes + additions: baked tofu* seasoned with smoked salt, cilantro, freshly squeezed lime juice, corn or tortilla chips, sprouted grain tortillas, baked tortilla strips, salsa, blackened corn, hot sauce

1. Preheat the oven to 450. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil.

2. Cut the tomatoes in half if they are small Romas, or quarters if they are larger vine-ripened. Cut out the cores and scoop out the seeds. Spread them out on the prepared baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with a little bit of smoked salt and black pepper. Roast in the oven for 20-30 minutes, until you see some browning between them and the foil. Set aside and let them cool enough to handle them. Cut them into 1/2 inch pieces.

3. Prepare the quinoa according to your package instructions. Uncover and set aside when finished. (Yes, uncovering will cool it a bit, but I think uncovering the pot helps it be less watery when you mash the avocado in later.)

4. Warm a tablespoon or two of olive oil in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and bell peppers, and season them with a little smoked salt. Saute until both brown up a bit, about 5 minutes.

5. Turn the heat down to medium, and add the garlic and spices to the skillet. Saute for 20-30 seconds. Add the broth and the sweet potato. Use your spatula to scrape up any flavorful browned bits on the bottom of the skillet- the liquid will help you get them up. Cover, and cook for 5 minutes.

6. Stir the beans into the skillet, and check to see if you need to add more broth (if the mixture is dry and getting close to burning on the bottom). Recover, and cook another 5 minutes.

7. Meanwhile, use a large fork to mash the avocado into the quinoa, along with 1/2 tsp. finely ground sea salt.

8. Check to see if the sweet potato is tender by piercing a large piece with a fork. If it is not tender, cover and cook a few more minutes, adding a splash of additional broth if needed. When the potato is tender, turn the heat down to low, stir the tomatoes and spinach into the skillet, and cook uncovered just a couple of minutes so that the spinach wilts and the tomatoes warm. Turn off the heat. Check to see if you’d like more smoked salt or pepper, and add that or any additional spices to taste.

9. Serve hot. We usually scoop the avocado quinoa into a bowl, top with some of the sweet potato mixture, and then sprinkle with sliced black olives or baked tofu* seasoned lightly with (what else?) smoked salt. See above for other serving inspirations.

Makes enough for 3-4 people. (You can easily bump up the amounts of each ingredient to make a bigger mixture, though, if your skillet is large enough!)

* To make basic baked tofu: Cut a block of firm into 1/2 inch thick slabs, and then into rectangles or triangles. Sprinkle them with smoked salt. Lay the pieces salt side down on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Sprinkle smoked salt on the tops. Bake undisturbed at 350 for 1 hour. I’m not sure why, but I really think the smoked salt creates a more pleasing texture than plan sea salt on baked tofu like this. Of course, you could also use barbeque sauce, soy sauce, or something else to add more flavor than just salt.

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