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Chicken, Sausage, and Capers on Polenta

29 Oct

Chicken, Sausage, and Peppers on Polenta 001

It was a year ago last Friday that I sat down at my computer and, with a short preamble, wrote down what I had for dinner that night. Thus began Dinner with Jonny. I started it solely for my own amusement, and that’s pretty much the same mindset I retain; I figure that if I’m entertained by what I write and share, then people who read my writing will be as well. If I, an amateur cook, make a kick ass dish, others might have similar success.

I also have kept in mind that a great many people are intimidated by cooking and I seek to ameliorate that problem by showing that a bit of levity and less convolution in trying to cook make the world a better place. The best teachers understand this as it relates to any subject, and as a teacher, I can’t help applying this principle to whatever I do.  For example, language acquisition scholars will tell you that, if you want to learn a language, have some drinks with native speakers of that language; it loosens you up, and after a few beers, you’ll forget that you’re shy about trying to speak another language (you’ll also realize that most native speakers love when people try to learn their language and you’ll make lifelong friends). While I won’t go on record that I promote alcohol consumption in learning new skills, the idea behind it resonates a truth: you learn more if you’re having fun, so lighten the fuck up, world.

Before I share the recipe for this beautiful and healthful dish, I think it’s high time that I share some insights about the general public that I have gleaned since I began writing this blog. You see, WordPress keeps statistics on a great many aspects of a blog: what countries read my blog, the busiest times of day, my most popular posts, etc.

One of the most fascinating features is the record of what search terms people use that bring up my blog via google, yahoo, or any other search engine. So for this blog post, I’ve decided to give you a sampling of the keyword searches that have brought up Dinner with Jonny in some regard since its inception. Just so you know, the three most common terms that brought up Dinner with Jonny are “burritos,” “torta rustica,” and “croutons,” in that order.

But here is a sampling of some less benign doozies, and reader discretion is advised:

  • drop your panties drink: ‘Tis fair enough, I suppose. A man’s gotta eat.
  • drink panty greaser: As an English teacher, I struggle understanding this, yet I’m intrigued. Is it a new form of Spanish fly?
  • forme pussys made of torta (sic): I have spent considerable time processing this one to no avail. If you have an idea, post it in the comments section.
  • cream my tight c**t: I’m guessing one of my creamy dishes helped this lady out marvelously. Hopefully.
  • roast chicken porn video: It must be southern. In fact, it has to be.
  • having cazzo for dinner: “Cazzo,” for your information, is “dick” in Italian. I admit, I have offered this to both my brothers a few times, but never literally.
  • pussy pot pie/ penis pies: If you search long enough, I bet you can find a penis pot pie, too, kids. Don’t limit yourselves.
  • Canada penty hot sexi porno lady (sic): It seems that I actually got Borat to read my blog. I’m honored.
  • make a frog sandwich: This could be a French delicacy or a French porno, if you think about it.

And my favorite,

  • candied nuts and students: It’s must be a fund-raiser or a person with considerable issues.

As always, my gimcrackery leads into an exceptional dish. This is yet another example of a Weight Watchers’ dish that’s easy to make, filling, and damn tasty. 1 1/2 cups of this is a 5 on the old Weight Watchers system (PointsPlus and 360° can fuck off very well), and if you serve it with two slices of tubed polenta, you’ve got a huge dinner for 7 points. I’m guessing you can make a sausage and pepper sandwich a la New Jersey just as easily, but you would need to adjust the points accordingly because of the bread.

Chicken, Sausage, and Capers with Polenta

Serves 4

Old Weight Watchers 7

Ingredients:

2 tsp. olive oil

3/4 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast (two small or one large), cut into 1″ pieces

1 18 oz. tube of pre-cooked polenta (Trader Joe’s has a fine one)

cooking spray

1/4 lb. precooked turkey or chicken Italian sausage, hot or mild, cut into 1/2″ slices

2 tbsp. red wine vinegar

2 bell peppers, seeded and cut into thin strips

1 medium onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 tsp. dried oregano

1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes

1/2 cup chicken broth

2 tbsp. capers, rinsed and drained

2 tbsp. grated parmesan plus a bit more for garnish

Makin’ It:

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Heat the oil over medium high heat in a large non-stick skillet. Saute the chicken pieces until they’re golden and no longer pink, about 6 to 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pieces to a bowl and set aside.

Slice the polenta into eight disks. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray and lay the slices on it. Bake these for 20 minutes. They should be ready when the main dish is ready to serve, fyi.

In the same skillet, add in the sausage and brown them briefly. Add the red wine vinegar until it almost evaporates in a minute or two, scraping the fun stuff off of the bottom of the pan. Add in the bell peppers, onion, garlic, and oregano. Cook this until the peppers get soft, about 6 minutes or so, stirring fairly often.

Stir in the tomatoes, broth, and capers, and bring it all to a boil. Return the chicken to the skillet and add in the parmesan. Reduce the heat a bit and let it simmer for about 5 more minutes until it thickens a bit.

Place two polenta disks on each plate and divide the chicken mixture between the four plates. Top with some parmesan and you get this:

Chicken, Sausage, and Peppers on Polenta 006

For those of you that read this blog regularly, thank you for letting me indulge in my passion for cooking, eating, and writing for the last year. Still, I hope none of you is responsible for those search terms above, either.

Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.

©Jon Marino 2013

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Chickpeas and Pasta

19 Oct

Chickpeas and Pasta

“Just go away.”  I have uttered this often to my teenage students, in a variety of contexts, over the last twelve years since I started teaching high school English. I’ll say it as I attempt to take roll and a student asks me for the fortieth time if they need to skip lines when writing an essay, even though I have a large poster at the front of the room that clearly asserts, “Yes! Skip lines!” I’ll say it as I am but three words away from totally explaining the most impassioned and profound concept, which will alter their lives invariably thereafter, when one kiddo raises his hand and asks if he can go to the bathroom. I’ll say it when everyone is taking a final exam and the antsy, gregarious, loquacious student who finishes first asks me what I’m cooking for dinner that night. Loudly.

But truly, the context in which I most often say “just go away” relates to what they do after high school. I tell them to travel, to get away from their familiar environs, and just go away. You want to see South America? Good! Just go. Castles where knights rose and fell? Go. You want ninjas? Go. Where Napoleon died? Why? Never been to San Francisco? Go. You want to see hot Spanish chicks and dudes? Go. Make it happen and don’t wait.

Usually this is precipitated by me sharing about my backpacking trip around Europe when I was 23, fresh out of college. For two months, my best friend Pat and I went from Ireland, to Spain, to Germany, to Austria, to Czech Republic, to Netherlands, back to Spain, to France, and then home. We partied every night, slept on the floors of trains, saw Europe before it was the EU and before the internet localized the world, partied more, ate stuff that I still can’t identify, and basically changed our lives for good.

Physically, mentally, economically, or realistically, I cannot and will not ever be able to do this type of trip again. It was once in a lifetime, and I try to instill this in my students. “Do it now, kids, because you won’t be able to later. Trust me.” No money? I didn’t have much either. It took me until I was thirty to pay it off, but it was interest well bought. Just get out of town. Just go away.

As usual, I tangentially bring this up because, until that trip to Europe, chickpeas were something I refilled in the salad bar at Straw Hat pizza in my teens, not something I ate knowingly. Amsterdam changed that. Without going into details, I will posit that Amsterdam’s “coffee” shops are intentionally and strategically located next to shwarma and falafel stands (and KFC, Pizza Hut, and McDonald’s, for that matter), so patrons succumbing to the munchies have no choice but to belly up to some serious grub on every side of them. They’ve got you by the balls convincingly. Before this time, I had never even heard of falafel, which is ground chickpeas and spices rolled into balls, deep fried, and then served in a pita with veggies and sauces. But after leaving a coffee shop and letting the holy grail of street food create new universes in my expanded mind, I ate them every day for a week. Sublime.

As the Food Network Empire and Darth Rachel came to power, chickpeas (garbanzos, or if you’re a pretentious prick, ceci, pronounced che’-chee) started getting some coverage in a variety of contexts. Unbeknownst to me, “chickpeas and pasta” are an Italian staple all over the boot. Although I personally had never had the dish, Darth Rachel’s scratchy voice assured me that it is “yum-o,” which of course comforts me in the recesses of my mind, Sand People pursuing or not.

In any case, this is a Weight Watcher’s recipe and I took only a few liberties with it. A good-size portion is a mere 7 on the old system (PointsPlus and 360° can fuck off frenetically). It’s vegetarian, filling, and good for you. It’s easy as hell to make, too, so it’s a perfect weekday dinner. And you will see that, as you eat this, you will tell people to just go away.

Chickpeas and Pasta

Serves 4

1 1/2 cups serving is an old Weight Watchers 7

Ingredients:

4 tsp. olive oil

6 garlic cloves, minced

3 carrots, peeled and sliced thinly

1 tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary (or a teaspoon dried, I’m guessing)

2 tbsp. fresh chopped parsley, divided

1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper

1 14 1/2-oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained

1 16-oz. can chickpeas (garbanzos), drained and rinsed well

1/4 tsp. each of salt and freshly ground pepper

1 or 2 zucchini or yellow squash, peeled and made into ribbons (I used the peeler to make thick ribbons, but only shave the meaty parts rather than the seedy parts)

2 cups cooked pasta, like rotini, penne, or ditalini

1/4 cup parmesan

Makin’ It:

In a large nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium to medium-high heat. Saute the garlic for a minute and then add the carrots, rosemary, red pepper, and 1 tablespoon o’ the parsley. Saute this for about 5 minutes, stirring regularly.

Add the tomatoes and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 10 minutes, stirring often. Start cooking the pasta about halfway through this.

Then, add the chickpeas, salt, pepper, and squash.  Simmer this for another 5 minutes, stirring here and there. Add in the pasta, parmesan, and the other tablespoon of parsley. Divide into four bowls and serve. Bob’s your uncle.

Chickpeas and Pasta 7

Now just go away.

Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.

©Jon Marino 2013

Ginger Apple Cocktail

29 Sep

Ginger Apple Cocktail 3

Hard ciders have been popular around the U.S. for almost two decades now. The Matilda Bay, Bartles and James wine-cooler-drinking crowd of the ’80’s started getting options in the ’90’s, and hard ciders were one of them. Beer drinkers also will tear into a cider, too, or even use it to make a shandy, which is half beer and half cider.

In Ireland, they have a cider that’s not too sweet called Bulmers, and in the states it’s named Magners. My wife fell in love with this on our last trip to Ireland and, until a BevMo opened in our area, we were hard pressed to find it.

But this post, short and sweet as it will be, is about a cocktail I created using my old bartending skills and a little ingenuity, AND it tastes like a hard cider! My kid went on a field trip to a local apple farm and brought back a gallon of regular fresh cider, which is unbelievably tasty. Of course, being the upstanding father-figure that I am, my thoughts started straying towards how to integrate it into an alcoholic beverage.

The best part is that this is 2 to 3 points on the old Weight Watchers system if you use diet soda (PointsPlus and 360° can fuck off beyond recognition). In any case, this is a refreshing fall cocktail that just works and will tickle you more than leaves on your taint.

Ginger Apple Cocktail

Makes 1

Ingredients:

1 1/2 oz. vodka (that’s one shot to common folks)

2 oz. apple cider or apple juice

2 oz. diet or regular ginger ale

Apple slice for garnish

Makin’ It:

This is too easy to make.

Fill a collins glass with ice. Pour in the vodka and the apple cider. Top it with the ginger ale. Either put the apple slice on the rim or into the drink itself. Give it a stir with a straw and you’re rockin’.

Note: This would be bitchin’ as a martini, too. Just shake the vodka and juice in an ice-filler shaker and strain it into a cocktail glass. Then, top it with the ginger ale and garnish.

Ginger Apple Cocktail 2

Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.

©Jon Marino 2013

WW Chinese Pineapple Chicken

27 Sep

Weight Watchers Pineapple Chicken 015

How many wagons have you fallen off of? Have you fallen off of the sweets wagon? The alcohol wagon? The Friends reruns until 4 a.m. wagon? The “I’m tired of being treated like shit” wagon?

Eventually, we all find ourselves looking at the tread indentations of that friggin’ wagon trailing away from us while mud is kicked up into our faces. We’ve fallen off. A particularly erotic eclair spreads its legs like an elusive crush, or that box o’ See’s candies bares its nickel-shaped nipples like a shameless Brad Pitt seducing Geena Davis; or a bad day requires a friend named Martini and the rest is Absolut history; or a sleepless evening can only be comforted by Ross and Rachel and Phoebe and Janice; or perhaps you don’t know what being treated nicely feels like, so you’ll take shit over nothing.

The expression is an old one (early 1900’s, to be exact), yet we apply it to so many areas in our lives that require restraint, reflection, admission, and determination, at some point. Should you feel misery and self-loathing when you fall off? Fuck no. Get back on when you can and try not to make the same mistake twice, and if you do, get back on and try not to make the same mistake thrice, and if you do, get back on and don’t make the same mistake…..you get it. Keep tryin’, kid. You’ll get there.

I fall off of the Weight Watchers wagon regularly. Do I get pissed at myself? Yeah, but not enough to damage me permanently or make me wallow in a maelstrom of guilt. I’ve learned to enjoy dusting myself off, to be honest. It builds character.

I mention this because this Chinese Pineapple Chicken dish was the first Weight Watchers meal I ever made when finally, at 60 pounds above my “normal” weight, I got on the wagon and actually tried to help myself. I signed up for Weight Watchers, weighed in, went to meetings, stopped being a pussy, started walking a lot, and, fifty pounds later, was healthier.

And I’m glad this dish was the first because it’s excellent. If it sucked, I would have fallen off the wagon within a week. This dish gave me some hope, and it also made me realize that my “cooking” mind was way, way too narrow. There are plenty of ways to enjoy and indulge in good food without feeling after every meal like a goose being prepped for foie gras harvesting.

I got this recipe out of one of the first brochures that I received when I signed up for Weight Watchers. This recipe serves four, and each portion is a 6 on the old WW system (PointPlus and 360° can fuck off non-haltingly).

Note: Asian Black Bean Sauce favors vary, so find one that you dig, and go with it.

Chinese Pineapple Chicken

Serves 4

Ingredients:

Cooking Spray

1 bunch of scallions (green onions), trimmed and sliced thinly

1 tbsp. chopped, fresh ginger (do not substitute for this)

1 tbsp. minced garlic

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1″ cubes

2 cups crushed pineapple or pineapple chunks, packed in juice

1/4 cup Asian black bean sauce

2 cups cooked brown or white rice (I used brown rice in the pictures; it has more fiber, holmes.)

Makin’ It:

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat and coat it with cooking spray. Add in the scallions, ginger, and garlic. Saute and stir this for about 4 minutes until it’s nice and pungent. Add in the chicken and saute it until it’s browned and almost cooked through, about 7-8 minutes, stirring regularly.

Add in the pineapple (juice and all) and the Asian black bean sauce. Stir it all together well. Get this to a simmer, lower the heat to medium, and cook it, stirring often, until the chicken is cooked through and tender, about 5 to 8 minutes more.

Put 1/2 cup of rice on each plate, and divide the Chinese Pineapple Chicken amongst the four plates. You might get this:

Weight Watchers Pineapple Chicken 010

I put sriracha on the rice because I like spice to kick me in the nuts a bit.

It’s easy, fantastically tasty, and a good place to learn how to stay on the wagon.

Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.

©Jon Marino 2013

Walnut Gorgonzola Fettuccine

8 Aug

Walnut  Gorgonzola  Fettucine 007

Things I’ve learned upon turning into a 40 year-old man

1.  If you have children, everything you did as a child comes back to haunt you amplified times 7.

2.  There is no shame in spending a good amount of time in Bath and Body Works searching for a pleasant smelling hand cream. No need to be nonchalant about it; it will make your day better.

3.  The grass isn’t greener. It’s a mirage brought on by your terrible thirst.

4.  The 1940’s and 1950’s never go out of style. Ever.

5.  Many of the “good” people who married young didn’t sow their oats enough when they were young, so they succumbed to #3 and are now either miserable or divorced.

6.  Led Zeppelin’s “Black Dog” sucks in every way and no one should play it ever again.

7.  Human nature’s predictable repetition is a beautiful thing. I made it through 1980’s style, so its resurgence is a bottomless source of amusement and laughter for me.

8.  Man-scaping is not necessary; it depends on what your partner wants.

9.  On the whole, most people talk the talk but don’t walk the walk, especially the overly-zealous religious ones.

10.  “Violent antipathies are always suspect and betray a secret affinity.” -William Hazlitt

11.  The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and Rush are that good. So is Neil Diamond.

12.  Don’t trust farts.

13.  Technology is my friend, but I’ve earned that friendship through the years: no garage door opener, no remote, Pong, Atari, cable switch box, 8 track cassettes, cassettes, vinyl, typewriters. I could go on for quite some time here, but if you lived through it, you get it.

14.  Making a tape or even a CD for someone was a labor of love and an art form that cannot be replicated now.

15.  Punch a bully in the nose once and they’ll usually leave you alone.

16.  Check your pockets before throwing them in the washing machine.

17.  The difference between pink and purple is your grip.

18.  Buy American. They get everything from China.

19.  There was only one Johnny Carson. Alas.

20. Making a light meatless pasta doesn’t emasculate me; it makes me even sexier and more worldly.

#20 leads into the recipe. And without further ado, here’s a pasta that’s meatless, sexy, worldly, and a 6 on the old Weight Watchers system (PointsPlus and 360° can fuck off wontonly).  I admit, I double it and suffer a 12 because it’s so good, but that’s me.  It’s one of their recipes that’s actually excellent and made by someone who knows how to cook, an often rare concept in the WW world.  While this has a light taste, it’s filling and wonderful, and it’s beyond easy to make.  Try it and you’ll see. You’ll also see that it’s a perfect get-laid-dish for a male (40 year-old or not) with few cooking skills.

Walnut Gorgonzola Fettuccine

Serves 4, 1 cup each

Ingredients:

1/2 cup part-skim ricotta cheese.

1/4 cup chicken broth

1 tsp. lemon zest

6 oz. fettuccine

1/4 cup walnuts, toasted lightly

1/4 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese

2 tbsp. chopped Italian parsley

Makin’ It:

1.  In a bowl, whisk together the ricotta, chicken broth, and lemon zest until ’tis smooth.

2.  Cook the fettuccine according to the package or to your liking. Drain it and return it to the pot. (Note: don’t totally drain and dry the pasta. A little of the pasta water is good to keep it all moist. Just don’t overdo it.)

3. Add in the ricotta mixture and toss it well. Add in the walnuts, Gorgonzola cheese, and parsley. Toss it all again. Using tongs, grab a portion (1/4 if serving four smaller portions, 1/2 if serving two bigger portions) and twirl it into a bowl or onto a plate. Make sure you evenly distribute the walnuts and cheese as they have a tendency to settle at the bottom of the toss pot (British folks may laugh at this point). I usually will top each portion with the extra nuts and cheese.

Walnut Gorgonzola Fettucine 001

Easy as turning 40.

Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.

©Jon Marino 2013

Garlic Chicken Stir Fry

24 Jul

Garlic Chicken 022

Somewhere along the line, and I am thinking Emeril had a lot to do with this, people started going crazy with the garlic. I mention Emeril because every time he would add garlic to a recipe he was preparing, people started cheering in a “you shouldn’t do that, but fuck yeah” sort of way. In other words, it seemed that adding excess garlic to a dish became the equivalent of a Jagermeister shot at last call.

About 3 hours north of us in Gilroy, California, there is a garlic festival every year which draws thousands of people who get to sample everything from garlic bread to garlic ice cream. The health benefits of garlic have made headlines throughout the years as well. In an excellent memoir called Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters’ First 100 Years, the two centenarian African-American women attest to eating a chopped raw garlic clove and cod liver oil every morning, which was one of their secrets to longevity.

The Stinking Rose is a restaurant to which I have been both in San Francisco and Beverly Hills, and they specialize in festooning almost every dish with garlic. When you arrive, a jar of spreadable garlic awaits you on the table and the saturation just mounts from there: 40 Clove Chicken, Gnocchi in a garlic cream sauce, garlic fish and chips, and the obligatory garlic ice cream which, for me, works only as a novelty. When my wife and I went there for dinner some years ago, people nosed us for days afterward and seemed to pirouette away from us when we bid them “HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHIiiiiiii” in an”H” heavy, breathy voice. I chased them and my wife shook her head at me.

This garlic chicken recipe is garlicky, of course, but not to a level leading to the ostacization we experienced. I gleaned this from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook and didn’t really mess with it much because it’s solid.  In fact, a portion of this with a 1/2 cup o’ rice is a 6 on the Old Weight Watchers system (PointsPlus and 360° can fuck off interminably). This is quick-to-make, filling, light, and will give you a garlic fix should you need one.

Garlic Chicken Stir Fry

Makes 4 Servings

Old Weight Watchers Value: 6

Ingredients:

2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

1 cup water

3 tbsp. soy sauce

1 tbsp. rice or white wine vinegar

1 tbsp. cornstarch

2 tbsp. oil

10 green onions, sliced into 1″ pieces

1 cup sliced mushrooms

12 cloves garlic (or more), peeled and finely chopped

1/2 cup sliced water chestnuts (1/2 of a can drained)

2 cups hot cooked rice

Makin’ It:

Cut the chicken breasts into small pieces (1/2″) and put them in a resealable plastic bag. In a small bowl, stir together the water, soy sauce, and vinegar. Pour this over the chicken, seal the bag, and refrigerate it for 30 minutes or more. Drain the chicken and reserve the marinade. Whisk the cornstarch into the reserved marinade and set it aside for later.

In a large nonstick skillet or wok, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the green onions, mushrooms, and garlic and cook them for 2 minutes or so, until they’re tender. Remove these vegetables from the skillet and set them aside.

Now add the chicken to the skillet, cooking and stirring until it’s no longer pink, about 4 minutes or so. Push the chicken to the side of the skillet, give a quick stir to that reserved marinade (so the cornstarch doesn’t settle at the bottom), and pour it into the center of the skillet. Cook this until it’s thickened and bubbly (like Kim Kardashian), and then push the chicken back into the center and mix it all together. Return all of the veggies to the skillet and add the water chestnuts, too. Cook and stir this for a few minutes more and serve with rice.

Garlic Chicken 011

You can add cashews, too, but the WW points value will go up, of course. Piece of cake.

Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.

©Jon Marino 2013

Mexican Lasagna

16 Jul

Tortilla and Black Bean Casserole 008

I got this recipe out of the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook and tweaked it a bit. The authors call this a casserole, but I heartily disagree. This is a lasagna, except that corn tortillas are substituted for lasagne and the fillers are Mexican-based frivolities. So I will call it Mexican Lasagna whether anyone likes it or not.

For the umpteenth time in the last few years, I have decided to seriously engage in the old Weight Watchers system (PointsPlus and 360° can fuck off thither).  I am excited about this because I really want to expand on the good dishes I can make…dishes that are good for you and fill you up. I thought about changing the name of this blog to “Thinner with Jonny,” but I would feel like a cock for doing that, so no.

The idea in Weight Watchers is to try to get as much bang for your buck, but in this case, bang for your POINTS. They have the “filling foods” concept, which is the list of foods with little or no caloric value but will fill you up, duh. Also, fiber is a good thing. This lasagna, for instance, has 8 grams of fiber per serving, so while it has 300 calories a serving and 8 grams of fat, the point value isn’t so high because of the fiber: it’s a 6, and this baby is a brick o’ food. I get 36 points a day, so this still leaves me with 30 points….not too shabby.

Furthermore, the leftover portions can be frozen and serve as a quick lunch or dinner. It’s quite easy to make and a crowd pleaser. If you want more protein, add a layer of shredded chicken or Mexi-meat, but it will change the points value, of course.

Mexican Lasagna

Serves 8

Ingredients:

1 tbsp. oil

2 cups chopped onion

1 bell pepper, seeded, membranes removed, and chopped

1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained

3/4 cup Pico Pica or taco sauce or something similar

2 tsp. ground cumin

3 cloves minced garlic (or more if you’re hardcore)

2 15 oz. can beans, drained and rinsed (kidney, black, pinto, whatever works)

12 6-inch corn tortillas

2 cups cheddar or jack cheese

Assorted toppings like lettuce, tomatoes, sliced black olives, green onions, sour cream

Makin’ It:

Preheat the oven to 350°.

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium high heat and add the chopped onions and bell pepper. Saute this for 5 minutes until they’re soft. Next, add in the tomatoes, taco sauce, cumin, and garlic. Get this boiling, reduce the heat, and simmer it uncovered for 10 minutes. Stir in the beans.

In a 13″ x 9″ baking dish, spread 1/3 of the bean mixture on the bottom. Layer 6 tortillas on top of this, overlapping when needed. Top with 1 cup of the cheese. Add another 1/3 of the bean mixture, the remaining tortillas, and 1/2 cup of the cheese.

Bake this for 30 to 35 minutes. Remove it from the oven and sprinkle on the remaining cheese. Let it rest for 10 minutes. Slice it into 8 pieces and serve. Top it with the fixin’s if you’re hip to it.

Fusion food at it’s finest.

Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.

©Jon Marino 2013