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Published: Tuesday, 3/1/2005

Black Beans with Cotija Cheese

2 cups dried black beans (or 2 16-ounce cans black beans with their liquid)

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

2 medium white onions, chopped

1 tablespoon ground cumin

4 cups unsalted chicken stock or water (or use some of each)

Salt and freshly ground pepper

3 ounces cotija cheese, crumbled (or use feta)

2 medium tomatoes, chopped, for garnish

1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro, for garnish

The day before serving, place the beans in a large pot and add water to extend 3 inches above the beans. Soak overnight. (Or, if you forget to soak the beans the night before, place them in a large pot and cover with water 3 inches above the beans. Bring to a boil and then immediately turn off heat. Cover and let sit for about 1 1/2 hours.) Pour the beans into a colander and drain off the soaking liquid.

In the same pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the cumin and stir to coat the onions. Let cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly so the cumin will not burn. Add the beans and cover with the stock. Bring to a boil and skim off the foam from the beans. Partially cover and reduce the heat to simmer. Simmer gently until beans are cooked through but not mushy, about 1 hour. For a thicker consistency, remove the cover and boil some of the liquid away. Add salt and pepper to taste. Using a slotted spoon, scoop up the beans and place them in a shallow bowl. Sprinkle with the cheese, and then garnish with the tomato and cilantro. Serve immediately.

Yield: Serves 6-8

Source: Adapted from The New American Cheese by Laura Werlin

4 ounces Spanish chorizo sausage, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices (or use

linguica or andouille)

1 large yellow onion (about 1/2 pound), thinly sliced

20 medium shrimp (about 6 ounces of 41-50 per pound), shelled and

deveined

8 ounces Oaxaca cheese coarsely grated (or use mozzarella)

Salt

4 large (9 to 10-inch) tortillas

2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil

In a large nonstick skillet, cook the chorizo over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until it turns a shade or two darker and much of the fat has been rendered, 8-10 minutes. Transfer the chorizo to a plate lined with paper towels. Discard all but 1 tablespoon of the fat left in the skillet.

Use the same skillet to cook the onions over medium heat, stirring occasionally until they are limp and golden, but not brown, 7-9 minutes. Increase the heat to medium-high and add the shrimp. If the skillet seems dry, add 1-2 teaspoons of olive oil. Cook until the shrimp turn a vibrant pink shade and feel fairly firm to the touch, about 2 minutes. Add salt to taste. Transfer the shrimp mixture to a plate. Wipe the skillet with a paper towel but do not wash it.

To assemble: Brush one side of each tortilla with oil and place the tortillas on your work surface, oiled side down. Distribute the chorizo slices on the bottom half of each tortilla, followed by the shrimp mixture and the cheese. Fold the tortillas in half to enclose the filling, forming a half-moon.

To make the quesadillas: Heat the same skillet you used to make the chorizo mixture over medium-high for 2 minutes. Place 2 of the quesadillas in the skillet, cover, and cook for 2 minutes or until undersides are golden brown. Uncover, and turn the quesadillas with a spatula. Cook for about 1 minute, or until the undersides are golden brown and the cheese has melted completely. Repeat with the remaining 2 quesadillas. Cut the quesadillas in half, and serve immediately.

Yield: Makes 4

Source: Adapted from Great Grilled Cheese by Laura Werlin



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