16 May 2013

Mexican Vegetarian: Breakfast of Tortillas, Beans, Rice, and Eggs or Avocado

My neighbor Alicia from Mexico kindly invited me over for breakfast twice this week. It turns out that whenever she has time to make breakfast, it's naturally vegetarian (but not vegan). Alicia assured me that if I went to a Mexican restaurant for breakfast, they would always serve the same thing that she makes herself: eggs, beans, and rice with salsa spooned generously over everything and a pile of crispy tortillas for scooping. This sort of breakfast can keep you going all day, she told me, unlike cereal or pancakes. In my experience, that's true. If you don't like to eat eggs, slices of fresh avocado make a perfect—and, Alicia would agree—authentically Mexican substitute.

Alicia's Tortillas:
Alicia uses either corn (gluten-free) or flour tortillas and leaves them on the fry pan until they get crispy and bumpily shaped. Then she uses them to scoop the beans, eggs, or rice into her mouth. No forks necessary! she told me happily.

Alicia's Beans:
Alicia cooks dry pinto beans in water with salt. First she covers them with water in the morning. Then when she returns in the afternoon she boils them until soft. She drains all but a little water, cooks them in a little oil in a fry pan and smashes them with a hand-held potato masher. Sometimes she adds a little bit of dried Mexican oregano. At serving time she sometimes tops the reheated beans with grated queso fresco, a soft white Mexican cheese.

Alicia's Rice:
First toast the dry rice toasted with a little oil,  then boil it until soft in water and a bit of bouillon or stock. Add corn kernels at the end.

Alicia's Salsa:
Cook 10 or more peeled and rinsed tomatillos in boiling water until they change color and soften. Drain. Puree them with a small handful of dried chilies de arbol (tiny red chilies) and a touch of salt. You can soak the chilies in water for an hour to soften them, first, if it makes them easier to puree. Alicia's mother taught her to make salsa this way. It can be extraordinarily spicy and flavorful.

Alicia's Eggs:
She sautées together diced mushrooms, tomatoes, and white onion, and possibly a little jalapeño pepper. Then she adds some beaten eggs and makes either scrambled eggs or an omelette.

It seems like a lot of work for breakfast, but the truth is that the beans, rice, and salsa are usually left over from dinner the night before, and the tortillas are store-bought. Alicia can serve a steaming hot breakfast in about 15 minutes.
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