Brighten up any day with decadently healthy white bean tostadas topped with quick blackberry salsa and a spicy toasted pepita blend with sesame seeds and red chili flakes. Don’t wait for fresh blackberries, hit the freezer and get this show on the road in record time.
Growing up in Oregon taught be to be a bit casual about the availability of blackberries. Seriously, the vines grew like weeds along walls and we’d just pick them and pop them into our mouths as we were walking in the woods.
Superfood? (maybe superfoodie)
Admittedly, I’m a bit lost on the superfood lists. A few, like blueberries stick in my mind, so when I think about ‘super berries’ I think blueberry, but I often forget about those wonderfully sweet-sour blackberries I so loved in my childhood. That’s probably because I rarely see fresh blackberries where I live now, but blueberries are always in the fruit isle, conveniently located close to the bananas I’m always buying. It’s just a classic case of ‘out-of-sight, out-of-mind’.
And blackberries deserve some attention in the superfood department. They are packed with nutrients and powerful antioxidants. Anthocyanins, super-antioxidants, are responsible for that dark purple color that I associate with childhood meanders in the woods. At that time, I wasn’t worrying about high blood pressure or improving my cholesterol levels or even gum health. Little did I know, I was doing just that when I was grabbing those handfuls.
Hopefully, we can all agree that there a lot of benefits from eating frozen vegetables and fruits. Convenience and price might be a few, but from a nutritional standpoint, we can share a bit of appreciation. Fresh vegetables and fruit are frozen at the height of ripeness and thus, the height of their food impact.
When it comes to berries, most of us would prefer fresh to frozen, but when you are craving berries, don’t let the unavailability of fresh stop you. Frozen berries are more than just smoothie ingredients (although they are wonderful for that) or for cooking in mango curry. The trick for making salsa from frozen blackberries is all in the defrost.
How to defrost frozen berries
When it comes to defrosting, you can’t hurry your love for berries. There are two methods, that require 2 minutes and some planning. If you have the time, just put the frozen berries in a bowl, cover them with plastic wrap or an airtight container and place them in the fridge. This will take about 4-6 hours so take them out in the morning and forget about them until dinner time. Alternatively, you can just put them out on the counter which takes less time.
In a bit of hurry? Try running cold water over the blackberries, leave them draining and check back in 10 minutes and run more cold water if necessary. I’ve tried defrosting by adding them to a bowl of cold water and this worked ok, although I found the berries a bit waterlogged in the end.
Never do this: run warm or cold water over frozen berries. If you get in a rush, turn on the tap and out comes hot or even warm water, your lovely blackberries will release their juices and shrivel. Yuck.
Finally, you can just the defrost setting on your microwave to get the job done. The Nibble suggests that you defrost in batches of no more than a cup at a time and then lay them on a paper towel on the counter to finish thawing. If you saw where my underused microwave is located (far above my fridge), you’d understand why I can’t endorse this method. I’ve never tried it.
Making blackberry salsa
My version of ‘salsa’ in this case is actually 4-ingredients – blackberries, fresh jalapeno, lime juice and a teaspoon of maple syrup to balance out the sourness of the berries and lime. When I prepare white bean tostadas, I nearly always start by making the blackberry salsa. I just cover it and put it in the fridge. It will stay fresh for a few days without the berries getting mushy, but at the least, it can be made ahead so you can get onto the rest of the meal.
My last prep tip is to be mindful that when you handle and specifically cut black berries, the juice can stain. Use a cutting mat or even a plate when you cut the berries in half for the salsa and wash both immediately. As my wooden cutting boards will attest, blackberries can leave a lasting reminder of their presence.
Our newest addiction – toasted seeds and chili flakes
I’m serious. We are addicted to this simple concoction of toasted pepitas, sesame seeds and red chili flakes. I used pepitas because it always goes with a Mexican theme and sesame seeds give it a nice flavor that balances out the spiciness of the chili flakes. You could also add sunflower seeds or whatever else you might have on hand. This is a great way to use of those ‘bit’s of things you might have on hand too.
That crunchy spice was why I decided to toast up pepitas, sesame seeds and red chili flakes and give them a quick break up in my spice grinder. The idea was adding a different texture and flavor to offset the creamy rosemary white beans and sour blackberry salsa. Of course, I overestimated the amount the first time I made it, but a funny thing happened – all the leftovers disappeared.
There were a few telltale signs of what happened. A small indent in the bowl and stray sesame seeds on the counter (not naming names, but someone (who? who?) was grabbing a handful whenever they came into the kitchen). Some of us also discovered that this stuff is fantastic sprinkled over salads, potatoes or other vegetables. My advice is to intentionally make extra amounts of this healthy seed mix. It will be gone sooner than you can leave the bowl unattended.
Refried white beans
When people talk comfort food, honestly, my mind wanders to refried beans. Maybe it’s all those bean burritos from my past. For years, refried beans required nothing more than a can opener and a pan. Once I figured out how easy they are to make yourself, let alone how much, much healthier they are, the can opener has been officially retired for this use.
Normally, I turn to black beans when I think refried. They are so wonderful pared with my favorite Mexican foods such as quesadillas with spicy Escabeche or making quick burritos with pickled onions. That list is endless, but I’m not a ‘settler’ when it comes to food, which is probably why my lists never end. So, I decided it was time for white beans to enter the mix.
I used cannellini beans for my refry, but any white beans will work. And I really shook things up by paring them with fresh rosemary, mellow shallots and garlic. Now refrying beans is a bit like making hummus, one can doesn’t a dinner make. I used three 15-oz. (400 gm.) cans which made enough for 8 loaded tostadas.
Refried, refritos (mashup)
Traditionally, ‘refried’ beans are cooked and mashed into a paste that is then fried or baked. They aren’t actually fried and fried again as the name implies. But the ‘fry’ in refry can be important because the added ingredients usually involve oil or even lard. When you make them yourself, you get to control the added oil part, but more importantly, you can decide what flavor you like best. I love spicy refritos, but after making white beans with rosemary, a whole new world of the refried bean has been opened to me. It’s that same creamy texture, with an entirely new flavor profile. How fun it that?
Making refried beans
One of my biggest complaints about making refried beans is that too many recipes have you add far too much liquid (usually veggie broth) right off the top. You end up with super soupy beans and then you end up simmering them into oblivion in trying to get the liquid to reduce. For three cans of drained white beans, I started with just ½ cup of vegetable broth and ended up using 1. The amount of liquid you use depends on what kind of beans you use and how you prefer the consistency.
Inspired by learning to make my own corn tortillas, it was inevitable that I’d give them bright new flavors and colors to host. I wasn’t setting off to take three seemingly unrelated tastes, refried white beans, blackberry salsa and toasted pepita mix to launch my newest cooking adventure, but it seriously worked. And it worked again, because I’ve been making this dish (by request) so much now that it’s crept up in the recipe rotation around here.
I don’t approach plant-based cooking with the intent to recreate old favorites that fit into my newer eating patterns. But I most certainly celebrate when I can make healthier tortillas or make fresh what I can’t find without oil or other additives. And count me in on reviving memories of carefree days when blackberries came right off the vine. We don’t need to dwell on the past, but let’s take the good pieces and parts and carry them forward in ways that make us smile. Peace.Print