Joy Of Cooking: Two Grain Date Pilaf

Two Grain Date Pilaf is the third bean/grain recipe that I have tried from Joy of Cooking. This is a really interesting recipe. It pairs basmati rice and bulgur wheat. That is a combination I would never have thought of on my own.

I cut the recipe in half. So here are the ingredients that I used:

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/4 cup diced onion
  • 1/2 cup basmati rice
  • 1/2 cup bulgur wheat
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 and 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup diced dates

In a medium sauce pan (that has a lid) saute the butter and onion over medium heat, until the onion turns golden, about 8 minutes. Add the rice, bulgur and cinnamon, stir to coat with butter.

Butter, Onions, Rice and Bulgur

Add the water and salt. Bring to a boil, cover. Reduce heat to medium low heat. Cook for about 20 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed.

Meanwhile, melt the remaining butter. I did that in a Pyrex measuring cup in the microwave. Stir the chopped dates into the butter. This gives the a delicious coating and causes them to separate a bit. They are very sticky and want to clump up.

When the rice and bulgur are tender and the liquid has been absorbed, add the date mixture. Gently stir to combine.

Two Grain Date Pilaf

I served my pilaf with a cauliflower curry.

Two Grain Pilaf with Cauliflower Curry

 

The pilaf was really delicious.  The combination of bulgur and rice was unusual and made the dish visually interesting. The bulgur gave it a nuttiness. It had a nice texture. The dates gave it an exotic flair. The butter added a richness. It tasted great with my cauliflower curry.  I think it would be a nice accompaniment with a piece of chicken and a nice green vegetable.

What’s the verdict? This is a great dish to have in your repertoire. It’s easy and quick to prepare.The ingredients are inexpensive. Though the pilaf has an exotic taste, all of the ingredients are widely available.

If I were to make this dish again, I think I would add more dates. They were good. Or I might leave out the dates altogether and add some sliced mushrooms to the butter and onion saute.

That reminds me…butter and onions really add a lot to a grain dish! I am going to remember to do that more often. Yes, it adds a little bit of fat. But it also adds so much flavor.

I couldn’t really taste the cinnamon. I have had those cinnamon sticks on my shelf for quite a while. Maybe they lost their oomph. Next time I might just put in a good pinch of ground cinnamon instead. Or I might try some cardamom. Another delicious spice.

Last but not least, some toasted cashews would be a great addition to this dish.

Enfrijoladas

Enfrijoladas are sort of like enchiladas. They are made with corn tortillas, beans, cheese and possibly some additional protein.  With enchiladas, the tortillas are dipped in an enchilada sauce. With enfrijoladas, the tortillas are dipped in a bean puree sauce. You could add beef, chicken, cheese to your enfrijoladas or you could make them completely vegan. This is a dish that is served throughout Mexico,  especially in Oaxaca. It is a homey sort of meal; the kind of thing that is perfect for a comfortable evening around the dinner table.

As  far as I am concerned, this meal has everything going for it: it’s easy to make, inexpensive, good for you, delicious, and it can be served with a multitude of condiments so that each person can dress it up to their  personal taste.  I think it would make a perfect Meatless Monday meal because it is so satisfying and filling that no one would miss the meat. It does not have a whole grain – but it does have corn tortillas which are a whole grain product.

This is the first time that I have made enfrijoladas. I checked out a lot of recipes. I adapted my version from a Rick Bayless recipe that I found online. His recipe called for chorizo which of course, I don’t eat. And he used black beans flavored with an avocado leaf. That is a typical Oaxacan preparation, but alas, I had no avocado leaf! So I had to make a few alterations.

I used Rancho Gordo pinto beans. I love black beans but on this particular day I had a hankering for pinto beans.

Rancho Gordo Pinto Beans

 

In my small crock pot I cooked one cup of pinto beans along with 2 cloves of garlic and one dried chipotle pepper. Chipotles are dried jalapenos. They have a really smokey flavor. When I opened the bag of peppers I was pleasantly bowled over by their smokiness. I wasn’t sure how hot they would be so I only used one pepper. Canned chipotles are generally pretty hot but these dried peppers were more flavorful than spicy. Next time I would use two.  I stemmed and seeded the chipotle and then threw it right into the pot with the beans.

Pinto Beans and Chipotle Peppers

 

When the beans were good and tender, I put beans, garlic and chipotle into my blender and pureed until smooth. I added bean broth to thin the puree. It needs to be the consistency of “a thick cream soup”.  I used all of my bean broth and still needed to add a little water to get it to the proper consistency.

Pureed Pinto Beans

 

The next step is to dip the corn tortillas into the bean sauce and assemble the casserole. There are several possible ways to do this. You can dip the tortillas in the bean puree then put cheese/meat in them and roll them up like an enchilada. You can put sauce on them and simply layer them with cheese/meat in between.  In the end, I went with Rick Baylesses suggestions, and simply dipped the tortillas in the sauce and then folded them into quarters. I did not put cheese in them – decided that cheese on the top would be sufficient.

I found this step to be a bit tricky. I steamed the corn tortillas so that they would pliable. The tortillas were hot. The sauce was hot. Everything was just hard to handle. So here is the method that I used:

Lay a warm tortilla on top of the bean puree, using tongs, turn the tortilla over so that it has sauce on both sides.

 

Tortilla Flat in the Puree

 

With the tongs, gently fold the tortilla in half.

 

Tortilla Folded in Half

 

Fold into quarters.

 

Tortilla Quartered

 

Layer in the casserole dish. Pour additional sauce over the tortillas.

Tortillas Sauced and Folded

 

Top that with some cheese. I used cheddar cheese, but you could use Monterrey Jack or a crumbly Mexican cheese.

Ready for the Oven

 

Pop that into a 400 degree oven and bake until the cheese is melted and everything is hot and bubbly.

So while that was baking, I turned my attention to the toppings. I made a homemade salsa with fresh tomatoes, Serrano peppers, cilantro and lime. That is a favorite in my house. Of course, your favorite store bought salsa would work fine. I cut up an avocado and squeezed a lime on it.  I thinly sliced iceberg lettuce and chopped some green olives.  I set out some sour cream.

Salsa, Condiments & Toppings

 

I forgot to put the jalapenos in that photo. But for me, these are a must!

Don't Forget the Jalapenos!

 

So with the toppings assembled, the enfrijoladas were ready to eat.

Enfrijoladas - The Finished Product

 

And it was delicious! The bean puree was so flavorful. The chipotle chili gave it a wonderful smokey flavor. The tortillas largely held their shape, but the sauce gave them a silky texture. And of course, the toppings mean that Husband and I could each make our plate exactly as we liked. Husband raved! Husband had seconds!

Would I make this again? Absolutely! It was easy to make and tasted great.

And this meal was budget friendly. No…it was cheap. This could have easily served six. I saved my grocery store receipt and calculated the cost. Even with all those toppings, the cost came out to about a $1.50 per serving. I think the one wild card here might be the corn tortillas. I live in South Texas so corn tortillas are inexpensive and readily available. I am guessing there are places where that isn’t entirely true.  I don’t think there are any good subsitutes for corn tortillas in this dish.

I also calculated the calories, fat, fiber and protein in this dish. I know this isn’t completely scientific, but I added up the values in each component and did the math that way. My estimate is that each serving is about 275 calories, 8 grams of fat (from the cheese), 11 grams of protein and 8 grams of fiber. That does not include the toppings and those you can add as much or as little as you like, giving you complete control.

Like I said, you could add meat to this dish so it would please the carnivores. You could serve it with Mexican Rice and a big salad. We had some fresh cut mango with ours. I think this is a terrific, versatile dish that will make a regular appearance on our dinner table!