While there's no doubt the slow cooker is a versatile tool, it's most obvious to make it work for you on dishes that really benefit from, or even require, long cooking over low heat. Like this high-yield, complex, seriously hearty dish of pinto beans in a thick mole sauce. Tomatoes, peppers, raisins, almonds, and chocolate make for one deeply seductive, rich pool in which to cook tender, meaty pinto beans. And what better way to finish them off than by stuffing them into fresh tortillas? Because the beans are so substantial, we topped them with a beautifully cool--and above all, fresh--cucumber relish to provide a refreshing, crisp shot of green against all that red. The relish flavors mingle while you make the tortillas, and that's what we call good eating.
And easy eating. Soak your beans overnight, and, as long as you have a food processor or blender to do the pureeing, get out of bed only 15 minutes early to put together one rewarding dinner.
Or dinners, plural, really. Note that this recipe makes a ton of beans, enough for a couple dozen tacos with leftovers. Consider this a recipe for a crowd or something to feed you and yours all week (to ten days), or try freezing half for convenience. If you don't plan to hold some beans back, double (or triple) the relish recipe.
And if you still haven't, do give fresh tortillas a try. The standard MSV recipe is the recipe from Viva Vegan! using Maseca brand masa harina. Just mix 1 1/2 cups masa with 1/2 tsp salt and add 1 1/4 cups water. Mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon, then knead it with your hands for a couple of minutes, until it smooths out. That's it. Form into 12 balls, press them in a tortilla press (or roll them out between wax paper) and grill them on a dry griddle for a minute or two on each side, depending on how thick your tortillas are. And do buy Viva Vegan! It's a really nice book.
Slow-Cooker Pinto Bean Mole Tacos with Fresh Cucumber Relish
sauce adapted from Everyday Food
For the beans:
1 lb dried pinto beans
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes
1 yellow onion, roughly chopped
2 ancho peppers, stemmed, seeded, and torn into strips
1 large chipotle in adobo
1/2 cup almonds, toasted (pre-sliced almonds will make a smoother puree)
1/4 cup raisins
3 oz dark chocolate, chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled
3 TBSP olive oil
3/4 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 cups water
fine sea or kosher salt, to taste
For the relish:
yields about 2 cups
1/4 cup packed cilantro, chopped finely
2 scallions, white and tender green bits, very thinly sliced
1/2 medium jalapeno, very thinly sliced
1/4 tsp fine sea or kosher salt, or to taste
juice of half a lime
1 medium-large cucumber, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch thick, 1 1/2-inch long baton
Fresh soft corn tortillas (see note above recipe head) or store-bought soft corn tortillas, warmed in a stack in the oven
To make the beans, add the dried beans to a large slow cooker and pour in enough water to cover by a few inches. Cover with a towel and let soak overnight.
Drain and rinse the beans, then return them to the slow cooker and set aside. In a food processor, combine the sauce ingredients from tomatoes through cinnamon. Process until smooth, a couple of minutes, scraping down the sides as needed. Transfer to the slow cooker, add the 2 cups water, and stir well.
Cook on low for 10 hours. At 8 hours, the sauce will still be a bit too thin, so plan to let them cook for the entire 10 hours to thicken appropriately and for the beans to tenderize thoroughly. At 9 1/2 hours, check the beans to make sure they're tender, then add salt to taste. Replace the cover and set aside while you prepare the relish.
Stir together the cilantro, scallions, jalapeno, salt, and lime juice. Add the cucumber and toss gently until thoroughly combined. Adjust salt, if needed, and let sit until mellowed a bit, about 20 minutes, while you make tortillas. Assemble and serve the tacos as soon as the tortillas are ready.