Hello, my name is Chef Robert J. Dumont and I would like to personally thank you for being part of the first installment of the Caribbean Chef’s Corner, something that I hope turns into a helpful and fun way for me to connect with the guests of the Caribbean Motel to talk about my favorite topic: FOOD!
At the Caribbean Pool Deck we are all about sun, fun, and good food, so I wanted to make sure that our first recipe incorporated all those things. When George and Carolyn suggested the Black Bean and Goat Cheese Taco from last year’s Labor Day End of Summer Party I knew we had a winner. We are talking tacos, guacamole, fresh cut tomato salsa, and margaritas with the sun shining down on the pool deck. This is how to summer on the Jersey Shore. I now have a new motivation to get through this winter, as I sit here on this cold January morning with snow on the ground and temperatures going up to the high teens today. I can picture myself on the pool deck now, with the sun shining and reflecting off the pool accompanied by the sweet sounds of Doo Wop playing in the background. I can almost smell the enticing cilantro and cumin frying with peppers and onions. And I can definitely hear George firing up the blender and absolutely cannot wait for summer now!
OK enough of that; back to reality now. Where were we? Oh yes TACOS! Depending on where you are from tacos could evoke different images to different people. Growing up in the northeast region of America, so far from Mexico and the South West, I did not get the true experience of tacos until later in life. It was not until I was a young Chef that I learned how much I had been missing out on! My early experiences with tacos included some processed mystery meat stuffed into a crumble-in-your-hand shell, all chalk full of preservatives. These tacos, the ones we are discussing today, are the farthest cry from that. Picture a tortilla, warm and crispy on the outside, and soft on the inside overflowing with slow cooked carnitas (pulled pork) or carne asada (steak). These tacos are full of fresh flavors such as cilantro, and seasonings including cumin and chili powder. Webster’s Dictionary defines a “taco” as a traditional Mexican dish composed of a corn or wheat tortilla folded or rolled around a filling. A taco can be made with variety of fillings including beef, pork, chicken, seafood, vegetables and cheese, allowing for great versatility and variety. A taco is generally eaten without utensils and is often accompanied by salsas, avocado or guacamole, cilantro, tomatoes, minced meat, onions and lettuce.
Technically speaking, that definitely describes what a taco is, but I don’t think it conveys the fun and flavor that today’s tacos can provide. When I start thinking about tacos, I think of slow cooked meats packed with flavor from serious chili sauces. I can almost smell the fresh caught fish being grilled on an open fire on the beach. These tacos should be accompanied by garden-fresh produce including onions, peppers, cilantro, and garlic, and are often topped with fresh-squeezed lime juice and Pico de Gallo.
`Another reason why I get so pumped about tacos and food in general is that I love History. Certain foods can take you back in time. They can give you a sense of what things were like for our ancestors. I have always been fascinated by the experiences they went through laying down the foundations for civilization, allowing us today to enjoy all the benefits of their sacrifices. The taco is one food that allows us to look into a rich history, full of poignant events. The taco is an authentic and traditional Mexican dish that predates the arrival of Europeans. Bernal Diaz del Castillo documented the first taco feast shared between the Spanish Conquistadors and the indigenous people living in the lake region of the Valley of Mexico as a meal of corn tortillas filled with fish. This would be the original fish taco to be rediscovered again and made popular hundreds of years later in Baja, California. Food often gives us the opportunity to see how something old can be rediscovered and made new again. Like a time machine, food connects us to the past more than we ever realize.
The varieties of tacos are as endless as the combinations of toppings you can put on a pizza. No wonder the taco has withstood the test of time and still remains popular today. Think of the varieties: would you like a corn or wheat tortilla? Do you prefer a hard or soft taco? Would you like it to be filled with beef, steak, chicken, pork, fish, vegetables, or some combination? Of course, tacos have traditionally been seasoned with Mexican spices of chili and cayenne powders, cumin, cilantro, and garlic. However, with the global food infusion movement, we now have Korean style tacos. These utilize the traditional tortilla of the Mexican culture, but instead they are filled with Korean flavored meat and vegetable fillings, creating a special marriage of dumpling filling and tortilla. For the first time, the Far East is meeting the South West in an explosion of popularity and flavor.
Our recipe of Black Bean and Goat Cheese Tacos is a unique version of the taco that has so many positive attributes from its two star ingredients: Black Beans and Goat Cheese, it’s no wonder it is one of George and Carolyn’s favorite dishes.
Black Beans are a great Super Food packed with protein, fiber, and antioxidants. Just one cup of black beans can provide over 50% of your daily fiber, helping digestion and providing 30% of your daily protein. That means that they give you lasting energy and keep you feeling fuller longer. Because of their low glycemic index and high protein plus fiber combination, they are great option for those watching their blood sugar. The recipe calls for canned black beans for convenience purposes, but if you have the time to use dry beans the benefits are worth it. If you do use the canned version be sure to choose the one with the lowest sodium content and rinse them well.
Goat Cheese, while not yet classified as a Super Food, is still no slouch. It is definitely one of the healthier cheese options compared to some of its bovine counterparts. Compared to cow’s cheese, goat cheese is lower in fat and calories and higher in protein and calcium. There is evidence that it is good for your brain and can help boost metabolism, goat cheese is also one of my personal favorite cheeses. Worldwide, more people drink goat’s milk than cow’s milk. With its low levels of lactose, it is also a great alternative for those that are lactose intolerant. Goats have played a role in food culture since the beginning of civilization, being one of the oldest domesticated animals. It is thought that goats were first herded approximately 10,000 years ago in the mountain regions of Iran. In fact, Ancient Egypt, Rome, and Greece all relied heavily on the goat and its milk. Being so much easier to raise and transport than a cow, it is no wonder the goat has remained popular throughout history. One day I dream of having a small farm to source my own ingredients, and chickens and goats will be my first livestock project. But of course, its one thing for a food to be good for you, but we most often select food because of taste. And goat cheese tastes incredible! It is so creamy and tangy delicious that it is able to provide the exact balance to bring all of the other flavorful ingredients together.
So we now know that we have two great ingredients that make this recipe a great healthy, flavorful, vegan dish. If you use corn instead of flour tortilla it can be a gluten free option as well. A great counterpart to this recipe is Guacamole. Avocados are another super food with tons of health benefits that also taste great when mashed and mixed with tomato, onion, cilantro, and fresh-squeezed lime juice. Just add fresh cut tomato salsa and Spanish rice to make this a delicious and inexpensive weeknight dinner option.
Be sure to check out the photo album for helpful hints on making your own Black Bean Tacos.
I hope that I have inspired the Chef in you to get in the kitchen and start cooking. If you have any questions please feel free to submit using the form below! Here’s to a great upcoming summer at the Caribbean Motel!!!
Black Bean Tacos
2 oz Olive Oil (not extra virgin)
2 Ea Jalapeno Pepper
1 Ea Poblano Pepper
1 Ea Red Onion
1 teaspoon Cumin
1 bunch Cilantro
1.75 lb Canned Black Beans
10 ea 6 inch soft flour tortilla
8 oz Goat Cheese
8 oz Monterey Jack Cheese, Shredded
1 Tablespoon Ancho Chili
Powder or Cayenne Powder
1/2 Cup Vegetable Oil
1. Rinse Black Beans in a colander, drain well.
2. Wash peppers.
3. Seed and large dice poblanos and jalapeno.
4. Peel and large dice Red Onion.
5. Rinse, dry then chop Cilantro.
6. Heat olive oil in saute pan over medium heat and add the onions, peppers, cumin, and half the cilantro to the pan, season with salt & pepper and cook until the vegetables are soft.
7. Place the Black Beans, Peppers, Onions, and remaining cilantro into a food processor and puree until a smooth paste. Taste and adjust seasoning.
8. Allow filling to cool to room temperature then fold in all of the Jack Cheese and half of the Goat Chese. Place in refrigerator to stiffen up so the filling doesn’t run out when cooking. If in a hurry place in freezer for 15 minutes while you prepare the next step.
9. For an easy clean up take a few sheets of plastic wrap and cover your counter or table work surface.
10. Lay the Tortilla out on the plastic covered surface as many as you can without overlapping.
11. Spread 3 tablespoons of Black Bean puree into the center of each tortilla
12. Add the remaining Goat Cheese equally on top of the Black Bean to each taco.
13. Fold Tortilla in half, be careful not to squeeze out the
filling, but be sure that it spreads equally throughout the shell.
14. Heat 1/2 the Vegetable Oil in large frying pan over medium heat.
15. Sprinkle the outside of the tortilla with the Chili Powder.
16. Fry 2-3 Tacos at a time, be sure not to crowd the pan , then flip and fry the other side till golden brown. Depending on how high you have the heat, it should not take more than 60-90 seconds on each side. If they start to get too dark too fast, lower the heat.
17. Remove from pan onto paper towel to drain the oil. Repeat steps 15 and 16 till all tacos are done, adding remaining oil as needed, then serve with fresh cut Salsa, Guacamole, Sour Cream.