May 272013
Black Bean Tostadas with Crispy Kale, Avocado, Cotija, and Lime

Black Bean Tostadas with Crispy Kale, Avocado, Cotija, and Lime

Years ago, a friend came home from an educational trip to Cuba with a basic recipe for Cuban black beans. She made them for me once; I took note of the flavor profile, and they’ve been a staple in my kitchen ever since.  The method she brought back seasoned the beans with cumin, garlic, Cubanelle peppers, and of course, salt.  Cubanelles can be hard to find here in the States, but Anaheims are a decent substitute. I take some creative license and often incorporate– depending on the season– spicier peppers (usually jalapenos or serranos),  sauteed kale, mushrooms, or summer squash, but in this case I thought I’d deconstruct my additions a bit and see if I couldn’t come up with a dish featuring more-varied textures and colors.

Here, I serve this version of Cuban black beans over warm, oven-crisped corn tortillas, piled high with a salad of crispy kale, diced avocado, fresh lime, and finely crumbled Cotija cheese. (Cotija is a salty, crumbly white Mexican cheese. It’s worth seeking out, as no other cheese quite matches its earthy saltiness. Run it over the finest setting on a box grater, and you’ll get a fine crumble.)

Don’t be shy with the fresh lime juice– it brings everything alive.

And if you rank among the kale-fearful… try this! Tuscan kale is not only good for you– it has a wonderful umami-driven flavor once cooked.


IndieCulinary Cuban-Style Black Bean Tostadas with Crispy Kale, Cotija, Avocado, and Lime

Yield: 6 tostadas


    Crispy Kale
  • 1-2 heads Tuscan kale
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt
  • Cuban-Style Black Beans
  • 3 cups cooked black beans
  • 1/2 cup cooking liquid, or chicken stock, or-- if you're using canned beans-- don't drain them
  • 2 Anaheim (or Cubanelle) peppers, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Salt, to taste (The amount you'll want and need will vary based on whether you started with dried or canned beans, and what level of salt they have to start. Taste often and be generous-- beans need salt to pull out their flavor.)
  • For the Tostadas
  • 6 corn tortillas
  • Cuban-style Black Beans prepared as below
  • Crispy Kale prepared as below
  • 3 ounces crumbled Cotija cheese
  • 3 avocados
  • 3 limes


    Make the Crispy Kale
  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
  2. Wash kale; remove or cut off any large stems.
  3. Cut kale leaves crosswise into 2-inch ribbons.
  4. Toss kale ribbons with a few good drizzles of olive oil.
  5. Spread in a single layer on one or two cookie sheets, depending on how much kale you have-- don't stack it too much and give the ribbons some room to crisp.
  6. Leave in the oven approximately 20 minutes, or until crispy. Check on it and give the kale a toss when it's halfway through. Don't let it burn-- it will get bitter.
  7. Make the Beans
  8. Bring the beans, liquid, peppers, garlic, and cumin to a low simmer in a large saucepan. Salt to taste. The beans are ready once the peppers have softened.
  9. Assemble the Tostadas
  10. Lay the 6 corn tortillas on a cookie sheet without overlap; bake 10 minutes at 300 degrees F or until crisp.
  11. To plate, top each tortilla with about a half cup of Cuban-style black beans.
  12. Top the beans with a high stack of crispy kale.
  13. Top the kale with half a diced avocado, per tostada. Then add a few more pieces of crispy kale to the very top.
  14. Squeeze half a lime over each tostada. (Press and roll the limes hard with your palm before you cut them in half-- this will help to release the juice.)
  15. Sprinkle half an ounce of crumbled Cotija over each.
  16. Serve!

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