“Chicken” and Bean Burrito with Pipian Verde

My introduction to Mexican foods was in the early 1980s, when Javier Lopez came to work with us from his homeland in Tlaxcala, Mexico. It became a love affair that continues today. He taught me so much about his family recipes, but I think the most important lesson he taught me had to do with the use of chiles. Until then, I always thought of chiles as hot peppers, and I used them (mainly jalapeños) as a spice to add heat to a dish. Javier taught me to use chiles as a vegetable. He taught me how to use poblano chiles—big, deep-green-colored peppers that have a rich, spectacular pepper flavor and a mild to medium heat—in sautéed vegetable dishes, in fillings for quesadillas and enchiladas, and in burritos.

This delicious recipe is very healthful. It contains good protein, complete because the beans are paired with corn and tortillas, and it has loads of fiber and powerful antioxidants from the chiles, onions, and garlic. The pipian verde salsa is made with pumpkin seeds. These seeds are among the Native American foods that became New World treasures. They are rich in important nutrients, such as manganese, iron, copper, zinc, and protein. They also contain anti-inflammatory monounsaturated fats and phytosterols, plant sterols that contribute to a strong immune system.

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Ingredients

Pipian Verde

  • 2 cups shelled pumpkin seeds, divided
  • 5 large organic tomatillas, husk removed and discarded, fruit rinsed well and quartered
  • ½ large sweet onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cloves organic garlic, sliced
  • ¼ cup coarsely chopped organic cilantro
  • 1 medium organic jalapeño pepper, sliced
  • Sea salt and pepper
  • cups organic vegetable broth, divided
  • 1 tablespoon organic canola oil

Burrito

  • 1 cup dry organic pinto beans, picked over for stones
  • 4 cloves organic garlic, sliced
  • ¼ cup coarsely chopped organic cilantro
  • 1 medium organic jalapeño pepper, sliced
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large sweet onion, cut into thick ribs, separated
  • 2 medium poblano chile peppers, seeded and cut into strips
  • 2 ears of fresh corn, kernels cut to make about 2 cups of kernels
  • Sea salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chile powder
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 8-ounce package meatless chicken strips, added frozen
  • ¼ cup water
  • 6 8-inch whole wheat flour tortillas
  • 4 ounces queso fresco or Cotija cheese (can substitute feta cheese or ricotta salata), crumbled

Method

  1. To make the pipian verde, lightly toast the pumpkin seeds in a dry skillet over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until they are just golden-green, fragrant, and begin to make a “popping” noise, about 1-2 minutes. Reserve 3 tablespoons of toasted seeds to garnish the burritos before serving.
  2. Spoon the toasted pumpkin seeds into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Cover and process for about a minute or until the seeds are finely ground. Add the tomatillas, onion, garlic, cilantro, and jalapeño. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and pepper. Add vegetable broth to cover the vegetables, about a cup of broth. Cover and process for about a minute until well blended. Taste for seasonings. Heat the tablespoon of canola oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the processed pumpkin seed mixture and the remaining broth. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring frequently, for about 30 seconds, until the mixture is heated through. Taste for seasonings. Remove from the heat and reserve ¾ cup for your burritos. (Store the remainder and use to top sides like baked or roasted potatoes.)
  3. To make the burritos, measure the beans into a 4-quart pot. Fill the pot with cold water and bring to a boil over high heat. Boil the beans for about 1¼ hours or until just tender but not soft, stirring occasionally, adding water if needed to keep the beans covered plus 1½ to 2 inches. When the beans are tender, drain them and set aside.
  4. Meanwhile, put the garlic, cilantro, and jalapeño into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade and process for about 10 seconds or until finely minced. Set aside.
  5. Heat the olive oil in a large, deep skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, poblano, and corn kernels. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and pepper, the chile powder, and oregano. Stir well to combine. Cover and cook for about 5-6 minutes, stirring frequently until the crisp-tender. Add the meatless chicken strips, the cooked pinto beans, and the ¼ cup water. Stir to combine. Cover and cook for about 2 minutes, until the chicken strips have defrosted and are limp. Add the processed cilantro mixture and stir to combine. Taste for seasonings.
  6. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  7. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or spray it with nonstick cooking spray. Lay one tortilla on a plate and spread about a heaping cup of the filling in a row along the center of the tortilla, leaving about an inch bare on each end. Tuck in the sides to meet the filling, then roll the tortilla and place this burrito, seam side down, on the prepared cookie sheet. Continue filling and rolling the remaining tortillas. Spoon about ¾ cup of the pipian verde over the burritos, then divide the crumbled cheese evenly over top of the pipan verde. Bake in the preheated oven for about 10 minutes until the sauce is heated through. Sprinkle with a few toasted pumpkin seeds if desired before serving.