How in the world is it already May? April was a total blur. March was too, come to think of it. I met a bunch of new people. I moved. Last week I got sick for the first time since last May and it was terrible. And in the midst of it all, May sneaked up on us just like a bad cold. But now, I get the feeling things have settled a bit. Seven weeks or so of whirlwindy-ness and now I think I can chill out a bit. Just in time for Cinco de Mayo. A day on which, in order to counter all the chips and tequila I’ll probably be ingesting like it’s my job, I’ll probably also be making these tacos.
And just like colds and spring weather and the month of May, these tacos are sneaky. They’re spicy and limey and crunchy enough that they feel like the carnitas tacos you’ll stuff your face with to end Cinco de Mayo (buried under a whole mountain of sour cream and guacamole of course). But these sneaky guys are totally healthy! You’ve got sweet potatoes, black beans, cabbage, onion, cilantro, and lime juice. That’s it! Plus tortillas. These are the tacos you’ll want to start your night with, when vegetables of the non-fried variety still sound good. And then you’ll want to make them the next day and the next day and the next so you can feel like your cheating on your healthy eating streak and your grocery budget when really you’re being quite faithful to both. Let’s do it.
These tacos are crunchy, fresh, and just a bit spicy. Plus, you know, they’re tacos. Can’t really go wrong there.
Black Bean & Sweet Potato Tacos
Adapted a teeny bit from Joy the Baker
Serves 1 with a little leftover or 2 as an appetizer/snack
1 medium sweet potato, chopped
splash olive oil/butter
generous sprinkle of cumin
pinch red pepper flakes
1/2 can black beans, rinsed and drained
small corn tortillas
1/4 head cabbage, shredded
1/2 red onion, sliced
chopped cilantro to taste
lime juice to taste
Place the butter or oil in a large frying pan over medium high heat. Once it’s hot, add the cumin and pepper flakes and cook for a minute or so until fragrant. Add in the sweet potatoes and cook, stirring every so often, until they are softened and a little charred. Add in the black beans and cook until they are heated through, a minute or two more.
Meanwhile heat the tortillas however you like. Microwave, over a gas stove burner, or in oil.
To assemble, divide the sweet potato/black bean mixture between the tortillas. Top with cabbage, onion, cilantro, and lime juice. Enjoy!
Three and a half months ago, freshly graduated and completely unprepared for post-school life, I started a new job. My first big-girl, real-money, professional-but-doesn’t-feel-professional, corporate job. The first month was a blur of “Can you show me how to do this again?” and “What’s the next step?” and “Who’s that?” and “I’m confused.” It passed in the blink of an eye, and yet I’m pretty sure I got almost nothing done. I asked before I did anything – otherwise, without fail, I would skip a step, or send the wrong thing to the wrong person, and then risk having to go back a few steps. Mess up, and the mistake is on the record forever, in the incorrect email I’d sent, polished and displayed in a glass case for the half dozen people cc’d on the message. I’m sure the people one or two steps above me on the totem pole got sick of my endless questions. I got sick of them.
But then, after about six weeks or so, I felt like I had things figured out. I knew what the next step was, and what I needed to do to make it happen. Or so I thought. I was like a high school freshman after Christmas break – a semester under my belt, I totally had things figured out, right? Wrong. I forgot the important part – I was still a freshman. Still the newest person on the team, still able to make a mistake any second and be completely oblivious to it. Just like Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, “In fact, being – forgive me – rather cleverer than most men, my mistakes tend to be correspondingly huger.” (Yes, that just happened. I quoted Harry Potter. And I know you liked it 🙂 ) And that was just it. I’d gotten cocky. I had it all figured out! But then when I messed up, and I would, because I had next to nothing figured out, it was bad. People would have to go back and redo their work, or do mine for me. Not a fun thing to have on my conscience.
So I picked myself up from my ever-growing mistakes, and started asking questions again. But this time was different. I knew what to ask, who to ask, what the answer would mean, and what my next move should be. And that’s when I really started learning, and figuring things out, and doing things without checking first. And doing them right. On the first try. Now I’ve been working there three and a half months, and I can’t believe how high my level of knowing what to do is compared to when I started. And it’s growing every day. This week has been an especially good one. Sure I’ve made mistakes (like marking some email SUPER URGENT that my boss was cc’d on…apparently they weren’t urgent. But the project was due three hours ago!). But this week, I’ve also been doing things without being reminded. I’ll do them, tell the person in charge of the project I’m doing them, and get a “Thanks for remembering!” in response instead of a “No no no no no we send to this person now, and you have to do that to the file first.” I’m finally more of an asset than a liability when it comes to getting stuff done.
In the midst of my constant mistake-making, this dish (and variations of it) was one thing I knew I could always get right. Terrible segue. I’m sorry. But still. You can’t mess this up. You can use whatever you have on had. No potatoes? No problem. Throw that questionable broccoli in there. Half a bell pepper? Good idea. Cabbage? Let’s be friends. Bacon? Let’s be best friends.
Chop up a small sweet potato, toss it in a large frying pan with some butter. Or olive oil or whatever fat floats your boat, but I really like butter for this one. And some red pepper flakes, because is there anything they don’t make better?
The sweet potato will take a while to cook. Once it starts to get soft, throw in some chopped onion and garlic, and let everything get a little crispy. Make a space, and plop some more butter in there.
Crack an egg in that delicious, buttery space. Fry it up to your liking.
And pat yourself on the back for getting dinner totally right.
Sweet Potato Hash
Makes enough for one hungry person
A couple tablespoons butter, for the pan
1 small sweet potato, chopped
red pepper flakes
1/4 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Melt some of the butter in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Once it’s hot, add the chopped sweet potato. Once that starts to get soft but not charred, add the onion and garlic. Cook until everything starts to blacken a bit, but be careful to not burn the garlic.
Make a well in the center and melt the remaining butter in it. Crack the egg into the well and fry it however you like. Dump it all on a plate, salt, pepper, and hot-sauce liberally, and enjoy!