- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A beautiful spring day beckons all but the most devoted cooks to leave their kitchens. Your to-do list probably doesn’t include standing in front of a stove for an hour or so, not when you can get started with backyard gardening or a bike ride. Add a few dinner-worthy staples to your kitchen, and you can have a delicious meal and more leisure time.

My list changes with the season, but here’s what I like and use now:

• Canned beans.

• Canned tomatoes.

• Queso fresco, a mild-tasting, firm-textured white cheese that crumbles into mild, tasty morsels.

• Canned salmon, a healthful and convenient alternative to fresh fish.

• Taco shells and pita bread to serve as scoops for vegetables, cheese and beans.

Vegetarian black bean tacos

Makes 2 servings

2 teaspoons canola oil

1/2 cup very thinly sliced red onion

1 small green bell pepper, cored, seeded and cut into thin strips

1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Salt and pepper to taste

1 cup canned, drained black beans

1/8 teaspoon ground cumin

4 taco shells (see note)

1/3 cup crumbled queso fresco

1 tablespoon minced cilantro

Heat oil in medium nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add red onion, bell pepper strips and red pepper flakes. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes or until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

Place black beans and cumin in small pot and simmer over low heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Place taco shells on baking sheet. Bake in preheated 300-degree oven for 3 to 5 minutes or until hot.

To assemble divide black beans among 4 taco shells. Top each shell with 1/4 of the vegetables. Combine queso fresco and cilantro. Spoon over vegetables, packing into taco shells if necessary.

Note: If desired, substitute one large pita bread for the 4 taco shells. Cut the pita bread in half. Toast if desired. Open the pita bread halves to form pockets and spoon in the beans, vegetables, and queso fresco and cilantro combination.

TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES

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