If you want a surefire way to knockout a family of four for a month, give them a bout of covid followed immediately by back to school (at a new school, no less!), and then another non-covid illness and here we are. Not the most fun four weeks of my life, but we survived.
Between all of that plus school bus pick-ups, having homework for the first time, and a baby who is thisclose to becoming mobile (god save me) we still haven’t quite found our groove yet. However what has become abundantly clear is that dinner has to be quick and simple. No frills, nothing fancy, just a get it done kind of meal.
In the past few years I’ve accumulated a few cookbooks that are lifesavers when it comes to easy but still craveworthy weeknight meals, one of which is The Weekday Vegetarians by Jenny Rosenstrach. The recipes are all super straightforward but with an extremely favorable effort-to-flavor ratio.
Bonus that they’re all meatless so I don’t have to worry about making tweaks or substitutions along the way.
This recipe was inspired by Rosenstrach’s spicy-tangy-smoky pinto bean bowls and it is one that I have not stopped craving since I initially made it back in the spring (99% sure I was still pregnant at the time!). It is hard to pinpoint exactly what makes it so addictive, but somewhere between the crisp lettuce against the smoky pintos, melty cheese, warm rice, and fresh salsa is a level of burrito bowl perfection that I have only experienced before when eating Chipotle’s sofritas tofu bowls.
These are completely meal prep friendly, so when making them I try get each individual component ready to go on the weekend so that they are ready for Monday night dinner. The pintos take just mere minutes to make, requiring only a brief saute on the stovetop with onion, garlic, smoked paprika, and tomato paste. A dash of red wine vinegar adds a tart finish and ties it all together. While they’re cooking I throw the rice into the Instant pot and cook it that way, but using a rice cooker or just cooking it on the stovetop the old-fashioned way is completely acceptable.
After that, you just need to shred the lettuce (or buy it pre-shredded!), grate the cheese, and quickly toss together the salsa.
I like to serve it so that the rice and the pintos are just warm enough to melt the cheese slightly but not enough to wilt the lettuce.
It’s a perfect bite situation, and we are just slightly obsessed. Hopefully you will be too!
- 3 tbsp vegetable oil
- ½ yellow onion, chopped
- salt and black pepper, to taste
- 1 large garlic clove, minced
- 1 tbsp + 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 2 tsp tomato paste
- 3 cups cooked pinto beans
- 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 4 cups cooked rice
- shredded romaine lettuce
- 8 oz cheddar cheese, grated
- 2½ cups finely diced fresh tomatoes
- ¼ cup cilantro, minced
- 1 garlic clove, grated
- ½ small jalapeno pepper, minced
- 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- salt and black pepper, to taste
- In a medium pot or saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and a pinch of salt to the pan. Saute for 3-5 minutes, or until the onion has softened.
- Add in the garlic, paprika, and tomato paste. Saute for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add in the beans and ½ cup water. Cook until warmed through and slightly thickened, about 4-5 minutes. Stir in the vinegar. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.
- Divide the rice among four serving bowls. Top each with lettuce, cheddar cheese, beans, and salsa fresca. Serve immediately.
- In a large bowl, toss together the tomatoes, cilantro, garlic, jalapeno, red wine vinegar, and olive oil. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.