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Black Bean, Quinoa and Swiss Chard Tacos

I’d made a big ol’ mess of black beans, and they were just sitting in the fridge, waiting for something to come along and give them a bit of zing and turn them into Sunday night tacos — Swiss chard, roasted red bell pepper, it turns out, were up for the task.

Both of which I’d already cooked, but neither takes too long to make if you don’t spend your Saturday afternoons cooking and roasting veggies, which I sometimes like to do.

Quinoa’s my go-to grain (it’s really not a grain, but a tiny seed of a leafy plant that’s related to spinach, beets, and Swiss chard) instead of rice these days because it’s protein-packed, it only takes 10 minutes to cook, and is incredibly versatile, working with both savory and sweet dishes. I’ve been known to spoon leftover quinoa into my pancake batter, too – something that I picked up while hiking through Peru many years ago.

Even more than the good-for-you benefits, I love quinoa for its shape and texture – it imparts a slight crunch — and its subtle nutty taste. Not that I need to be any nuttier than I already am, but there you are.

Black Bean, Quinoa and Swiss Chard Tacos

Makes four generous servings

1 bunch Swiss chard, well-rinsed and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 clove garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper
1 cup quinoa
3 cups cooked black beans (canned are OK, but be sure and drain and rinse them first)
ΒΌ teaspoon chipotle powder
1 teaspoon cumin
sea salt
freshly ground pepper
8 flour or corn tortillas
fresh goat cheese, for serving (optional)
limes, for serving (optional)

Preheat the oven to 200 C/400 F.

1. Put 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large skillet and add the minced garlic. Turn the heat on medium, and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until you can smell the garlic starting to cook. Add the Swiss chard, a bit of sea salt and pepper, give it a stir, cover and reduce the heat to medium-low. It’ll cook as quickly as spinach — in less than 5 minutes — and shrink almost as much, too. Just cook the Swiss chard until tender; you don’t want it mushy. Put in a bowl to cool and set aside.

2. Chop the red pepper into 1-inch pieces and spread out on a foil-lined cookie sheet. Drizzle with the other 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sprinkle with a bit of sea salt and pepper. Cook until the edges begin to brown, about 20-30 minutes. Remove the roasted peppers from the cookie sheet into a small bowl.

3. Cook the quinoa. Put 2 cups of water onto boil, and when the water’s ready, add the 1 cup of quinoa, and 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt. Turn heat down to low, cover, and set the timer for ten minutes. Let the quinoa rest for 10 minutes before you fluff it up.

4. Now, make the taco mixture. In a large skillet, put 3 cups of black beans, 2 cups of cooked quinoa (this won’t be all of your cooked quinoa), the cooked Swiss chard and red bell peppers. Turn the heat on medium, give it a stir and add the chipotle powder and cumin and let heat through for a few minutes. Taste for seasonings. Serve immediately with flour or corn tortillas, goat cheese, and lime.