Their lovely mottled pattern has earned them the name "pinto" -- or "painted" -- bean. And whether you're a vegetarian or you just like their taste and texture, pinto beans are a good source of protein and fiber. With an enviable versatility, pinto beans easily pair with fresh vegetables, meats, citrus and earthy spices for tasty dinner ideas. Before cooking, inspect them for insect or moisture damage -- discarding any cracked or split beans -- and rinse them under cool water before cooking.
Fresh and Quick
Prepare an easy-to-assemble salad that's all about texture -- crunchy, juicy and smooth -- and hearty enough to become your entree. Simply mix cooked pinto beans with chopped green and red peppers, thinly sliced red onion, chopped cilantro and diced chicken, if desired. Make a quick dressing by slowly whisking olive oil into a mixture of fresh lime juice, cumin powder, salt and pepper and drizzle it over the top of the bean mixture. Gently fold in diced tomatoes. On the side, offer shredded cheddar cheese and chopped jalapeno pepper. Serve it with Spanish rice, finishing the meal with a freshly sliced mango, warmed in the microwave and tossed with chili powder, fresh lime juice and a pinch of salt.
Fresh and Quicker
You can combine beans, shrimp and avocados with a cumin-orange dressing to make a quick and filling roll-up with sweet, spicy and earthy flavors. Mix cooked corn and cooked pinto beans with chopped green pepper and diced red onions. Whisk together a salad dressing of cumin powder, orange juice, Dijon mustard, honey, salt and pepper and olive oil, and drizzle it over the bean fusion. Toss it with chopped cilantro, and arrange cooked shrimp and sliced avocados over the top. Provide diced jalapenos on the side so your diners can dial up the heat to their taste. Roll the mixture in a warm flour tortilla and serve it with fresh fruit. Finish with cinnamon ice cream.
Soothing and Quick
Put your family into the assembly line to make their own version of a personal Mexican-style pizza. You take care of chopping up any toppings they like such as black olives, green peppers or onions, and grate their favorite melting cheese such as cheddar, mozzarella, jack or Colby. Have each person place a flour tortilla on a baking sheet, spread it with pureed pinto beans, dot it with salsa, and add their choice of toppings and grated cheese. Bake the "pizzas" in a 400-degree Fahrenheit oven until the cheese bubbles. The tortilla shell will be much softer than a pizza crust; use a spatula to slide each pizza onto a waiting dinner plate. Contrast the piping hot entree with cool, freshly sliced vegetables and arrange an assortment of chocolate on a plate for a quick dessert.
Soothing and Slow
On the next cold or rainy day, pull out your slow cooker and make a warm, stick-to-your-ribs meal. Fill the cooker with dried and cleaned pinto beans, chopped onions, minced garlic, spicy sausage, salt, pepper and water. To add a Southwest infusion, sprinkle in chili powder, cumin and oregano. Turn the cooker to high and let it simmer for 6 to 8 hours, enjoying how the aroma slowly fills your kitchen. Roughly an hour before the beans are done, toss a frozen pie in the oven and make some rice. When the pinto beans are ready, serve them over warm rice, with chopped scallions, sliced avocado and grated cheese on the side.
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