While I was living and studying in Lebanon, I didn’t cook much despite the whole new world of dishes and spices and preparation methods I was exposed to. I was lucky enough to eat my daily share of home-cooked meals, mostly prepared at the skilled hands of the sister of the woman I lived with. I won’t go into Lebanese cooking or mealtimes right now, because the memories I have are so many and so precious that I won’t be able to stop. Also, the ache of missing my adopted Lebanese family is still too raw to express. I will mention a simple little technique if you will, that I picked up during my time. Salads are part of virtually every Lebanese meal, whether it’s a big bowl of fattoush or tabouleh, or a plate of endives with hearts of palm and mushrooms and asparagus. And the salad is usually served alongside large leaves of romaine or something of the sort, which you can use as a vehicle for the salad in lieu of a fork. I don’t know why, but I loved that concept and loved that the salad was extra filling when eaten with more lettuce. Since the salads are so packed with flavor, the raw lettuce leaves also help offset the punch of the zesty seasonings. This way of eating is something I also appreciate about Kenyan cooking, where many of the meals are eaten by hand with ugali, a thick cornmeal substance whose mildness complements the rest of the courses.
Anyway, since I’ve been back, I find myself using food as a vehicle for food quite often. Today, I had a bunch of collard greens that I’ve been eating other meals with for the past week, and I decided to use them as wraps. They are hearty enough in texture to hold everything together, and really do the trick of counterbalancing their fillings.
Quinoa Bean Wraps
8 large leaves of collard greens, rinsed with stems removed
1 cup cooked quinoa
1 cup cooked pinto beans or canned refried beans
2 large carrots
hot sauce to taste
1 generous drizzle of extra virgin olive oil (probably 1-2 tbsp)
2 tbsp butter or coconut oil
1/2 yellow onion
1 tbsp minced garlic
a few sprigs of fresh thyme, or 1 tsp ground thyme
course salt to taste
Preheat oven to 425.° Peel your carrots and julienne or slice them thinly. Toss them with olive oil, 2 tsp of hot sauce, and the juice of half a lemon. Lay them on a cooking tray and place on a lower rack in the oven for 10 minutes. Take them out, turn them over, sprinkle them with thyme, and set them back to roast for another 10 minutes. In the meantime, slice the onion into thin circles and then cut the circles in half. Saute them with 1 tbsp of the butter (or coconut oil) over medium heat until translucent. Add the second tbsp of butter along with the cooked quinoa and garlic. Lightly toast.
After the beans are cooked, use an immersion blender or food processor to blend the beans until they are mashed. Salt them as you are blending, and add hot sauce if you prefer. You’ll want to be liberal with the salt. I didn’t measure the amount I used, so you’ll have to go by taste. If you’re using a can of refried beans, hold off on the salt. Lay out the collard greens and place the beans, then toasted quinoa, and then roasted carrots on top. Fold as you would a burrito. Enjoy!
Serves 2 generously
The amount of filling in the wrap below was far too much to fold. A fourth of that amount was really all I needed to fill one wrap.