Made to order

I persuaded a couple of my friends to eschew our usual pre-game breakfast place for a Mexican restaurant near my house. I'd been there once before. It's housed in a former pizza joint, and although there's not much atmosphere, they seem to be trying hard to serve fresh and interesting Mexican food. The breakfast choices include several south-of-the-border egg dishes, and a full American breakfast menu, including omelettes and homemade corned beef hash (!).

My friends were scanning the menu, skeptically, when I arrived. We were the only diners. Ever adventurous, Ken opted for the Huevos Rancheros with hash browns instead of rice and beans. Chuck asked for the feta cheese and spinach omelette.

"I don't think we have feta and spinach omelettes," said the waiter. Chuck showed it to him on the menu. "Oh, OK. I will check to see," and the waiter went back to the kitchen. Shortly afterwards, another man came from the kitchen area and left the restaurant through the front door.

We waited an inordinately long time. In the meanwhile, another table had been seated. Our waiter was attentive, filling our coffees and waters, and bringing more tasty chips and salsa. But we wanted breakfast.

After we had been in the restaurant nearly 30 minutes, the man who had left returned. With a grocery bag. Ten minutes later, we were served.

Chuck had his omelette, and the spinach was so fresh the price tag was still on it. Ba-da-boom. As for Ken's Huevos Rancheros, and my vegetarian version, the eggs were scrambled and tough, the spices lackluster. I longed for the Mexican-style breakfasts I'd enjoyed years ago in Colorado and the southwest.

Huevos Rancheros probably originated as a breakfast on Mexican farms. Basically, it's fried eggs served on a corn tortilla with a tomato-chili salsa. Sometimes it would be accompanied by beans, rice, corn, and/or avocado. As its popularity spread to the U.S., we couldn't help but add things like sausage, cheese and sour cream, and take shortcuts like enchilada sauce for the homemade tomato-chili salsa, and serving them on more palatable (for Americans) flour tortillas.

One interesting Mexican variation is "Huevos Divorciados," or divorced eggs, which have a different sauce for each egg one a red salsa, the other green.

I looked for recipes that combined the best of both worlds the lighter and more vibrant flavors of the original, with some creative touches to give it a more interesting presentation. The one I'm offering here is a vegetarian version with an avocado green salsa, and not too difficult to make. Perfect for those cold weekend mornings.

Huevos Rancheros Verde

cookieandkate.com

Spicy Black Beans

Ingredients:

2 cans black black beans, rinsed and drained (or about 3 cups cooked black beans)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 medium red onion, chopped

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon cumin powder

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

1 lime, halved

Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

Cook the beans: Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a medium-sized saucepan (with a lid) over medium heat. Once the oil is warmed, add the onion and sauté for a few minutes, stirring often, until the onions are turning translucent. Add the chili powder, cumin and cayenne and stir. Add the beans and 1/4 cup water and stir to combine. Cover the pan, reduce heat, and let the beans simmer for about 10 minutes (if the beans seem dry at any point, add a splash of water). Remove from heat, mash some of the beans with the back of a big spoon and cover the pan until you are ready to serve.

Avocado Salsa Verde

Ingredients:

1 cup mild salsa verde from a jar

1 ripe avocado, pitted and sliced

Big handful cilantro (some stems are ok)

1 medium jalapeño, deseeded and roughly chopped (save 1/2 of jalapeño for garnish)

1 garlic clove, roughly chopped

1/2 lime, halved

Directions:

Make the avocado salsa verde: In a food processor, combine the salsa verde, avocado, cilantro, 1/2 of the jalapeño, garlic clove and the juice of 1/2 lime. Purée the salsa until it is super creamy, stopping to scrape down the sides as necessary. Transfer the salsa verde to a small saucepan and gently warm it over medium-low heat, stirring often (or transfer the salsa to a bowl and warm it in the microwave). Don't overheat this stuff! Cover the salsa until you're ready to serve.

Assemble the Dish

4+ corn tortillas

4+ eggs

1/2 cup queso blanco or other mild white cheese, crumbled

Small handful cilantro, roughly chopped

4 radishes, sliced into very thin pieces

1/2 jalapeño, seeds and membranes removed, finely chopped

Hot sauce (Cholula is my favorite)

Eggs: Cook as you like 'em; I prefer over easy with a dash of salt and pepper.

Warm the tortillas: Directly over a medium-low gas burner flame or in a pan, flipping until warmed through.

Assemble: On each plate, top tortilla(s) with black beans, avocado sauce and egg(s). Garnish with crumbled cheese, cilantro, chopped radishes and jalapeño. Serve with a bottle of hot sauce on the side.

Now these are what you call made to order just like in a real Mexican restaurant!

Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht, Roumel, Salvatore, Blanchard, and Walker PC, a litigation firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment litigation. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and writes a food/restaurant column for "Current" magazine in Ann Arbor. He can be reached at nroumel@yahoo.com. His blog is http://mayitpleasethepalate.blogspot.com/.

Published: Mon, Jan 18, 2016

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