FAIL and Save: Pinto and quinoa skillet


This was supposed to be a bean burger. As you can see, it is not. This skillet supper evolved from the first Eating Well recipe I've tried that was a complete disaster. As a huge fan of Eating Well, I'm  certain that the primary (if not only) reason for the flop was error by the executioner. But I'm just a little proud of myself, too, for thinking on my toes just enough that my husband bought into the end result.

A year or so ago, I collected some wonderful, savory looking recipes from restaurant chefs around the country for a feature in Natural Health. Salivating over the e-mails, I was eager to try each one. Only many of the burgers seemed complicated, with numerous ingredients, and  those recipes have been shelved for all this time. This one, on the other hand, alluringly required little. Pinto beans... that's practically it (not including the guac topping I was skipping). To me, it was kind of a bean burger's tribute to Castaway, pinto beans being Tom Hanks. (Wilson is represented by the quinoa.)

Maybe my subconscious wanted this recipe to FAIL. I've been re-reading The Omnivore's Dilemma  (the first time was at a nutritionally naive stage of my life, before I became in awe of Michael Pollan...which is why I only got halfway through). Prior to embarking on this  journey of dinner-destruction, I re-read a section exposing in no uncertain terms how we have become, essentially, walking corn. Even when we painstakingly avoid HFCS and partially hydrogenated oils, it is nevertheless an intricate process to liberate ourselves from all the corn-derivatives we meet daily, including corn-fed animals, modified corn starch, emulsifiers, preservatives, and fillers. Even our cars drink corn, Pollan points out.

The thing is, I like corn.  Corn itself isn't the villain, and who doesn't have good memories of summer picnics and fresh corn on the cob? But reading and reflecting on the over-stuffed and bulging state of our GMO corn-fed world, I definitely couldn't stomach it last night, and so I just couldn't bring myself to add the corn meal or roll the "patties" in more corn meal.

As it became clear that my semi-mashed bean and quinoa mixture was not malleable, I started getting creative with a potential *save*. The backup plan was omelets. The other plan, to soften a potential blow to Dave, sweaty with the effort of deck DIY, was a promise to bake cookies.

I didn't need to make the omelets in the end (but I did bake cookies). From the point of view of a Monday night dinner, the result of adding parsley, spinach, mushrooms, feta cheese, and a topping of fresh tomato salsa was a real save. I'll leave it to you to decide just how much. I will probably make this again, sometime when I have an abundance of leftover beans.  If the look and sound of this recipe entices you to make this regardless of the fact that it once wanted to be a bean burger, then that will be a stupendous save.  Let me know. : )

 Pinto and quinoa skillet

Serves 3-4

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 medium red onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 1/2 cups cooked pinto beans, well drained
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1  1/2 cups chopped spinach
  • 1/3 cup feta cheese
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 3/4 cup fresh tomato salsa
  1. Bring water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add quinoa and return to a boil. Reduce to a low simmer, cover and cook until the water has been absorbed, about 10 minutes. Uncover and let stand.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add 1/2 cup onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add beans, paprika and ground cumin and partially mash the beans with a potato masher or fork. Add the quinoa, spinach, cheese, and salt and pepper to taste; stir to combine.
  3. Top with salsa and garnish with parsley to serve.