PHOTO BY MICHAEL PIAZZA / STYLED BY CATRINE KELTY
The Mexican version of beans on toast, this breakfast was new to me until I saw it last Christmas vacation on menus all over San Miguel de Allende. Deeply savory refried black beans, mashed and spread on a buttered, toasted bun, topped with cheese and broiled, served with sliced avocados and pico de gallo? Yes, please. But since true Oaxacan cheese and fluffy bollilo rolls are hard to come by here, and avocados are hardly local, I’ve substituted crumbled Narragansett feta, Iggy’s ciabatta rolls, and a springy radish and cilantro salsa (but by all means make a tomato salsa in season!). If you don’t have time to cook them from scratch, you can use a drained can of black beans and some stock or water, but you’ll miss the depth of flavor that comes from the cooking liquid.
For the refried beans:
1 cup black beans, rinsed
3 cloves garlic, peeled but left whole
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
1 dried chile de arbol
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil or lard
For the salsa:
3–4 radishes cut into ½-inch dice
1 scallion, minced
1 tablespoon minced green chili (jalapeno or Serrano)
¼ cup chopped cilantro
juice of one lime
1 teaspoon olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
To assemble the molletes:
2 Iggy’s 8”x3” ciabatta sandwich rolls, split lengthwise
softened unsalted butter, for spreading
4 ounces Narragansett Salty Sea feta, crumbled (or substitute queso fresco)
½ cup cilantro leaves
First, quick-soak the beans: cover with water and bring to a boil. Cook 3-5 minutes, then turn the heat off and cover. Allow to sit at least an hour.
After 1 hour, don’t drain the soaked beans, but add another cup or two of water, the garlic, cumin, chile, and oil to the pot. Bring to a boil again, then reduce the heat and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally and adding more water if needed, for another hour. Add 1 teaspoon salt and check for tenderness. Continue cooking if the beans still have a bite, up to 75 minutes total. Taste again, add more salt if needed, and turn off the heat to rest.
While the beans are resting, make the salsa. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine. Set aside, but don’t make this too far in advance or the radish becomes pungent.
Drain the beans but reserve the cooking liquid. Fish out the chili and discard it, but leave the garlic with the beans. Heat the oil or lard in a cast iron skillet over medium heat and add the beans. Sizzle, stirring, for 2-3 minutes, then add a ladleful of their liquid. Reduce the heat to low, and using the back of a wooden spoon, mash the beans and garlic to a coarse paste, adding more liquid as you go if they get too dry. (You want the consistency of oatmeal, not peanut butter.)
Preheat the broiler to high and butter the cut sides of the bread. Broil, watching carefully, for 2 minutes exactly, or until the butter is melted and the edges of the bread have browned. Using an offset spatula or a large spoon, spread the beans over the bread, covering the entire cut sides. Sprinkle the feta over the beans and broil again, watching carefully, another 2-3 minutes, or until heated through and the cheese has begun to brown.
Remove from the oven and cut each bread slice on the diagonal. Serve immediately with radish salsa spooned over the top and a shower of cilantro leaves.
Sarah Blackburn is a home cook, recipe developer, vegetable gardener and managing editor of Edible Boston. She can be reached at email@example.com