In the depths of winter, the months when those of us who live in (the northern part of) the northern hemisphere desire warming soups and stick-to-your-ribs comfort food, citrus fruit is a hopeful sign of warmer climates. These citrus and black bean tostadas are a filling dinner (especially if you eat them with chips and guacamole because, well, guacamole is always a win) but are also reminiscent of summer, as the warm black beans are topped with juicy oranges and crisp radishes.
These bright little citrus gems gradually start appearing in supermarkets as the temperature outside drops. Although (like most produce) you can find citrus nearly all-year-round, some varieties appear only in the winter. The iconic blood (moro) orange, sweet naval oranges, ruby red grapefruit, and, my personal favorite, pomelos.
Quick side-note here: in Taiwan, where I taught English for two years, pomelos are the fruit of the Mid-Autumn Festival. For a week or so around the holiday, pomelos are the gift of choice, and many of our students’ parents would come into the school with a box of pomelos, ready to hand out to each teacher. We also cut the skin off the pomelo and turned it into a hat for our kindergarten students to wear – kind of ridiculous, but also a ton of fun (also, this dog in a pomelo hat is adorable).
If you follow anyone in food on social media, you have probably seen recipes featuring citrus on various blogs and Instagram. Citrus is everywhere – in salads (like this simple Blood Orange and Red Onion Salad on Saveur) and desserts (like these vegan lemon bars by Maria at Sift and Whisk).
I went a little overboard at the grocery store one day, when I saw piles of blood and naval oranges, just begging to be taken home. After gorging on the fruit that first day, I decided that I wanted to develop a savory, dinner-worthy use for the oranges.
I had recently tried (and loved) this Orange and Radish Salad with Pistachios recipe by Martha Rose Shulman on The New York Times and thought that those flavors would work well with black beans. And so these citrus and black bean tostadas were born.
Although canned black beans are fine if you’re in a time crunch and didn’t plan ahead (and, let’s face it, all of us have been there), I would strongly, strongly, recommend cooking dried black beans for this recipe. The texture alone is worth the extra time. For these tostadas, I especially like this method from Max Falkowitz on Serious Eats, as the black beans are cooked with an orange, which really compliments the flavors of these tostadas.
The easiest way to cook dried beans is in the oven – no soaking, no simmering forever on the stove. Russ Parsons (at the LA Times) and J. Kenji López-Alt (at Serious Eats) have already written about why soaking dried beans isn’t necessary, and, I must say, the beans do come out better. Just rinse the beans, place them in a dutch oven, cover with about 1 inch of water, and add aromatics. Cook them in a 350 degree oven until they are perfectly tender. (This could take anywhere from an hour-and-fifteen-minutes to three hours, depending on how old and dry your beans are. After an hour, check them at twenty-minute intervals. You can do a lot during this time: clean, workout, laundry, or just curl up with a good book.)
Once the black beans are cooked, assembling these tostadas is the work of a few minutes: 1) crisp up the tortillas on the stovetop; 2) top with black beans, corn, sliced radish, orange pieces, and mint; 3) drizzle with cashew cream, juice from the oranges, and coarse sea salt; 4) make a mess and enjoy (since tostadas are notoriously messy).
What’s your favorite citrus fruit? And is it the only thing that gets you through winter?