Sunday, April 26, 2015

Bell Pepper & Beef Fiesta Skillet Bake

Today concludes Fiesta week in San Antonio-- a city-wide party that culminates in a Fiesta Friday holiday and colorful parades through historic downtown and the famous riverwalk. For the first time in 10 years I am in town to celebrate: hooray! I attended the lively King William Fair, watched the night-time Flambeau Parade, and cajoled my parents into joining me at Night in Old San Antonio, a party in the historic La Villita area with hundreds of food and drink booths set up to represent all the different cultures that have formed Texas. The most beloved food booth is Maria's Tortillas, where seasoned tortilla makers slap together masa flour dough to make thousands of tortillas over charcoal burning stoves. Fresh off the coals and filled with cheese and salsa, they are the quintessential melt-in-your-mouth taste of old San Antonio. Everyone carries around their NIOSA cups filled with margaritas, beer, or raspas, eats freshly-made food, and dances to live music while trying to crack cascarones (dyed eggshells filled with confetti) over friends' heads.
bell peppers, corn, black beans, and ground beef topped with avocado and cheese
make a gluten-free, one-skillet meal
In the spirit of this festive holiday, I made a Tex-Mex inspired cast iron skillet bake filled with bell peppers, corn, black beans, and ground beef, and topped with avocados and cheese. I served the skillet straight out of the oven to the table, with bowls of plain yogurt and salsa so people could help themselves to toppings. This gluten-free meal was hearty and delicious, and could easily be adapted to whatever you have on hand/like to eat. Leave out the beans, corn, and cheese for a paleo-friendly version, skip the meat for a vegetarian version, etc. If you don't have prepared fajita seasoning on hand, there's a great homemade recipe here. And if you don't have a cast-iron skillet, this would work just as well prepared over the stove top in a large skillet, then either top with the avocado and cheese and cover for a few minutes until the cheese melts, or place the beef and pepper mixture in a pie plate or casserole dish to top with the avocado slices and cheese for the final quick pop in the oven.

Enjoy these flavors wherever you are, and think of the cultural traditions that make your hometown come together to celebrate. Viva Fiesta!

Bell Pepper & Beef Fiesta Skillet Bake
Serves 4-5

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large yellow or white onion
1 lb ground beef
two tablespoons tomato paste
3 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 teaspoons fajita seasoning (divided use)
two bell peppers, any color, diced (or thinly sliced with a spiralizer)
1 cup fresh or frozen corn (thaw if frozen)
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 avocado, thinly sliced
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

To Serve:
1/2 cup salsa
1/2 cup plain/Greek yogurt or sour cream

Preheat oven to 400F/ 205C.

Heat a large cast-iron skillet (at least 10 inches) over medium heat. When hot, add the olive oil and swirl to coat the pan. Add the onion, and saute 5-7 minutes, until translucent and beginning to brown. Add 1 teaspoon of fajita seasoning and the ground beef, breaking it up into small pieces, and stirring to brown it evenly, about 5-6 minutes. Once the meat has cooked through, add the tomato paste, and stir to distribute. Remove the beef mixture from the skillet into medium sized bowl, set aside.

To the hot skillet add the garlic, sauteing for 1 minute, then add the bell peppers, corn, and another teaspoon of fajita seasoning. Saute until the peppers begin to soften, 4-5 minutes. Add the black beans and stir to incorporate. Add the beef mixture back to the skillet, and stir gently to evenly distribute the beef through the vegetables. (Taste the mixture at this point, and add a bit more fajita seasoning or a pinch of salt if you'd like).

Top the skillet mixture with the sliced avocados and shredded cheese. Place in the oven and bake at 400F/ 205C for 5 minutes, until cheese is melted. Serve immediately with salsa and yogurt or sour cream.

Serving Tip: Tex-Mex dishes are often served with a simple salad of shredded lettuce topped with a dollop of guacamole and chopped tomatoes. This would be the perfect side for this hearty skillet bake.

Storage Tip: leftover skillet bake will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days.