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story.lead_photo.caption Saucy Tex-Mex Black Beans (Courtesy of Penguin Random House Canada)

Uncomplicated.

It's a trait many cooks look for when it comes to selecting recipes for weeknight dinners. Dishes that are satisfying, but don't create a sink full of dirty pots and pans. Meals that can be on the table in an hour or less, but aren't composed of frozen or heat-and-serve entrees and bagged salads — not that there's anything wrong with those.

We want meals prepared from scratch with real, whole ingredients, but not dishes that require a lot of fussing or orchestrated steps.

We also want recipes that are adaptable to a variety of dietary needs.

It's a tall order. I know.

But it isn't impossible. Especially with books such as Uncomplicated: Taking the Stress Out of Home Cooking by Claire Tansey in your arsenal.

I recently made Tansey's Saucy Tex-Mex Black Beans for dinner. Served over cornbread and topped with diced avocado, green onions, cilantro, cheese and a drizzle of salsa it made a hearty, filling vegetarian dinner.

The recipe got my attention because it contains many of the same flavors as chili — one of my husband's favorite dishes — but no tomatoes. (Regular readers may remember Joe is allergic to tomatoes.) Instead, the mixture is partially pureed, giving it a thick lusciousness.

You could easily swap kidney beans or pinto beans for the black beans. To make it vegan, skip the cheese and serve the beans over rice instead of cornbread. Meat lovers could add a pound of lean ground turkey or beef, but really you won't miss the meat in this flavorful dish.

Saucy Tex-Mex Black Beans

1 tablespoon canola oil

1 yellow onion, finely chopped

½ teaspoon salt

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons chile powder (I used a combination of mild and hot)

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 (19-ounce) cans black beans, rinsed (see note)

Desired toppings such as grated cheddar, diced avocado and salsa, for serving

Cornbread (recipe follows) for serving, optional

In a medium pot, heat the canola oil over medium heat. Add the onion and salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, for 1 minute. Stir in the chile powder and cumin; cook 30 seconds. Add the beans and 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, stirring often, for 10 minutes.

Using an immersion blender or a traditional blender, puree about a half of the mixture. Serve with desired toppings over cornbread or rice.

Makes 4 servings.

Note: My grocery store doesn't sell 19-ounce cans of black beans, so I used 3 (15-ounce) cans.

This is a version of my all-time favorite cornbread recipe, adapted from Cornbread Gospels by Crescent Dragonwagon. The original recipe calls for buttermilk and a touch of baking soda, but because I prefer cornbread with a crunchier crust, I use regular milk, skip the baking soda and increase the baking powder just a bit. And because I was raised in no-sugar-in-the-cornbread family, but I'm flexible, I cut way back on the sugar.

This recipe has never failed me, even when I fail to follow it.

Almost Dairy Hollow House Skillet-Sizzled Cornbread

¼ cup mild vegetable oil, plus more for coating skillet

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup stone-ground yellow cornmeal

1 slightly heaping tablespoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

1 ¼ cups milk

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

1 egg

2 tablespoons salted butter

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Coat a 10-inch cast-iron skillet with vegetable oil; set aside.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt.

Whisk together the milk, sugar, egg and ¼ cup oil.

Add the butter to the skillet and place it in the oven until butter melts and foams. Tilt and swirl pan to coat.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix quickly, using as few strokes as possible. Scrape batter into hot skillet and transfer skillet to oven. Bake 20 minutes or until cornbread is golden brown. Cool slightly before cutting into wedges.

Makes 8 servings.

Food on 10/10/2018

Print Headline: FRONT BURNER: Homemade isn't necessarily complicated

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