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The Splendid Table's Refried Beans with Cinnamon and Clove

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Every week -- often with your help -- Food52's Senior Editor Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that are nothing short of genius.

Today: A cheater's method for lighter, faster refried beans -- plus an unexpectedly sexy spice combo you haven't tried (on beans) yet.

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Splendid Table's Refried Beans on Food52

If you're thinking tonight should be taco night, or burrito night, or quesadilla night -- and we should all be thinking that more often -- the beans are probably pretty low on your list. 

You think you'll have to make compromises in the service of dinner before bedtime, and you'll pick up a can of refried beans.

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Don't. You put that can back. You can have homemade refried beans -- tonight! Good ones. In 30 minutes. In one pot. Without frying once, or twice. 

The Splendid Table's Refried Beans on Food52

You probably even have everything you need already. All you have to do is be totally inauthentic.

When Food52er SoupLady tipped me off to this recipe from The Splendid Table's How to Eat Supper, the first thing that hooked me was the cinnamon and clove in the title -- I didn't even realize all this other genius. But it's a technique you can apply any time the hankering for taco night hits, with any bean in your arsenal, any spicing that suits you.

Let's get started: Sauté onion in olive oil.

Splendid Table's Refried Beans on Food52

Next come garlic and chiles, and those ground spices. You know you have them in your spice drawer from the last time you made ginger snaps.

If you think cinnamon and clove are an odd match for refried beans, they sort of are. As SoupLady said, "Who knew that you successfully make refried beans reminiscent of pastitsio? They are amazing." Just think about the complex spicing in mole, and give in to it. (Or don't -- you can also go with something more expected like cumin, or skip it entirely.)

Splendid Table's Refried Beans on Food52

The Splendid Table's Refried Beans on Food52  Splendid Table's Refried Beans on Food52

Next add in canned tomatoes, and mash them up aggressively. 

Splendid Table's Refried Beans on Food52  Splendid Table's Refried Beans on Food52

Then pile in your beans -- we like that The Splendid Table calls for lowly kidney, but this could work with any canned beans you've got: pinto, black, cranberry, whatever. You're not that into the texture of canned beans? Well good, because you're about to eviscerate them. Dump in a bunch of water -- yep, water. Not lard.

Splendid Table's Refried Beans on Food52  Splendid Table's Refried Beans on Food52

Boil it vigorously, and mash like you have something to prove. The final product will get its creaminess (mostly) from crushed beans agitated with a lot of water. But as we've seen, there's enough seasoning in here to balance those more austere ingredients.

Splendid Table's Refried Beans on Food52

At the very end, when you're starting to recognize it, you'll slip in a tiny bit of butter, to soften everything up.

Now, it's definitely taco night, right?

Splendid Table's Refried Beans on Food52

The Splendid Table's Refried Beans with Cinnamon and Clove

Adapted slightly from The Splendid Table's How to Eat Supper (Clarkson Potter, 2008)

Serves 4 to 6

Extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped into 1/4-inch dice
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 fresh jalapeño, seeded and finely chopped
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
One 14-ounce can whole tomatoes, drained
Two 15-ounce cans red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by James Ransom

Got a genius recipe to share -- from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected].

The Genius Recipes cookbook is here! (Well, almost.) The book is a mix of greatest hits from the column and unpublished new favorites -- all told, over 100 recipes that will change the way you think about cooking. It'll be on shelves in April, but you can pre-order your copy now.

Tags: everyday cooking, refried beans, beans, tacos, vegetarian, special diets