Recipe of the Week: Sopes with Smoky Pinto Beans and Avocado Salsa

¡Ay, caramba! ¿Una receta mexicana dos semanas en una fila? Which (I think) means" "Oh wow! A Mexican recipe two weeks in a row?"

And the answer is yes. I wasn't out trolling around looking for another Mexican recipe, but when I came across this one it caught me eye. It brings together so many great things - any of which would be super on their own - the cool little corn meal cakes, the smoky beans (I love smoky flavor), the avocado salsa. So, in effect, I'm sharing with you three recipes in one. Go ahead - start thanking me. :)

This Week's Recipe of the Week is Sopes with Smoky Pinto Beans and Avocado Salsa from

So, let's start by talking about masa harina - a main ingredient of the corn cakes part of the recipe. If you cook Mexican recipes you will no doubt stumble across this soft corn flour. It's the base for a lot of different dishes like corn tortillas, tamales, and yes sopes. There are some different types and variations, so it would be worthwhile to get to know your masa harina and which version you want and need for a specific recipe. The white or yellow masa harina that you'll find most commonly at grocery stores will work fine here.

This recipe is a little involved because (1) it has three different parts to it - the cakes, the beans, and the salsa and (2) the cakes can be a little temperamental.

Let's review the making of the cakes/shells since it's the most involved piece. It's not hard. It just takes a little timing and a focus on the consistency of the dough. Basically, you mix some salt and water together and then slowly add the masa harina. Once it's all been added you knead the dough (which should be soft and flexible) by hand. It's important to get the consistency right here. If it's too dry, add a bit of water. If it's too moist and sticky, add a little more masa harina. Once it's just right, you divide it into six balls. Set them on your work surface and cover them with a damp towel or plastic wrap. (Keeping them moist is important at this stage.) Heat a large skillet with a tablespoon of high smoke point oil (like canola or vegetable oil) over medium-high heat. One at a time, flatten a few dough balls (as many as can fit in your skillet at once) into 4-inch rounds. Place them all into the skillet and fry each one for one minute on each side. The shells should get lightly browned and slightly crispy. Remove them to a paper towel lines plate to cool slightly. When they are cool enough you pinch or curl the outer edges to create a lip all around. This will keep your fillings in. Then you put them on a parchment sheet-lined baking sheet and place into a preheated 200°F oven to stay warm. Then you repeat this until you've used up all your dough. Add oil to your skillet between batches as needed.

The beans will take about 20-25 minutes, so you may want to get them going first - and i make your shells while the beans cook. To prepare the beans you put a little oil in a skillet or saucepan and heat it over medium heat. Sauté the onions for about 5 minutes until they are soft and translucent. Add the garlic and cook for about a minute (until fragrant). Add a can of (drained and rinsed) pinto beans, 3/4 cup water, vinegar, cumin, smoked paprika, cayenne pepper and maple syrup. Then lower the heat and simmer until the sauce thickens and the beans become soft and just begin to fall apart. That will take about 10-15 minutes. Stir it occasionally and add a bit more water if needed.

As for the avocado salsa, just combine diced avocado, tomato, onion, diced, minced garlic, chopped fresh cilantro and one tablespoon of red wine vinegar. That's it.

Now's the easy and fun part. Put it all together by stuffing each shell with the pinto beans and topping it with the avocado salsa. And that's it. Done. 

As I'm sure you thought as you read this, there are just so many different ways to make these. Once you have the shells technique down you can fill them with tons of different ingredients. And you can top it with the avocado salsa or anything else you'd like. This is a basic recipe that can be molded and shaped to your heart's desire. Be creative and come up with some new combinations. Or if you're having a party, get-together, or family night try making several of different kinds. Let people try different ones. You can also try making smaller versions (say divide the dough into 12 balls instead of six). People will love the mini versions!

Oh, by the way, this recipe is also vegan. Gotta love that!

This is not the first time you've read about one of my favorite websites, here. A few months ago I featured their Roasted Asparagus and Arugula Pizza recipe as my Recipe of the Week. Click on over there and you can read about this really nice vegetarian food blog. They focus on the home cook and work to keep things simple.

I sure hope you loved this recipe! If you want to check out ALL of my featured Recipes of the Week, just click on the "Recipe" category to the right or just click here:

And be sure to visit the great blogs I mention. You'll be happy you did!