On the first Friday of Lent I catch myself smiling at a favorite memory from the first year that Frank and I were dating. We had been dating for at least six months and often cooking together during the evenings when Lent arrived and (what I then thought of as) my will-eat-anything boyfriend developed a weekly routine of pondering over what he would eat on Friday.
I was surprised by his concern, but also charmed. Lent is a good time to think about making sacrifices and being appreciative, and Frank’s awareness of doing without meat means that he has always thought sincerely and deeply about the meaning of this time of year.
In that early stage of dating, however, I remember that it was a dimension of this man that I found intriguing. I have never been terribly attached to eating meat (although I most certainly do eat meat these days). This is true for the way that Frank and I cook at home, but was also true of the way that I cooked back when we first started dating. Even though Frank frequently goes days at a time without eating a bit of meat, when Lent rolls around, he seems to want it…particularly on Fridays.
And though I sometimes half-heartedly try to remind him that so many of our favorite meals contain no meat at all, a part of me loves that these Fridays during Lent have such significance in our home.
If you are doing without meat on Fridays this Lenten season, this slightly indulgent, divinely crisp, make-your-own style of tostada dinner is just what you need.
Hopefully you’ll still feel appreciative of all that you have. But I promise that while eating this dinner, you won’t feel that you’ve sacrificed a thing.
This is one of those recipes that is barely a recipe. More of a technique, with endless adaptations. Feel free to adapt away.
- Canola oil, for frying
- 10 6-inch flour tortillas
- 2 15-ounce cans of refried beans
- chopped avocados or guacamole
- minced onions
- grated Monterey jack cheese
- sour cream
- black olives
- For the tortillas, pour canola oil into a high-walled saucepan to form a 1-inch layer of oil (use a pan that is large enough to accommodate a 6-inch tortilla with a couple of inches of space on all sides). Heat the oil over medium-high heat to 375 degrees F. (Note: I never actually use a thermometer for this recipe. When the oil begins to shimmer, I drop a small piece of tortilla into the pan to see if it is ready. When the tortilla sizzles and creates many tiny bubbles as soon as it hits the hot oil, it is the right temperature.) Using a sharp knife, poke a small hole in the center of each tortilla (this will prevent them from becoming puffy as they fry). Gently slide the tortilla into the hot oil and fry it until it becomes crisp and golden, about 1 minute. Using thongs, flip the tortilla and fry for 1 minute on the other side. Gently spread the hot tortillas on paper towels.
- Heat the beans over medium heat in a small saucepan, stirring occasionally. Add a bit of water as needed, to maintain a creamy consistency. While the beans are warming up, prepare the tortillas.
- Top each crispy tortilla with your favorite mix of toppings or set everything out on the table so that everyone can assemble their own. Once fried, the tortillas will stay crisp for a couple hours at room temperature.