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Chicago’s Deep-Dish Burrito

There comes a time when we just want to stay home on a Saturday night, wear jeans and have a great-tasting meal that doesn’t take itself seriously, let alone take much time to prepare.

The following menu fits the bill. Burritos filled with vegetables, rice and beans, served with a refreshing jicama salad, make the kind of feast that is perfect for informal dining. The burrito filling--a sort of Chicago-style deep-dish layered casserole of spinach, neon yellow rice, beans and cheese--may not be authentic, but it tastes about as good as any mixture can be. Conclude the meal with crisp peppered chocolate wafers that can accompany fresh fruit, frozen yogurt or sherbets.

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This is a casserole burrito mix that is spooned out onto tortillas--it’s a mess to eat but well worth it; each component stands out fresh and clear. If you keep the frozen spinach very moist, it works well in place of the 16 cups of fresh leaves you would have to cook in order to come up with the same quantity. The casserole can be set up a day ahead and baked at the last minute.

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BURRITO CASSEROLE WITH SPINACH, BLACK BEANS AND NEON RICE

1 (15-ounce can) black beans, rinsed and drained

1 tablespoon chili powder

Garlicky Spinach

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Neon Rice

1 cup shredded Chihuahua cheese or Monterey Jack

4 large flour tortillas

Cilantro leaves

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Guacamole

Light sour cream

Salsa

In bowl mix beans and chili powder. Set aside.

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Spoon half of Garlicky Spinach in bottom of 2-quart casserole. Layer Neon Rice on top, then beans, then remaining spinach and, finally, cheese. Can be made to this point day in advance and refrigerated, covered airtight.

To serve, bake casserole at 375 degrees, covered, until sizzling, about 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat tortillas. Sprinkle tortillas with hot water, wrap in foil and bake 10 to 12 minutes. Alternatively, layer tortillas between paper towels and microwave on HIGH power about 45 seconds. Garnish casserole with cilantro leaves, place on table, accompanied by tortillas, Guacamole, sour cream and salsa in separate serving dishes. Spoon casserole mixture onto tortillas, garnish as desired and roll up. Makes 4 servings.

Each serving contains about:

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764 calories; 1,135 mg sodium; 25 mg cholesterol; 29 grams fat; 101 grams carbohydrates; 29 grams protein; 5.21 grams fiber.

Neon Rice

1 tablespoon oil

1 large clove garlic, minced

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1 medium onion, minced

3/4 cup long-grain rice

3/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 1/2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth, boiling hot

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1/4 teaspoon salt

Heat oil in 2-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Add garlic, onion, rice and turmeric. Cook, stirring often, until onion is tender. Add chicken broth and salt. Mix well. Simmer, covered, until liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat. Let stand 5 minutes. Fluff with fork.

Garlicky Spinach

1 tablespoon oil

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1/2 tablespoon minced garlic

2 (10-ounce packages) frozen leaf spinach, thawed (do not squeeze dry)

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

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2 to 4 tablespoons water as needed

Heat oil in 10-inch nonstick skillet over high heat. When hot, add garlic, spinach, salt, pepper and 2 tablespoons water. Cook, stirring often, until garlic is fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add more water if spinach is not moist with loose leaves. It should not be massed together.

Guacamole

1 ripe medium avocado, peeled and seeded

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1/4 teaspoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon lime juice

1 tablespoon tomato salsa

2 teaspoons chopped cilantro

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Salt

Cayenne pepper

Mash avocado in small bowl with fork. Stir in garlic, lime juice, tomato salsa and cilantro. Season to taste with salt and cayenne pepper.

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A refreshing salad to accompany the burritos or any simply grilled meat or fish.

SPICY ORANGE JICAMA SALAD

1 medium jicama, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch strips

1/2 large sweet red pepper, cut into 1/4-inch strips

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2 teaspoons minced cilantro

1 jalapeno chile, seeded and minced

1/2 cup orange juice

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

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1/4 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground pepper

Toss jicama, sweet red pepper, cilantro, chile, orange juice, vinegar, salt and pepper to taste in medium bowl. Chill several hours, or overnight.

To serve, toss well and drain off excess juices. (Reserve juices if there will be leftovers). Adjust seasonings to taste. Serve chilled. Makes 4 servings.

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Each serving contains about:

68 calories; 155 mg sodium; trace cholesterol; trace fat; 15 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams protein; 1.07 grams fiber.

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These cookies are light in fat but high in satisfaction. They work well with desserts such as ice cream, frozen yogurt or sorbets as well as fresh fruit. They are most efficiently made in the processor, since the chocolate does not need to be melted when it is finely chopped.

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CRISP CHOCOLATE PEPPER COOKIES

1/3 cup cake flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/8 teaspoon salt

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1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, broken into pieces

2/3 cup light-brown sugar, packed

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

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3 large egg whites

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon dark rum

Put flour, baking powder, salt, pepper and chocolate in bowl of food processor fitted with metal blade. Process until chocolate is chopped as fine as sugar. Add sugar and butter. Process 30 seconds, stopping once to scrape down sides of bowl. Add egg whites, vanilla and rum. Process, turning machine on and off, just until flour disappears. Do not overprocess.

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Drop batter by tablespoons onto greased and lightly floured baking sheet, leaving 1 inch space between cookies.

Bake at 400 degrees until crisp, 9 to 10 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire racks to cool. Can be kept up to 5 days in airtight container or frozen in plastic food bags up to 3 months. Makes 22 to 25 (3-inch) cookies.

Each cookie contains about:

55 calories; 32 mg sodium; 3 mg cholesterol; 2 grams fat; 9 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram protein; 0.05 gram fiber.

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