Layered Spinach, Neon Rice, and Black Bean Bake for Tacos

My mom found this recipe over 10 years ago in the LA Times Food Section, and my family often makes this for casual summer meals with guests.  She actually altered the recipe and submitted it for the Simply in Season cookbook in the Mennonite community where it is published under her name. This Layered Spinach, Neon Rice, and Black Bean Bake for Tacos is a layered casserole built from contrasting layers of garlicky spinach, neon-yellow rice pilaf, and spicy black beans.  The casserole is used as a filling for vegetarian tacos or burritos.  The components of the casserole come together easily.  While it’s in the oven, you can prep the toppings which can include avocado, cotija cheese, lime wedges, salsa, fresh herbs.

Layered Spinach, Neon Rice, and Black Bean bake for Tacos

for the rice:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium onion

1 garlic clove

3/4 cup rice

3/4 teaspoon turmeric

1  1/2 cup vegetable broth

1/4 teaspoon salt

Mince the onion and garlic.  Heat the olive oil in a saucepan.  Add the onion and garlic to the saucepan and saute until soft.  Meanwhile rinse and drain the rice in several changes of water.  Add the rice to the saucepan, along with the turmeric, vegetable broth, and salt.  Bring it to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, covered, until the liquid is absorbed, around 15-18 minutes.

for the spinach:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon minced garlic

20 ounces fresh spinach

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Heat the olive oil in a wide skillet.  When hot, add the garlic.  After a few seconds, add the spinach a few handfuls at a time.  When the spinach wilts and reduces in size, add another handful, and repeat until all of the spinach fits into the skillet.  Cook, stirring often, until all of the spinach is wilted.  Add the salt and pepper.

for the black beans

2  15-ounce cans of black beans

1 tablespoon chili powder

Rinse and drain the canned beans very well in a colander.  Combine the black beans and chili powder in a medium mixing bowl.  Mix well.

for the assembly:

1 cup grated jack cheese


Spoon half of the garlicky spinach in the bottom of a 2-quart casserole dish.  Then layer the neon rice pilaf on top, then the beans, then the remaining spinach.  Top with the jack cheese.  At this point, the casserole could be made in advance and refrigerated overnight.

Bake at 375 F for about 45 minutes, covered with a lid.

Meanwhile, heat the tortillas on a griddle or skillet on the stove.  You can also use this time to prep the various garnishes in small bowls to be served at the table.

optional toppings for serving

lime wedges

cotija cheese

sour cream or Mexican crema

avocado or guacamole

salsa or hot sauce

cilantro leaves

pickled red onions, cabbage, or carrots

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