One of my favorite places in Mexico is the charming town of Morelia where we once spent a few days doing almost nothing. Nothing, except taking lazy strolls on streets dotted with devout Mexicans and students.
Morelia is packed with beautiful churches and colleges, and if you’re not inclined to one or attending the other, the only thing you can pretty much do is walk around and eat. Luckily, Morelia has some surprisingly trendy restaurants and many of these are vegan friendly. There even was an all-vegetarian restaurant in the city which was an unexpected but welcome treat. You could sit outdoors at a table with a great view of the main street and watch the world go by, or you could listen to one of the many street entertainers who tended to stop by ever so often with a song.
Every morning, Desi and I would make our way to one of those restaurants, situated right across the street from the town’s centerpiece: a huge pink-stone cathedral with majestic twin towers. I was hooked to one breakfast dish that, although not vegan, was easily veganized for me by the friendly staff: Molletes.
Molletes are Mexican sandwiches — usually open faced– made of crusty bread, like a bolillo, smeared with refried beans and topped with cheese and pico de gallo salsa. The first time I had it, I asked the waitress to hold the queso and the sandwich was so good that I never thought I’d eat anything else again.
The reason why Molletes are so tasty despite being so simple is because of all those textures and flavors coming together in a perfect marriage. You have the crusty bolillo with its pillowy crumb, the velvety refried beans with just that right bite of spice, and the salsa with its fresh, vibrant flavors.
I had been wanting to share with you my own version of Mexican Molletes, which I make rather traditionally except that I used a mango-basil salsa this time instead of tomato salsa. It was divine.
I have a recipe for the perfect Bolillos on the blog, but because I wanted this to be a perfectly healthy snack, I repurposed by Sourdough Baguette into wholegrain bolillos for my Moletes. Try it out: you will not be disappointed. Or just buy some baguettes — or any crusty bread– from the bakery.
- 6 bolillo rolls, split into halves
- For Refried Beans
- 3 cups black beans, cooked or canned (drain thoroughly. If you cook your own, use 1 cup of dry beans, soak for a few hours before you cook, and toss in a bay leaf-- it gives the perfect flavor)
- Salt to taste
- ¼ tsp ground black pepper
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 4 cloves of garlic, crushed and minced
- 1 chipotle chili pepper in adobo sauce, finely chopped
- 2 tsp cumin powder
- 1 tsp olive oil
- ½ cup finely chopped coriander leaves or cilantro
- For Mango Salsa:
- 2 ripe mangoes, skin and seed removed. Chop the mangoes in a small dice
- ¼ cup finely chopped red onion
- 1 jalapeno pepper, minced
- Juice of ½ lime
- 10 basil leaves, cut into thin riboons
- Make the Refried Beans:
- Heat the oil in a saucepan large enough to hold the beans later.
- Add the onions and salt and ground black pepper and saute for a few minutes until the onion starts to soften. Add the garlic and continue to cook over low heat for another 2-3 minutes.
- Add the chipotle chili and cumin powder and stir well to mix.
- Add the cooked beans along with 1½ cups of the cooking liquid or water or vegetable stock.
- Bring to a boil and turn down the heat to a simmer. Let the beans cook about 10 minutes. If they get dry, add more water or stock.
- Using a potato masher, mash the beans until some are completely mashed and others are still whole or have some texture.
- The finished beans should have a thick, slightly soupy texture. They will thicken further as they stand, so this is important.
- Stir in the coriander leaves.
- Make the Mango-Basil Salsa:
- Mix all the ingredients and set aside 30 minutes for flavors to merge.
- Assemble the Mollete:
- Take the lower half of the bolillo bread and scoop out some of the crumb-- I like to do this so I can get more filling inside, but if you don't want to do this, that's fine too.
- Toast the bolillo until the edges are just turning crisp.
- Slather on some of the refried beans, top with the mango salsa, and serve immediately.