Our house has long been toasty on the bottom and cold on top for reasons we’ve never probed.

In the parlance of the day, we’d shrug, “It is what it is.” Though we might have admitted, “What it is, is cold.”

As winter settled in, the local listserve urged: Bleed the radiator. Violence solves little. And yet, the task sounded intriguing: Find radiator, insert key, turn left. Air hissed out. After which the radiator was happy to radiate. And what it radiated was heat.

Cold mornings banished with a mere twist of the wrist. Imagine if we’d picked up this trick a decade earlier.

Now we’re toasty as tostadas, which made an apt celebratory meal. For the new year, we’re revising that tired truism. Maybe: “It is what it is, unless you figure out what’s wrong with it and fix it.” And then down something delicious.

Not catchy. But effective.

SPINSTER SISTERS TOSTADAS

Prep: 25 minutes

Cook: 6 minutes

Makes: 6 tostadas, serves 3

The tostadas served at The Spinster Sisters restaurant in Santa Rosa, Calif., are made with fresh tortillas and heirloom beans. Delicious, no doubt. So is this version compiled from ready-made tortillas and canned beans. Fresh salsa verde is well worth the effort.

  • 1 can (28 ounces) black beans
  • 3 1/2 cups thinly shredded raw cabbage
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced radishes
  • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • Canola oil
  • Salt
  • 6 small corn tortillas (about 5 or 6 inches in diameter)
  • 1/4 crumbled Cotija cheese
  • Salsa verde, see recipe
  • 1 avocado, halved, sliced

1. Thicken: Pour beans (and liquid) into a medium saucepan. Set over medium-low heat and let cook, stirring occasionally, while you prepare the rest of the dish. Add a little water if they look dry.

2. Toss: In a large bowl, toss together cabbage, radishes and cilantro. Dress with the lime juice, 2 tablespoons canola oil and a little salt.

3. Fry: Pour canola oil to a depth of 1/4 inch into a heavy skillet. Set over medium-high heat. Fry tortillas, one at a time, until crisp, about 20 seconds per side. Drain on kitchen towels.

4. Build: Set tortillas on a platter. Top with beans, and sprinkle with cheese. Pile on cabbage salad. Finish with a spoonful of the salsa and a few slices of avocado. Serve with additional salsa.

Salsa verde: Settle 6 husked tomatillos in a saucepan; fill with cold water to cover. Simmer until they turn from spring green to olive drab, 5-8 minutes. Drain. Halve and seed 1 serrano chili. Slice one-quarter of a yellow onion. Cook chili and onion in a dry heavy skillet over medium-high heat until charred, about 4 minutes. In the blender, swirl the tomatillos, chilies, onions, one-quarter bunch cilantro (leaves and tender stems) and 1 ½ teaspoons salt.

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