Spicy Black Beans

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Technically called turtle black bean, these small beans we call "black beans" actually look more purple than anything else. They are small, retain their texture throughout long cooking periods much more than their other bean cousins, and have a pleasant slightly sweet flavor to them that make them irresistible. Add to that their antioxidant properties and low fat and calorie and it's a bean worth getting to know!

A classic side dish that's surprisingly easy to make is stewed black beans or simply, "black beans." Stewed with onions, peppers, simple seasonings like bay leaf and oregano and garlic and sometimes spiced with some heat from a jalapeno, black beans is a popular dish among Latin American cuisines. From southern US states through Costa Rica and Nicaragua in Central America and down to Brazil, it's a staple food that's healthy, filling, and extremely delicious. Often served as an accompaniment to tacos along with rice, I love serving it as a side dish with grilled meats as well. You can certainly go about making black beans with dried beans, soaking them overnight, etc. but why when the canned versions prep all of that for you! Now you can make a delicious and authentic black bean dish in literally 30 minutes with no hassle at all.

Spicy Black Beans
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 white or yellow onion, peeled and chopped small
1/2 poblano pepper, seeded and stem removed and chopped small
1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and stem removed and chopped small
1 jalapeno pepper, chopped fine*
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 cans unseasoned black beans with juices from can
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 bay leaf
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
splash of white vinegar or fresh lime juice

Heat the olive oil in a pot. Add the onions and peppers and season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook on medium heat until vegetables are softened and start to caramelize, about 10 minutes. If veggies burn, reduce heat and continue cooking until softened. Add the garlic and cook another minute until garlic is fragrant. Add the beans together with the juices from the can (the starchy natural juice from the beans will thicken the sauce in the dish), and the broth. Add the bay leaf, oregano, and cumin and mix to combine. Bring beans to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer uncovered for about 20-30 minutes or until liquid has reduced considerably. Do not add more salt or pepper until liquid has reduced because the flavors from the other ingredients will concentrate and flavor the dish.

Once the liquid has reduced, leaving just a little (you don't want all the liquid to evaporate completely), taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Add the cilantro and  vinegar or lime juice, and mix in. Serve hot.

*The degree of heat will depend on how much and what parts of the jalapeno you use. Whenever working with jalapeno or other hot peppers, cut a small piece off and taste it to see how hot the pepper really is. Depending on the heat of the sun when they grew, they'll be extremely spicy or not at all so the best way to tell is to just taste it. The heat usually lives in the seeds and "ribs" of the pepper (the lighter colored part that's between the seeds and the flesh of the pepper) so for a milder taste cut out the seeds and ribs, then chop up the rest of the pepper and use that part. For more intense heat, add it all in pepper, seeds and all!


Christa Jeanne said...

Sounds delish!!! I was planning to make black beans tonight - looks like I'll be giving your recipe a whirl. :) How many servings does this make?

Mishy said...

Yay! This recipe makes for 4-6 people. If you do it and want to make it stretch, you can make the recipe and eat as black beans and then puree half of it and add more broth to turn it into a quick soup. Add a grilled cheese with ham sandwich and you've got anohter dinner!

Christa Jeanne said...

Oh, good call! I'm making it for just me and worried that it would be too much. But pureeing it to soup would be perfect.