For us, cold weather is bean weather, and we like the rich, warm feeling that this filling food provides on a chilly day. Our last post covered a Southern classic, red beans and rice, but sometimes we like to branch out and cook beans a different way – which is to say we sometimes like to forgo all the sausage, ham, and other pork products that are generally found in Southern bean dishes. This bean dish is completely vegetarian, but it’s still just as full of good, savory flavor as any bean dish you’ll come across. We adapted this dish from several different Cuban-style black bean dishes we read, and it’s probably the bean dish I make most often. The recipe here calls for dried beans, but this is almost as good using canned – and a lot quicker. We’re serving it with lime rice and some crispy fried green plantains, but it also make a nice topping for nachos or filling for burritos. Get creative!
- 1 pound dry black beans (or two cans canned)
- 1 1/2 cups chopped onion
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped
- 2 Anaheim chile peppers, chopped
- 3 large cloves garlic, minced
- 1 can tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar
- 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon red pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
Soak the beans overnight. If you’ve got really hard water, or like really soft beans, you can add a teaspoon of baking soda to the water – baking soda will raise the pH of the water which softens the beans. When ready to cook, rinse your beans and add fresh water back to them, covering the top level of beans by about two inches. Bring your beans to a boil, then simmer until they get good and tender. It’s important that the beans be good and tender before you add any of the other ingredients; tomato paste and vinegar are both acidic (which lowers pH), and adding acidic ingredients too soon will result in beans that don’t ever get as soft as you might like them to be. Once your beans have gotten tender, mash about a quarter of them up and stir well. Saute the peppers, onion, and garlic until soft, then add them to the pot along with the tomato paste, vinegar, brown sugar, red pepper, and cumin. Salt to taste. Simmer until the beans are very tender and falling apart. Taste often so you can adjust the salt and spice if needed!
For the lime rice, boil your brown or white rice as you normally would, but add the juice of of half a lime and 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander per cup of dry rice used. This is a great compliment to these spicy beans! We also enjoy some crispy, starchy fried plantains with this dish, which are very easy to make (see below).
Fried Green Plantains (Tostones)
The method here is to blanch the plantains in hot oil for 1-2 minutes per side (they’ll start to show a little color), then remove them to some paper towels for a thorough drain. After they’ve drained, take the bottom of a glass and smash the plantains into thin disks, then put them back in the hot oil for another 2-4 minutes, or until they’re crisp and golden brown. Sprinkle the crisps lightly with sea salt. These are also great for dipping, and taste like a cross between a mild flavored banana chip and a potato chip (but better than both).
Beans are probably the best way that there is to eat healthy and cheaply – they’re really a perfect food as far as getting good nutrition and a bang for your buck. We hope you’ll make them a part of your weekly meal plans – they’re certainly a delicious addition. Enjoy!