We spend a lot of time while we are working in the MAKE Projects kitchen talking about the foods we all make at home for our families. As I speak with our participants from so many different cultures, there are definitely some similarities and common themes that come up. One particular type of ingredient that I often see playing an important role in these meals is dried beans. Whether it's kidney, black, pinto, or some type of lentil, these dried beans are such an important part of so many cuisines. They are economical, nutritious, and provide wonderful flavor and texture! I stock at least 5 or 6 varieties of dried beans in our kitchen at any given time and often am shopping for specialty varieties for particular cuisines. I love their versatility and how they can change their character with the addition of different spices. Whether we are doing a cuisine from the Middle East, Africa, or Central America there is almost always a bean found somewhere in the menu!
Our recipe this week showcases the typical preparation for just about any type of dried bean. Each one has slightly different characteristics and the cooking time will vary depending on the variety, but the general method is the same. Soak overnight, simmer gently, and allow to cool in the cooking liquid before using. Note that its key when cooking dried beans not to add acidic ingredients like tomatoes, vinegar or lemon juice too early or you will drastically increase the cooking time. Likewise, be careful about salting until the end of cooking as this can break down the bean.
Easy Smoky Black Beans
I love using these beans as a stuffing for a vegetarian taco or arepa. Leftovers can be used as the base for a quick chili!
2 Cups Dried Black Beans
1 15 oz can Crushed or diced Tomatoes or 3 Fresh roma tomatoes, diced
1 Tablespoon Garlic, minced
½ Onion, diced
1 Tablespoon Smoked Paprika
2 teaspoons Cumin
1 teaspoon Dried or Fresh Oregano
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
Place the beans in a large container and cover with at least 3 times their volume in cold water. Allow to soak on the counter overnight.
Drain the beans and place in a large pot. Cover by 2 inches with fresh, cold water.
Bring to a simmer and cook very gently until the beans are tender and squash between two fingers with just a tiny bit of resistance. I always taste when I think they are getting close!
When tender, set the beans aside and allow to cool in their liquid. This will allow the beans to fully absorb the proper amount of liquid and will prevent them from drying out and breaking.
Meanwhile, sweat the onions in the olive oil in a medium sized pot until softened, about 5 minutes.
Add the garlic and cook one minute more.
Add the smoked paprika, cumin and oregano and cook 30 seconds until fragrant.
Add the tomatoes along with the cooked beans (straining off the bean cooking liquid before adding but saving this liquid)
Add a little of the bean cooking liquid to the pot and simmer until the sauce thickens slightly, about 15-20 minutes.
Once the sauce has thickened and flavors combined, season to taste with the lemon juice, salt and pepper
Serve as a taco filling or over rice!