Friday, February 12, 2016

Mexican Black Beans

Every time I eat beans, I ask myself why I don’t eat them more often. For such a humble and inexpensive food, they’re surprisingly delicious, healthy, and substantial. They come in enough varieties and are used in enough world cuisines that I could eat them for a long time and not get bored. So if you, like me, are resolving to eat more beans this year, here is a great preparation to add to your repertoire.

These Mexican black beans are fantastic over Mexican rice, plain rice, on their own, or as a side. They’re nice and toasty from all the cumin and fresh from the cilantro and lime. You can keep this dish really easy and fast by using canned beans or you can make it cheap and folate-rich by using dried beans. These aren’t too shabby topped with shredded cheese either.

A note about using dried beans: don’t do what I did and try to be all “efficient” by using up the last bit of an old bag of beans along with some newer beans. Just don’t. Half of them will be all mushy while the others stubbornly refuse to soften. Stupid beans.

Some of the beans turned PURPLE after soaking!

 Fun Fact: Black beans are high in folate, containing about 32% the Recommended Daily Allowance in ½ cup boiled. (High-heat cooking destroys folate, so canned beans have less folate than boiled dried beans.) Folate is important for DNA synthesis, cell division, and the formation of hemoglobin.

Mexican Black Beans
Adapted precious little from

1 cup dried black beans (or 2 15-oz. cans)
1 Tablespoon olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeño chili, seeded and diced fine
heaping ½ teaspoon ground cumin (toasted and ground at home is preferable)
14.5 oz. can low-sodium chicken broth (or water + chicken soup base)
Juice of ½ lime, plus more to taste
3 Tablespoons chopped cilantro, plus more to taste
Salt and pepper to taste

If using dried beans, sort, rinse, and soak overnight with 2 inches (or about 3 cups) of water covering the beans. After soaking, drain the beans, and cover with fresh water by about 2 inches. Boil for 1½ - 2 hours, until very tender.* Alternatively: cook beans in a slow cooker on high for 3-4 hours. Alternatively to the alternative: cook beans WITHOUT pre-soaking in a slow cooker for 3-5+ hours (I find the soak helps the texture, though).

*The cooking time will vary depending on the age of the beans, your elevation, the hardness of the water, etc.

With your cooked/canned beans ready, you can prepare the dish. Heat olive oil in a large-ish nonstick frying pan over med-high heat. Add minced garlic, jalapeño, and ground cumin, and sauté for about 30 seconds. Add cooked beans and chicken broth, and cook together for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. With a masher, crush as many beans as desired to get a chunky or smooth consistency. Continue to boil until the mixture has thickened as much as desired. Add lime juice, cilantro, salt, and pepper to taste.

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