Since I’ve been at Libre in Colorado, my meals have consisted of simple, vegetarian fare. One of my favorites has been variations with black beans, which seems somehow fitting in Colorado, just like wearing my boots around in the dusty terrain. (Boots never made so much sense.) The beans I’ve been making are from dried black beans and take a bit of time- mostly unattended- so I usually set them on the stove in the morning, and they’re ready for lunch or dinner. I make more than I need and then keep them in the the fridge for a few days, reheating on other occasions.
To get a bit of protein in my system, a favorite lunch has been black beans with a fried egg on top, usually sunny-side up. Accompanied with freshly sliced avocado and briefly sauteed spinach then makes for a tasty (and healthy) meal. For today’s lunch, I threw in a handful of cooked brown rice leftover from last night along with freshly cut corn and heated the whole shebang up that I served with crumbled feta on top, and the usual fried egg, sliced avocado and heirloom tomato. For dinner another night, I quickly stir fried zucchini, sweet pepper and corn, threw it on top of the beans and served it with mixed greens.
Regarding the beans- here’s the low-down. Rinse the beans first- say 2 cups or so. You don’t really need exact measurements- just eyeball a quantity that looks about like what you’ll want. (Remember, they do expand as they absorb water.) Once the beans are clean, place them in a saucepan and cover with water about 1 to 2 inches above the top of the beans. Bring to a boil. Boil for about 10 minutes, turn off the heat, cover and leave to sit for 1 to 2 hours. (OR, soak beans overnight, up to 8 hours, then you can skip this step and start at the next paragraph.)
When the beans are starting to soften (they won’t be ready yet), drain the water, reserving about a cup of the soaking liquid. From here on out, there are many variations, but this is what I’ve been enjoying recently. In a separate pan, saute 1/2 to 1 chopped onion and a minced garlic clove or two in a little oil, depending on the amount of beans and your taste. Mix them in with the beans. Add the reserved liquid and vegetable or chicken stock- again, enough to cover the beans by an inch or two. Add a dash or two of salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, thyme. Stir well. Sometimes I add a can of diced tomatoes with juice at this point. (If I have fresh tomatoes, I wait until later. Or, I add some to cook in with the beans to add flavor and then add additional fresh tomato when serving.)
Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and begin a slow simmer, partially covered. Check beans every 15 minutes or so, and stir. The time it takes the beans to be completely softened varies, depending on the beans, altitude, etc. I’ve found I like to cook them at least an hour, sometimes as much as 2 plus hours. Keep tasting them and adding more salt and pepper along the way, as needed.
The stock/water will cook down into the beans. Add additional water if necessary, although it may not completely cook off. Once they’re done, I often keep the beans in the fridge in extra liquid which I use to reheat them later. I like to serve with chopped sweet peppers, which I’ll sometimes stir in, or serve on top. The same goes for ripe tomatoes or fresh sweet corn. You might also saute minced jalapeno to add a bit of spice.
For the amount of words it’s taken to explain, it’s actually pretty simple, although it does take a bit of pre-planning. Once they’re done, it’s great to have black beans around for a quick, tasty feast.