Thursday, January 5, 2012

smoky garlicky black beans

lo, it is january! people all over the world are becoming newly virtued, newly sure that This Is The Year When It Will All Change. like everyone else, i want to do better this year. i want to be nicer and more patient. i want to make more of my time and spend a little less energy being frustrated and bitter. but ultimately, these are things i need to take day by day and even in a kinder, gentler world there is still a place for semi-good-natured mockery.

oh, there isn't? well that sounds boring.

one thing that many people want to change resolutionarily is their eating habits. sure, i just ate a piece of chocolate, but in general i think we eat pretty healthily here in living awesomely land. plus, it was artisanal chocolate. AND free trade. so that's basically like you're doing your part for the good of the world by eating it, i'm pretty sure. i don't have to defend my chocolate-eating choices to you.

anyway, my innate defensiveness aside, these black beans i made sure were good. i know! you are all, snrrrszzzzzzboring. they are really tasty, though, and So Healthyface. also cheap. so they pretty much fit the bill if your resolutions involved things like eating better or being more thrifty. you also get the sort of quiet joy that comes of simmering something on the stove and making your house smell good on days in which the sun barely has time to rise before setting again at 4pm. it's also vegan, so the animals would thank you if animals were capable of feeling thankful. ours certainly aren't.

the first step of making beans may or may not be soaking them. i've read so many things and have tried all kinds of different ways - i'm not any sort of authority on it. frankly, i often used canned beans. but canned beans are nowhere near as good as the ones you make yourself. plus they are so 2011. for reals. this time i used a quick soak method that seemed to work well.

just cover the rinsed beans with a few inches of water, bring it to a boil, let it boil for a minute or two, then let the pot sit covered for at least an hour. then drain them out and rinse them off. you might need to pick a few losers out of the bunch as well. in the picture above, a helpful squirrel is pointing out a weird grey bean that no one wants. compost that puppy!

rinse the pot out and add a tablespoon or two of olive oil and put it over medium heat. once the oil's hot, add a medium diced onion. i think mine totaled 2/3 of a cup or so. possibly 3/4. don't get too hung up on the amounts. let that cook for awhile, stirring pretty frequently. you want it to get translucent but not too brownedy - 5 minutes-ish should be good. once the onion is translucent, add a whole head of minced garlic. you can, i suppose, add less, but garlic is good for you. also, garlic and onions cooking together form one of the great smells known to mankind. you owe it to yourself. let those hang out for a minute or so and then add some spices.

i was planning to use some cumin, some chipotle powder, and some smoked paprika. since there isn't any bacon or ham in here, i like the smokiness that those last two add. sadly, i was out of smoked paprika, so i used the smoke seasoning blend above. it's really good, but i like to not brag too much about the awesome trader joe's things we get here, since not everyone has access to them. but this time, i had no choice. and if you DO have a trader joe's, this stuff is good.

but it also is mostly smoked paprika. so you can work without it quite easily. add about two + teaspoons powdered cumin, 1-2 (or more, but it's spicy!) teaspoons chipotle powder (or you could use those canned chipotles in adobo - maybe like 1, minced?, and 2 teaspoons or several furious grinds of smoked paprika or smoke seasoning blend, respectively.

let it all cook together for a few seconds, so the spices get toasty, then add the pre-soaked beans and enough water so that they are covered by about 2 inches or so. you can add some salt at this point too - maybe a couple-few teaspoons (aka 2 -3). put the heat on high and let it come to a boil, then turn it down to medium-low (my stove's dial was at like 2 1/2 out of 10). cook until the beans are tender. this will depend to a certain extent on how old the beans are, etc., but it'll probably be like an hour. stir every 15 minutes or so, but it isn't a big deal.

once the beans are tender, add a can of tomatoes. you don't have to do this, but tomatoes are good in black beans, so i think you ought to at least consider it. this has a whole thing about bean skins and acids and bases, so you can see why you might want to wait until now to add the tomatoes.

you also might need to add a little more salt at this point. though it hasn't been scientifically proven, one of the main reasons people balk at eating homemade beans is that if they are undersalted they are the grossest things in the world. true story.

once they are tender, you can eat them immediately, or you can cool them and ladle them into muffin tins to freeze for later or you can keep them going on super-low heat until you're ready for them. they don't mind. they'll just be there when you're ready for them.

they're good on their own, or in enchiladas, nachos or the like. you can also have a little dress-up party with them and make some rice and have some toppings ready for delicious rice-and-bean bowls. we had them with brown rice, avocado, salsa, diced cheeses (cheddar, pepper jack), chopped scallions, greek yogurt (maybe i'm a philistine, but it really tastes just like sour cream to me), and garlicky sautéed kale.

i know. kale. eye roll. whatever haters, i love it! take the leafy parts from the stemmy stems, chop them up, cook them with lots of garlic, a splash of apple cider vinegar and some pepper flakes, and i could eat that stuff all day. it. is. the. best. particularly in a Virtue Bowl (TM).

good luck with all of your resolutionizing! here's to 2012!

1 bag dried black beans (it was whatever the normal size of bags of beans at the store run - i think that's a pound)
1 medium or small onion, diced
1 head of garlic, minced
1 can tomatoes (14 oz) - i used just regular diced ones, but you can get the ones with flavoring if you like. if they're salted, take it easy on the salt you add
2+ teaspoons powdered cumin
1-2 teaspoons chipotle powder, or 1 chipotle chile in adobo, minced - spicy!
2+ teaspoons dried smoked paprika (or that trader joe's stuff)
salt, to taste

listening to: a weird mix of the lower 48 (especially come awake) and some hip hop-ish songs off a spotify mix i made (lupe fiasco, the streets, aesop rock/mountain goats).

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