Black Beans for a Lucky New Year
Back when I was much, much younger, and probably about as tall as your knee, my father spent late December at a winter football bowl, and I was given to my grandmother to herd through the holidays. Spending New Year’s Eve with your grandmother may not sound like your ideal holiday, but I was six, and my grandmother was not the type to stay home because she was in possession of a small child. We rang in the new year at a dinner party, and then after we trundled over to a party that must have lasted until at least three in the morning. It taught me many things: that being in your mid-fifties is absolutely no excuse for staying in, that drunk people in holiday plaid will sing Auld Lang Syne very loudly, and that the most glamorous dinner parties are held by candlelight, in little brick houses covered with ivy. The dinner hostess imparted more wisdom: to have a lucky new year, the first person at your door needed to be a black-haired woman, and you needed to eat black beans. Fortunately, my grandmother had black hair, so we sent her out at 12:01, and opened the door to her knocking, then followed up by eating a black bean dish about which I remember absolutely nothing. Except that because it was at this party, it must have been the Best Thing Ever, which means it must have tasted a lot like the recipe I’m about to give you.
Now, I realize it is not New Year’s Eve. It’s not even New Year’s Day. You are possibly reading this from your first work week of 2012, and it is certainly (I hope) not going to be the first dish you eat in the year. But! It is delicious enough to eat any time, and! New Year’s has enough magic in its own right. I’m thinking we need some more lucky January 5th’s and 6th’s, to start off a year of incredible everydays.
Cuban Black Beans
Adapted from this recipe.
This recipe comes from Cocina Criolla by Nitza Villapo, otherwise known as the “Julia Child of Cuba.” The ingredients are cheap, and probably things you already have in your kitchen cupboards, but together, they transform into an amazing, flavorful black bean dish that you might find yourself eating with a spoon (and it’s pareve!). It’s wonderful on quesadillas or in burritos, in migas, or I suspect, with some broth added, it would make a delicious soup. The original recipe suggests serving it with marinated pork cubano, although that’s not exactly kosher.
A few notes:
I used sprouted black beans because I like them. If you don’t want to sprout your beans, soak your dried beans in 10 cups of water for 6-12 hours, and then boil them in the soaking liquid instead of adding more water. In a pinch, I’ve also made this with canned beans, using six cups of canned beans, no soaking time, and significantly less water for boiling (start with four cups and move up from there as needed).
Also, don’t skimp on the olive oil. Just, don’t. It’s a simple dish, and the oil makes it special.
1 lb sprouted black beans (2 cups)
8 cups water, plus additional water for soaking
2/3 cup olive oil
1 onion, roughly chopped
2 peppers, roughly chopped
5 cloves garlic
4 teaspoons kosher salt
½ teaspoon pepper
¼ teaspoon oregano
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons sugar (I used brown sugar, it was delicious)
2 teaspoons white vinegar
2 teaspoons white wine
- Place beans and water in a large pot. Bring to a boil, turn down the temperature, and simmer for 45 minutes. The beans should be softened, although they need not be completely cooked. Remove from heat.
- Heat olive oil over medium heat. Add chopped onion and pepper. Cook until soft and translucent. Stir in garlic, cook for another 30 seconds or so. Remove from heat.
- When both the beans and the onion-pepper mixture are cool, deposit onion pepper mixture and a cup of beans and bean liquid into a food processor (or blender). Blend until smooth, and add it back to the bean pot.
- Simmer the whole things for another hour.
- Add the salt, pepper, oregano, bay leaf, and sugar. Simmer for another hour (I find that I often don’t need a full hour here, since my beans are usually cooked through and the sauce is thick enough. Feel free to cut time off if you’re happy with your dish).
- Add vinegar and white wine. If the sauce still needs thickening, continue cooking for another hour, or as needed.
This recipe is inexpensive, delicious, and features ingredients grown in my own garden, so it’s a perfect fit for Frugal Food Fridays (what a wonderful idea for a blog carousel!).