Beans are nature’s health food. They have an exceptionally high fiber content, and they’re a fine source of protein, as well as calcium, iron, folic acid and potassium. Black beans stand out because in that shiny black coating, there are at least eight different flavonoids, which are antioxidants. Called anthocyanins, they’re found in red grapes and red wine, red cabbage and other dark red fruits and vegetables. Black beans also contain small amounts of omega-3 fats, three times as much as other legumes provide.
Any successful dish made with black beans begins with a great pot of beans, sufficiently seasoned and slowly simmered with lots of onion and garlic until the beans are soft pillows suspended in a thick, inky, savory broth. There’s no comparison between that pot of black beans and the black beans that come in a can. Canned beans lack both flavor and nutrients.
Photo by Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times
The key to a great pot of black beans is using enough onion, garlic and salt for seasoning, and then cooking the beans for a long time at a slow simmer. In Mexico, a sprig of epazote or a few dried avocado leaves are usually added to the pot. Those ingredients aren’t as easy to find as cilantro, which is what I routinely use to season the beans. ~Martha Rose Shulman
Simmered Black Beans ingredients
Makes 6 servings
1-LB black beans, washed and picked over for stones
1 Tbsp canola oil or extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 large garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup chopped cilantro, plus additional for garnish if desired
Salt, preferably kosher salt, to taste
Notes: If you can get hold of a sprig of fresh epazote (read more), add it to the beans with the cilantro. The cooked beans will keep for three to four days in the refrigerator and will freeze well.
Soak the beans in the water for at least 6 hours. If they will be soaking for a long time in warm weather, put them in the refrigerator.
Heat the oil over Medium heat in a large, heavy soup pot or Dutch oven; add the onion and cook, stirring, until it begins to soften, about 3 minutes. Add 1/2 the garlic; cook, stirring, until fragrant, about one minute. Add the beans and soaking water. The beans should be covered by at least 1-inch of water. Add more as necessary, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to Low, and skim off any foam that rises. Cover and simmer for 1 hour.
Add the salt, remaining garlic and cilantro. Continue to simmerfor another hour, until the beans are quite soft and the broth is thick and fragrant. Taste and adjust salt and garlic. Let sit overnight in the refrigerator for the best flavor.
This is Martha Rose Schulman's recipe and comments published in the New York Times on March 9, 2009, as part of a Recipes for Health series (cookbook here).
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