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