Monday, April 16, 2012

This should be in your freezer.

When I was growing up, my mother would work late every Friday night.  She's an academic (both of my parents are - I used to believe that having a Ph.D. in chemistry was a prerequisite to being an adult), so the time she took off during the week to spend time with us was made up for on Friday evening.  My dad, brother, and I took the opportunity to cook things we were sure would never make it onto her dinner plate - a particular treat we called "Little Treasures": a mound of pasta, parmesan, broccoli, and bacon.  Not that these dinners were not without educational content; one Friday we learned first-hand about the adverse effects of hot fat in cheap yogurt containers and on linoleum floors.

My mother, as far as I could tell, ate burritos every Friday.  I have lived with a variety of Texans, New Mexicans, and further-South-than-thou Californians, and they all tell me that my family does not eat a proper burrito.  Our burritos - really, my mother's burritos - consist of a tortilla, cheese, salsa, mounds of lettuce, tomatoes, avocados for some, anything else that might be delicious and lying around the fridge (roasted squash, cilantro...), and, of course, beans.

Black beans.  Mounds of them.  Glorious and unphotogenic, we eat these beans in our burritos, from a bowl, straight out of the pot.  We keep a large supply at all times in the freezer (they freeze particularly well - put them into the half-size yogurt containers and you have a perfect, easy (easy!) dinner), and since my supply was getting low (in fact, nonexistent) I spent Saturday morning rectifying the situation.

This is an easy recipe.  Originally adapted by my mother from the Moosewood Cookbook, it'll take several hours overall, but not much of that is active.  You don't even need to soak the beans.  It is also rather flexible - no celery lying around?  Eh, you can skip it.  (Really, what else does a person use celery for but stock and, apparently, this?  I have most of the head left over.)  One thing to note: like spaghetti sauce, these beans taste better the next day.  It is still good the day of, but if you wait a day, the flavors meld together and deepen.

Brazilian Black Beans
Adapted from the Moosewood Cookbook

2 cups of dry black beans (1 lb)
4 cups of water

In a large soup pot, bring the beans and water to a boil, and simmer for a couple hours until soft.  If you want to split the cooking up, you can let the beans cool, then refrigerate over night.
Drain the water, rinse the beans and then drain the beans again.  Add just enough water to cover the beans (or slightly less), and 2 tsp salt (or less).  Bring the beans to a boil, and let simmer.

Group A
1 cup chopped onion
3 cloves crushed garlic
1 large chopped carrot (optional)
1 stalk chopped celery (optional)
1 cup chopped green pepper (optional)
1 tsp coriander (or more)
1 ½ tsp ground cumin (or more)
Olive oil for cooking (about 2 Tbsp)

Group B
½ cup orange juice
1 Tbs dry sherry (I usually get the Sheffield Very Dry Sherry with a screw top (it’s in the wine
section). It keeps for several months at room temperature or you can refrigerate it.)
¼ tsp black pepper
¼ tsp red pepper (cayenne)
½ tsp fresh lemon juice
1 cup salsa (or more, chunky medium)

1 can (7 oz) mild green chiles
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

While the beans are heating up, saute Group A, beginning with the onions and garlic.  When the onions are translucent, add the carrots, celery, and pepper.  When the vegetables are close to done, add the spices and saute until the vegetables are cooked.  (To save time, you can skip the carrots, celery, and pepper, but I think they're delicious.)

In the meantime, add Group B to the beans. Stir and continue to simmer the beans.

Add Group A to the beans.  Now, break out your immersion blender and blend until you have your desired consistency.  (I generally blend until smooth.  You can also remove a cup or so of beans, puree the rest, then add the whole beans back in, for a varied texture.)  If you do not have this most useful of kitchen appliances, you can also use a blender.  Only fill the blender 1/3 full or so, and make sure you put the lid on to avoid splattering beans everywhere.


A few notes:
-I usually double the recipe, but remember, this makes a lot of beans (which will freeze beautifully, but you should plan for it).
-I'm sure you could start from canned beans, but I've never done this (since I make the recipe in such large quantities, it is cheaper to buy dry black beans).

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