Since my last post, I’ve been to the wonderful city of San Francisco and back. In those few short days, I had a picnic under the Golden Gate Bridge, toured a vineyard castle in the Napa Valley and roamed the halls of the newly reopened SF MOMA.
One night we had dinner and drinks in a dimly lit red-hued Mediterranean inspired restaurant in SoMa. We ordered a mezze of tasty vegetarian sides like baked cauliflower, salads, vegetarian kufteh, roasted eggplant, and hummus with crispy lavash. We had soup to start, a modest chard and bean soup so good I wanted to come home right away and recreate it over and over. It was so simple, delectably nuanced and flavourful that I want to tuck it in my recipe bank for when the cold season rolls around.
I’ve been on this kick lately, of trying to recreate meals I’ve had in restaurants and loved. The Brazilian style black beans, we had them for the first time last spring at a vegan restaurant in the Upper East Side.
The restaurant also makes these amazingly lush eco-cocktails, with muddled strawberries and basil – absolutely delicious, and I plan on making them come summer! The black beans though, it was just so rich and smoky and flavourful, and yet so modest. Our dinner conversation instantly turned to how we were going to make these beans at home, and we tried it the weekend got back.
It was a success, just like we remembered; and everyone loved it! It’s akin to the traditional saucy tomato based bean stew my mom used to make, which we usually have with plantains.
These beans are intensely savoury, perfectly spiced and cooked until tender, rich and fragrant with deepened flavours.
It’s also hearty and nutritious, and highly adaptable if you want to use your favourite spices or toss in some wholesome greens and vegetables. For a creamier texture, blend a cup of stew (just before it’s done cooking) until it’s smooth and add it back in.
I love simple meals, and this stew is just that, simple; with little effort required to pull it together.
It makes an awesome meal on its own, with a hunk of good bread, or you could serve it like it’s traditionally done with white rice. I like to make this when I have meat-loving guests over for dinner – we go all out with spiced rice (or jollof rice even!) and bake some plantains.
- 2 cups dry black beans, picked over and rinsed
- 5 – 6 cups water
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 dried bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
- 2 – 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 large onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 green bell pepper, diced
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika, or to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, optional or to taste
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
- 1 tablespoon balsamic or red wine vinegar
- Chopped fresh cilantro or parsley for garnish, optional
- Cooked rice and baked plantain for serving, optional
- Place rinsed beans in a large pot, add enough water to cover beans to up to 2 1/2 inches
- Add garlic, and bay leaf and cook beans over medium-high heat, bring to a boil and let beans boil for about 10 – 15 minutes
- Reduce heat and let beans simmer until just tender (not bursting), about 30 – 35 minutes
- Add salt, let beans cook for another 5 minutes of so then turn off the heat
- Do not drain beans, discard garlic and bay leaf when ready to use
- Heat oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat
- Add onion, garlic and bell pepper, and sauté, stirring occasionally until the onions and peppers start to soften, about 3 minutes
- Add cumin, coriander, paprika, pepper flakes and tomato paste and salt, stir and cook for another 3 – 5 minutes, keep stirring intermittently
- Add beans (along with the liquid), bring to a boil then lower heat and let simmer for 20 – 25 minutes until liquid is reduced and beans are tender (add 1/2 – 1 cup more water if your beans get too dry)
- Stir in balsamic vinegar, check seasoning and add more salt if necessary, and let beans cook on low heat for another 5 minutes
- Serve sprinkled with chopped cilantro or parsley and a side of rice and plantains if desired