Black Beans were relatively unheard of in the United States 30 or 40 years ago. Now most people have heard of them, if not actually eaten them. In Guatemala in the 1970s I learned the qualities of black beans and enjoy them in many ways to this day.
Black beans, as with most other beans are a healthy food. They contain 15 grams each of fiber and protein per cup. They are diabetic friendly food because of the complex carbohydrates that slow down the absorption of sugars. They have an impressive amount of phytonutrients that function as antioxidant and anti inflammatory compounds, which help with cardiovascular and colon health.
Cooking Black Beans. To Soak, or Not to Soak.
There is much discussion on whether presoaking is helpful or not. It is said that some of the compounds causing flatulence are washed away by presoaking the beans and discarding the soaking water. On the other hand, there are many nutrients being washed away in the soaking water. Ultimately, it appears the resistant starches that enhance digestion are unchanged, so it is purely your own choice.
Cooking black beans can be done in a pot on the stove or in a pressure cooker. In Guatemala I generally used a pressure cooker, but as I no longer own one, I now cook them on stove top. Check the beans over carefully for little stones, or even tiny clumps of dirt. Wash the beans well, as they are often quite dirty. Place them in a large pot and cover them with water to about 2 inches above the beans. Bring to a boil and lower the heat to maintain a simmer. Do not add in salt or it will toughen the outer skins and increase cooking time. In Guatemala I learned to cook the beans with green onions with their tops, as well as an herb they called Apasote, known better here in the US as Epazote. This herb, which grows like a weed in many places, has a particular and peculiar flavor that I have come to love, and was also claimed to reduce flatulence. I have no idea if this is so, but the flavor the herb imparts is wonderful. Cumin was never used in cooking beans. The use of cumin is a more southwest US flavor, and not used in Guatemalan black beans. It takes about 2 1/2 hours to cook black beans thoroughly. Add salt at the end, about 2 to 3 teaspoons per pound of beans cooked.
How to Eat Black Beans. Let Me Count the Ways.
In Guatemala, black beans were eaten often three times a day. An integral part of the diet, along with rice and freshly made corn tortillas provides complete proteins for a great part of the population. Plain cooked beans with their juices poured over a mound of rice are just delicious. For an extra kick of flavors, fry some chopped onion and minced garlic in olive oil, lard or bacon fat and add to the cooked beans. At this point, another way they are commonly eaten is passed through a food mill, food processor or blender until completely pureed. The thickness of the pureed beans is dependent on the amount of cooking liquid left with the beans. If too thin, the beans can be cooked slowly to reduce the liquid and make them a thicker dish.
A Special Occasion or Party Dish.
In Guatemala, with black beans so prevalent, they are also eaten at parties. Generally for a special occasion, they are taken following the last step above, and put into a large frying pan with some oil or lard and cooked over relatively high heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. The mixture reduces more and more over 15 to 30 minutes, until finally one large mass comes together. This mass can be flipped to one side of the pan or other, remaining in a half moon shape and slid onto a serving plate. This way the beans can easily be eaten warm or room temperature. The Guatemalans call beans made this way, Frijoles Volteados, meaning flipped, as with an omelet. Made this way these beans can be eaten at any time, but with the extra time needed to create the dish, it is often a special occasion fare.
While the beans made this may not look terribly appetizing to an outsider, to one who has eaten them often, they look downright mouth watering. Make some delicious black beans very soon, and enjoy both their delicious flavor and the secure knowledge that they are a nutritional boost to your health.
About The Author
My name is Chris Rawstern and I have been on a cooking and baking journey for 42 years. Many people have asked what A Harmony of Flavors means. Have you ever had a meal where the visual presentation was stunning, the smells were incredible, the taste was so remarkable that you ate slowly savoring every bite, wishing the experience would never end? Then you have experienced what a truly harmonious meal can be like.
My passion is to teach people how to create a Harmony of Flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own.
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