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Kayte's Simple Black Beans and Rice

A white bowl with cooked black beans topped with cheese, lettuce, salsa, cilantro.

Top your bowl with cheese, lettuce, cilantro, chilies, salsa, hot sauce, sour cream, avacado--whatever you have on hand. (Kayte Young/WFIU)

Black beans, or Frijoles Negros is a dish found throughout Latin America, with variations on seasonings and preparations from Cuba to Mexico. 

Black beans were one of the first dishes I learned to make on my own as a young adult. It's not something I ever had growing up, but it has become a comfort food for me. It's easy and cheap to make for a crowd, and you can dress it up with toppings to make it festive and exciting. You can also adjust to your liking the very basic seasonings suggested here.

You can use canned beans, and just season them and serve over rice, but cooking them from dry is easy enough, and the texture and flavor is superior to canned. 

I used to always soak my dry beans before cooking them. But ever since I learned (from Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen) that beans can easily be made in the crockpot by covering the dry beans with about 3 inches of water, and cooking on high for around 3 hours, I have never turned back. That's what I recommend, because it is so easy. But, by all means, cook the beans in the method you prefer. 

Simple Black Beans

1 pound dry black beans 

2 whole bay leaves

1 teaspoon salt

1 onion, chopped

dried, whole chili of your choice (optional)

1 tablespoon olive oil (or any cooking oil)

2-4 cloves of fresh garlic, finely chopped or pressed

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon (or more) salt

1-2 fresh chilies, finely chopped (as mild or as hot as you wish)

12 oz whole canned tomatoes

Toppings:

grated cheese

shredded lettuce or spinach

salsa

hot sauce

avocado

cilantro

fresh lime wedge

sour cream

Place the dry beans in a crockpot and cover with 3 inches of water. Add the chopped onion, bay leaves, salt and dried chili. Cover and cook on high for around 3 hours (check on them after a couple of hours, to make sure they don't get too mushy). Once they are cooked, but still holding their shape, remove from heat and drain most of the excess water from the beans.

Heat the oil in a large pot on the stove. Add garlic, chilies, salt and spices--saute until fragrant. Add the tomatoes and break them up in the pan with a wooden spoon. Simmer for about a minute. Add the beans. Bring to a boil then reduce heat, cover (with lid slightly ajar) and cook for 20 minutes. 

Meanwhile, prepare the rice (or grain of your choice). 

Taste the beans, add salt and seasoning as desired, remove bay leaves and whole dried chili (if using). Serve over rice with preferred toppings.

 

 

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