Monday, January 4, 2010

Mexican Black Bean Stew

After the last of the holiday dishes were cleared from the table, I sat in our living room, strewn with excess toy packaging, a cup of peppermint tea warming my hands, and I began thinking about what I would cook the next evening for dinner. Feeling bloated and stuffed, like the turkey we had just devoured, my mind turned to the sunny, warm flavours of Mexican cuisine. Cilantro (coriander here in Europe), spicy peppers, tomatoes and... the main ingredient eluded me for a moment. I knew that I didn't want more meat, having roasted and eaten most every farm animal and sea creature over the previous two weeks.
A creamy stew of slowly simmered black beans crept into my gastro-imagination. Lovely and satisfying, this recipe also benefits from being vegan if vegetable broth is used. Otherwise, beef stock is perfectly hearty in this. I served the stew for dinner with a scattering of queso fresco (which was nice but not necessary), steamed rice (brown or white) and sauteed Cavolo Nero and garlic.
The stew was even better the next day for lunch. 

8 ounces dried black beans (or 3 cans black beans, in which case, skip step 1)
1 red bell pepper
2 jalapeno peppers
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small yellow onion, chopped
Low sodium beef or vegetable broth to cover beans by 2 inches
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
Leaves stripped off 2 sprigs epazote (found dried in latin grocery stores)
Handful of fresh, chopped cilantro (coriander)

1) Soak the black beans over night or for at least 3 hours. Drain, rinse and cover by three inches with fresh water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 1-2 hour(s). Drain, cover with stock, bring back to a simmer and allow to cook until tender (refilling with stock or water if needed to keep quite moist).

-Alternatively, use canned black beans-

2) While the beans are simmering away, toss the bell pepper and jalapenos together with a drizzle of olive or veg oil and roast at 375F (180C) until just soft and a bit charred. Allow to cool, remove the  skins and seeds and chop.

3) Once the beans are tender, but not splitting open, add in the roasted peppers, tomato paste, onion, garlic and herbs (except the cilantro). Taste for seasoning, add salt if desired. Simmer, covered or not depending on how soupy or dry you would like the stew, for 20-30 minutes, until the onions are cooked and the flavours melded. Stir in the fresh cilantro and serve.

Makes main course for 4, sides for 6-8. Serve with crumbled queso fresco, or a swirl of sour cream plain yogurt, if desired.

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