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Black Beans

I’m so happy that I can now find black beans in handy, one-kilo bags that I just can’t stop making them. I ran into a woman from Albuquerque the other night at a party and she told me that her love for the black bean was so grand that she hauled back bags of dried beans from home. Pas necessaire! I said. Save that paltry 50-pound per suitcase weight allowance for other things, I told her, like New Mexico green chiles, which you cannot find here, and plain M&Ms.

Then we all started talking about black beans. And I told them what I’m going to tell you now, which is that I’ve made black beans over the years, tinkered with my own recipe along the way, and now have come up with a very simple, very streamlined approach, which I believe, lets the flavor of the black bean be the star of the show. Also, these black beans serve as the foundation for many other things – black bean soup, black bean cakes, refried black beans, and my jalapeño-black bean dip. This time, I’m also going to make black bean burgers, inspired by the ones that I’ve had at Plaza Café in Santa Fe –it’s a great American-New Mexico diner, and is the city’s oldest restaurant (it’s been around since 1918, which, after living in France, doesn’t really seem that old).

Here you go.

Back in Black Beans

One kilo (appx. two pounds) bag of dried black beans
2-3 white onions
Tons of garlic (6-8 fat cloves)
Two red bell peppers
Olive oil
Black pepper
Sea salt


Soak beans in water overnight, picking out any stones, or other oddball bits that make their way into the bag. Rinse them thoroughly.

Chop onions into ¼-inch dice. Ditto with the red bells. Mince garlic.

Drizzle a bit of olive oil into a large stockpot (be sure to use a really big one if you’re making this entire recipe), add onions, garlic, and turn on heat to medium low.

Let onions cook until translucent, then add red bells.

Now, add enough water so the beans are covered by four inches. Cover the pot, turn heat down to low, and leave them alone for a couple of hours, at least.

Whatever you do, do not salt the beans until they’re soft. If you do, the outsides of the little beans will become hard and you’ll have to toss out the whole batch. I usually cook my beans for 3 hours, and sometimes four.

Now, you can use chicken stock instead of water if you want, but I really like this vegetarian version. Also, this recipe can be zipped up with jalapenos, chipotles, or Thai chiles (or any other chile that you can get your hands on), and you can add spices like chili powder and cumin, too, but if you do, you’re really crossing the line and getting into the area of Black Bean Chili, which is fine, but your options later on will be limited.

Make these beans a couple of days before you actually want to eat them. They’ll be much better this way.