I have never been keen on the humble bean.
I cook them because they’re cheap, they’re a good source of protein, they’re better for the environment, et cetera — but I’ve never cooked them because I like them. They’re either mealy or mushy and always completely bland.
Oh, how wrong I have been.
Until recently, I was firmly under the impression that adding salt to beans as they cooked made them soften slower and therefore need to be cooked longer. As it turns out, cooking the beans in salted water makes them cook faster, and more importantly, it makes them taste better. I also found this batch was the first time I’d cooked beans that kept their skins on and didn’t disintegrate before they were cooked all the way through. Each bean remained its own discrete jewel of cumin-scented goodness.
1 pound of (picked over, washed and soaked) dried black beans
8 cups water
1 tablespoon salt
5 bay leaves
5-8 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced in half
3/4 teaspoon cayenne powder
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
I never remember to soak beans the night before so I boil them for about 2 minutes, then let them sit for 1-2 hours before cooking. After soaking, drain the beans and add all remaining ingredients, bring to a boil, then simmer until done (usually about 2 hours, but depending on how long you soaked them and the age of the beans, it could vary).
After eating them over rice and tossed in a salad, I took what was left and made it into black bean soup.
This was just one of those “throw stuff in from the fridge and hope it works out” soups, which could have been okay at best, but the beans… MY GOD, THE BEANS. I had added some garlic and some tomato paste into the soup pot and I wasn’t that impressed with the result, but as soon as I got the stick blender in there, all the flavor inside the beans came out — the cumin, the garlic — everything came out into the taste of the soup. I already wish I had more.
Beans, can you ever forgive me for treating you so bad?