Black beans are a versatile food ingredient widely used in many parts of the world including, South and Central America, the Caribbean and Spain. In some countries, black beans are a staple food, other countries cuisines favor black beans prepared as a specialty soup. There is also the black beans and rice combination popular in Cuban cuisine, and the stew, Feijoda, made with pork and beef using black beans as its base, highly favored among Brazilians and Portuguese. Black beans, also referred to as Black Turtle Beans or Frijoles Negroes, have numerous possibilities in their preparation and use including the Black Bean Salad recipe below and a broad array of cultural specialties when mixed with a variety of ingredients or spices.
Over the years wherever I have been or traveled if a black bean dish or soup is recommended to the area I try it. One of my curiosities is the actual flavor of the black beans once having absorbed the ingredient flavors through cooking and the tastes the beans impart. Besides meaty flavors such as a ham hock, sometimes I can taste the beans cooked with an added cinnamon stick or onion, and my favorite flavor when cooking black beans is to add cinnamon sticks and whole onion. Except, I use a little trick I learned from a chef years ago, before the onions go into the pot with the black beans, I stick about four or five whole cloves into each onion. I use the technique of the onion stuck with cloves along with the cinnamon sticks both for black bean salad and black bean soup.
When I prepared the Grilled Chicken Quesadillas for the Team Family Tailgate a couple of weeks ago, I served the black bean salad as a salsa-topping accompaniment and it went over well. I also saw many folks putting the additional black bean salad directly onto green salads, mixed into pasta, and eating them with tortilla chips, a good example on the excellent diversity and use of black beans to fit many cooking tastes and styles. As a healthy and inexpensive food ingredient black beans are perfect for experimentation with a whole variety of cultural dishes, including many with Hispanic origins.
- 1 16 ounce bag dried black beans, rinsed, checked for any pebbles or debris, soaked in cold water overnight
- 2 medium red onions
- 8-10 whole cloves
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1 medium size red onion, chopped
- 1 yellow pepper, seeded and chopped
- 1 green pepper, seeded and chopped
- 1 red pepper, seeded and chopped
- 1 fresh jalapeno, seeded and chopped fine
- juice from half a fresh squeezed lemon
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 3-4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 cup fresh chopped cilantro
- 1 1/2 tablespoons coarse kosher salt, more or less to taste
- 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
- Drain black beans that have been soaked overnight, rinse out pot, tumble in black beans and fill with cold water to cover a few inches above. Stick whole cloves into red onions and plop into bean pot along with the cinnamon sticks. Cook beans until boiling, then reduce heat and continue cooking, remove any scum from the top of the water during cooking and until the black beans are soft, about an hour or more. When the black beans are soft, discard the onions stuck with the cloves and the cinnamon sticks. Drain black beans and spread across a long serving dish, cool in refrigerator. When beans are cooled, stir in red onion, yellow, green and red peppers and the chopped jalapeno. Pour in the fresh lemon juice, vinegar, olive oil, stirring between each addition. Stir in the fresh chopped cilantro. Once the ingredients are combined, season with salt and pepper checking seasoning and adding more to taste. Since black beans absorb flavor, use a tasting spoon to taste the salad just before serving, adding in any extra needed salt, pepper, lemon juice, or a bit more olive oil to desired taste.