Mark Bittman’s green-covered “How to Cook Everything Vegetarian” was a gift last Christmas. His yellow-covered “How to Cook Everything” book is so familiar that I neglected the new one until recently.
In the lead up to Thanksgiving, I made black beans for dinner one night and froze some, thinking ahead to a weekend meal after the feast night and a dinner out on Friday night. Looking for a way to use the beans, I found myself wandering the wonderland of Bittman’s “Legume” section – 100 pages of bean magic!
The section is organized according to cooking method – because, as Bittman says, legumes are “largely interchangeable.” Even if calling for white or black or pinto, he will list the other beans you might use in each recipe. These pages are full of terrific sounding recipes – I love “hearty do-ahead dishes” that are “perfect for entertaining,” but I would be a curious beginner with beans cooked in “fritters, dumplings, croquettes, and cakes.”
I was looking for black bean enchiladas or chile, but “Beer-Glazed Black Beans” caught my eye. Bittman says “it’s amazing how much flavor you get from adding a cup (or a bottle) of beer to black beans” and lists variations involving tomatoes, chiles, tamarind, Asian style, or – the one I used – Thai-Style Chile Paste.
A break in the weather on the holiday Saturday led to an afternoon of splitting firewood, rebuilding the wattle fence around a garden and dressing it with compost and straw. Then the already prepared beans meant dinner came together quickly.
The recipe calls for an onion sautéed in two tablespoons of olive oil, and a tablespoon of minced garlic added after onions are soft. A minute later add three cups of cooked (or canned) black beans, a tablespoon of chili powder, a tablespoon of honey, salt and freshly ground pepper. Oh, and a cup of beer (leaving just enough in the bottle for a start with the chips and salsa)!
Cook till the liquid is reduced and thickened, it took about 15 minutes. Our Thai friend added a “dollop” (a new word to her) of the Thai-style chili paste along with the beans. And cut up some hotter peppers for herself. With rice, cornbread, and a salad, the beans made a warming meal.
Thanks Mark Bittman!