Simmered Black Beans

I love workhorses in the kitchen: versatile ingredients and dishes are a lifesaver for busy people who don’t have time to cook from scratch every day, but get bored eating the same leftovers more than once or twice (especially if you’re cooking for one or two people).

Black beans  might top my list of kitchen workhorses. Black bean soup, fish tacos, Chipotle-style “burrito bowls,” breakfast burritos or tostadas, nachos, veggie burgers, tossed into a salad, or simply heated up and served in a bowl, over rice or quinoa or alone…. really hard to go wrong. They’re also one of the most economical protein sources, and vegetarian to boot.

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Canned black beans are easy and inexpensive, and if you opt for the kind without added salt, your fingers won’t swell up from sodium overdose.

But if you make them from scratch?

You may never want to buy canned beans again. You will, of course, but you’ll forever be comparing them to their fragrant, thick, nutrient-dense homemade cousins.

And there really is no comparison.

Do yourself a favor, and knock out a batch of these this weekend.

Simmered Black Beans

From The New York Times

Yield: 6 servings

1 pound black beans
2 quarts water
1 tablespoon canola oil or extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 large garlic cloves (or more), minced
1/4 cup chopped cilantro, plus additional for garnish if desired
Kosher salt to taste

Rinse the beans; soak in water for at least six hours or overnight. (If they will be soaking for a long time in warm weather, put them in the refrigerator.)

Heat the oil over medium heat in a large, heavy soup pot or Dutch oven, and add the onion. Cook, stirring, until it begins to soften, about three minutes. Add half the garlic. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, about one minute. Add the beans and soaking water. The beans should be covered by at least an inch of water. Add more as necessary, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, and skim off any foam that rises. Cover and simmer one hour.

Add the salt, remaining garlic and cilantro. Continue to simmer another hour, until the beans are quite soft and the broth is thick and fragrant. Taste. Add additional salt and/or garlic if needed. Let sit overnight in the refrigerator for the best flavor.

Advance preparation: The cooked beans will keep for several days in the refrigerator and will freeze well.

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