A rerun from 2014 (!) Since Lent starts Wednesday and is considered a time to cut back on fancy things, and since beans are cheap, tasty, and black beans in particular hide a lot of add-ins (no one will see them in that inky black liquid . . .) They are also good comfort food when winter decides to hang on longer than perhaps desired.
This is a variation on a recipe from a well-known restaurant in Santa Fe. Black beans, aka turtle beans or frijoles negros, do not require overnight soaking. I still soak them for an hour or so, to drown any extra animal protein and because I’m usually cooking a few other things at the same time.
You need black beans, protein (optional), a dollop of garlic, 1/2-1 cup celery, spices to taste (cumin, cilantro, chili powder, chipotle pepper, whatever you prefer), and water and chicken or vegetable broth.
Rinse one 1 lb bag of beans, or use one or two cans of pre-cooked beans. Pick out any small stones from the bagged beans.
If you are going to add a little sausage (chorizo or other strongly flavored sausage), precook it now and let it drain if it is really fatty. If adding bits of left-over ham, you don’t need to pre-cook it.
Saute garlic in olive oil (I like a heaping tablespoon of garlic and the same amount of oil, you might prefer less garlic), add 1/2 to 1 cup celery (chopped medium-fine). Cook three minutes or so. Add the beans, two cups of chicken or vegetable broth plus water to cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cook for an hour. Meanwhile, chop a half cup of ham or sausage (the good stuff.) Add the sausage and some spices (I like a little chipotle chili and some cumin, others use oregano), cook for an additional hour or until the beans are soft and the meat and spices are well blended.
Now, soup or straight? If you want soup, run about 3/4 of the beans and liquid through a blender or food processor, return to pot, add a little more liquid, heat, and serve with a bit of white cheese, slices of tomato, and a shot of good balsamic vinegar. For straight beans, cook down until the beans are your preferred consistency for beans, serve with or without cheese, as a side, or as a main dish with white or brown rice for beans-n-rice, formerly known as Cristianos y Moros. I like a shot of balsamic vinegar in mine. Or a good salsa, like a fruit salsa. Black-bean salsa is redundant for this one, and if you do use salsa, skip the vinegar. It’s gilding a lily.