Like lugging the bin of cold weather sweaters down from the attic once the breeze turns cool or slow cooking black beans with smoked chiles on a Saturday night -- it's the simple things that brings the joy.
Black Beans with Sweet Onions and Smoked Chiles
These beans are gentle but illustrious. The sweet onions are an essential base, as is the technique of frying the spices -- both for the power of deepening the flavor and for the extraction of the medicinal properties of turmeric (anti-inflammatory) and cumin (a digestive aid). This has been a staple in my repertoire since living in Harlem in my early twenties and the only real change to the recipe is that I don't cook it in an aluminum pot anymore.
5 T oil (olive or coconut)
1 large onion, diced
3/4 t sea salt
1 T maple syrup
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 canned chipotle peppers, minced (plus 2T of adobo sauce)
1 t ground cumin
3/4 t ground turmeric
4 cans of black beans (I like Westbrae for their BPA free principals)
1 t sea salt (or more)
Over a medium-high flame, heat the oil in a heavy bottomed pot large enough to house all of the ingredients. Add the diced onion and sea salt and let the onions cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to turn a caramel color -- about 25 minutes. Reduce the heat if they start to blacken.
Add the maple syrup, minced garlic and chipotle peppers, cumin and turmeric and let sizzle for a minute or so, stirring constantly but gently.
Add the beans and their liquid plus the remaining sea salt. Let the beans come to a hearty simmer and then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer for 20 minutes more, stirring occasionally.
Taste a spoonful -- add more salt, pinch by pinch, to lift any dragging flavors or more adobo sauce for added spice.
These are delicious on top of hot rice with a poached egg, atop corn chips with melted cheese and pickled jalapenos, or in warm tortillas with a cabbage and onion slaw with a creamy buttermilk dressing.
Freeze any leftovers.
Yields: beans for days -- about 8 servings
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour, mostly unnattended
Writing and Styling by Adria Lee | Photography by Amy Pennington