If you've been reading this blog for some time now, or checked out my archives, you may have noticed that beans are a staple food in my kitchen. I prefer to buy them dried over canned mostly because I think they taste so much better, but it also doesn't hurt that they're much cheaper that way to. I do have canned beans for those days that I need a quick meal and haven't planned ahead, but cooking beans is really not very hard and I think you should give it a try if you haven't already.
Place your desired amount of dried beans into a large bowl, then fill with water, covering the beans by about 2-3 inches. Let them sit overnight while you sleep or while you're away at work during the day. After letting them sit anywhere from 6-10 hours the beans should be plumper and the water level will have gone down. Now you can drain the beans and give them a good rinse before placing them into a large heavy pot and covering again with fresh cool water. I never measure anything when cooking beans, but I do always cover the beans a good 3-4 inches so I know there will be enough water when they start cooking.
Place the pot with the water and beans over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Let the beans boil for about 5-10 minutes, then turn down the heat and cover, simmering for about 40-60 minutes. The cooking time can really vary depending on how long you let the beans soak, what variety and size they are, and depending on how fresh your beans are. The older they are the longer it will take for them to cook, so I recommend buying your beans from places with a high turn over. When they're cooked remove from heat, drain and store tightly covered in your refrigerator or freezer. This may seem like a lot of work, but the active time is really very little and you can cook a lot at once and eat them through the week or freeze them up to 4 or 5 months for later.
Having a large amount of beans already cooked and staring back at me in from the fridge, inspired me to use them up in a Mexican style dish. I grabbed my last sweet potato, added some spices, herbs, garlic and a jalapeño and drenched them with fresh lime juice for a tasty side dish that easily becomes a meal when placed inside corn tortillas and placed alongside some rice and salad.
If you're still looking for another side dish to accompany a Cinco de Mayo feast this week, this would make a great addition. I placed my avocado on top, but it would be great mixed in as well. Other great toppings would be salsa, grated cheese and sour cream. I recommend starting with half the juice of lime and tasting before you add more, it's not meant to overpower, but some people like a little extra pucker. Also this was not very spicy to me, if you want it spicier leave in some of those jalapeño seeds.
Mexican Black Beans and Sweet Potatoes
serves 4 as a main or 6 as a side
2 cups peeled and diced sweet potato, about 1 large or 2 small potatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chile powder
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 jalapeño, seeded and finely chopped
3 cups cooked black beans
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 avocado, cubed
Preheat the oven to 450˚F. Toss the diced sweet potatoes in the 2 tablespoons of olive oil, cumin, chile powder, and salt and pepper. Place on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the sweet potatoes have softened.
While the potatoes are cooking, heat the tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add to it the garlic and cook until it just begins to turn golden brown. Toss in the jalapeño, and beans. Cook until the beans are heated through, then turn off the heat.
Once the potatoes are out of the oven, add them to the bean mixture along with the cilantro and gently stir everything together. Squeeze juice of half the lime over everything, adding more to your taste.
Serve garnished with avocado or any other topping you wish. Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator.