Thursday, October 26, 2006

Best Black Beans

When I and my put-upon children were vegetarians several lifetimes ago, I bought Molly Katzen's Moosewood Cookbook, followed by the Enchanted Broccoli Forest and for a time, cooked from them almost exclusively. Although now I'm quite omnivorous (as are 2 out of 3 of my children), I still return to Molly's original books on occasion, her skillet cornbread (a future post, for sure) being one of my favorite recipes from that long ago era.
This black bean dish is one of Molly's that I've continued to make, especially when the days grow shorter and the nights cooler. I used to follow it to the letter but over the years I've tweaked it, shortened it, made it simpler. It's still delicious, nutritious, high in fiber and wholly satisfying. Pairing it with tender, poached halibut was an epiphany.

Best Black Beans
Inspired by Moosewood Cookbook by Molly Katzen

1 pound (about 2 1/2 cups) small black beans
water to cover
6-7 cups good chicken broth (I use no-fat, low-sodium*. You can also use vegetable broth or water or a combination of both)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
3 celery ribs, cut into small dice

3 carrots, peeled, cut into small dice
1 medium onion, chopped fine
3 garlic cloves, chopped fine
2 heaping teaspoons cumin
1 heaping teaspoon corriander
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4-1/2 teaspoon chipotle pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
juice of 1 whole orange
juice of 1 whole lime
1/4 cup chicken broth or sherry or ruby port
kosher salt (to taste)


Pick over the dried beans, removing rocks, other foreign objects and discolored beans.
Wash beans thoroughly in a colander under running water.
Using a large soup pot, cover the beans with several inches of fresh water and let sit, covered, overnight.
Drain the beans, rinse again in a colander and return to the empty, rinsed pot.
Pour the broth over the beans and place over high heat to bring to a boil.
When the broth begins to boil, reduce the heat to keep beans at a low boil and cook until tender.
Do not cover, allowing much of the liquid to evaporate.
Meanwhile, prepare the vegetables:
Slice the ribs of celery lengthwise in half or thirds and chop into small dice (1/4-inch pieces) crosswise.
Slice the carrots lengthwise into fourths and chop crosswise like the celery.
Peel and chop the onion and garlic as stated above.
Melt the oil and butter in a heavy skillet over medium heat and add the onions and carrots. Saute slowly until both are soft, covering with a lid if necessary.
Add the celery and garlic and saute a bit more taking care to not let the veggies burn.
When the veggies are done, add the cumin, corriander, cinnamon, pepper flakes and black pepper and stir, cooking until the spicy aromas come up, about 1 minute.
Deglaze the pan with the citrus juices and the chicken broth or wine and remove from heat.
When the beans are done, you should have less than half the broth you started out with. This isn't supposed to be soup or stew. If it's too brothy, boil it a bit more to reduce the liquid.
Add the vegetable-spice saute to the beans and mix thoroughly.
Taste and adjust seasonings, adding salt now if needed.
This makes a lot of beans (6 cups or more) and is a great potluck dish. Leftovers may be frozen for a later use.

*Do not add salt to the liquid used to cook the beans as this will keep the beans from fully cooking and make them hard.


  1. Mmmm. This does sound good. I love chipotle peppers. I bet the chipotle flavor is great in this.

  2. Yum!!!!!! I have to get the chipotle flakes.

  3. These beans look wonderful! A meal in themselves.happy cooking!

  4. These look so good. Those books do have some gems in them.


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