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Friday, October 19, 2012

Perfect Black Beans

Black beans are one of my favorite comfort foods. They remind me of time spent in Latin America, and as one of the first meals I started cooking for myself that was successful. I used to make rice and beans all the time. In fact, I have a couple of previous posts up about black beans. I used to buy them in a can, and then I switched to dried beans, because they are cheaper and there is no worry of BPA. However, it was hit or miss for me to get soft, creamy beans out of dried beans. Sometimes they would be soft but separate, sometimes a little too hard still, but rarely the kind you can get from good Hispanic restaurants.

Recently I have had much more success. I made them last night, and could have eaten just a plate of these black beans. It's a two day process to get them this good. First you soak them for at least eight hours (I usually do it overnight). Then you drain the water and cover them with new water. Add salt, bring them to a boil, then cover and reduce the heat to a low simmer. After about an hour, they will be soft. But! You can't stop there. If you drain all the water now, they will be pebbly, and not the nice creamy texture that makes them so delicious. If you plan to eat them later, dump all the beans and the water into a container and refrigerate them. When you are ready to cook them, saute the garlic and onions, then add the beans plus all the water and slow simmer them. The beans will absorb the extra water and turn out just perfectly.

Black beans are versatile. You can pair them with a bit of meat or stay all vegetarian. Serve them over rice, in soup, with a side of quesadillas (my favorite is sharp cheddar and crushed red pepper on whole grain tortillas), or put them in burritos or enchiladas. I usually cut up an avocado to have on the side. You can also do a pico de gallo (fresh salsa) to serve on top, or a dollop of sour cream. So many options.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Maple Latte

 It's autumn. There is a chill in the air. It's time for all things butternut, pumpkin, maple, apple, tea, and cozy. I've been longing for this season for a hot month here in Baltimore, where September is just a less intense version of summer. And, I'm due to have a baby any day.

During this pregnancy, I have left a job, started a business, organized and cleaned the entire house, and begun a new hobby (sewing). Now that the business is winding down at the end of the market season (to be continued in full next spring) I have a lot of time on my hands. The extra time has been wonderful for my nesting frenzy and getting ready for a baby. I have a crib, a carseat, a stroller, and all that jazz. I'm ready...or not. I look forward to a cozy fall and winter of bonding with my baby and being all snuggly. And drinking maple lattes, of course.