This recipe is for the damp, cool days of spring. The ones that still leave you longing for a bit of warm comfort food. And it's the perfect recipe for someone who wants to try out cooking beans from scratch. If you've never done so, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised by the texture of home cooked beans -- which are a bit more firm than canned beans, and (IMHO) infinitely more flavorful. There's also a chance that the beans are infinitely more nutritious -- but, I'll leave that to the discernment of the experts who can actually measure such things. The fact is, I cook my beans from scratch because they taste good.
Of course, my technique (as with many other things) for cooking beans, is still a work in progress. For example, the jury is still out for me on whether or not to soak beans. Soaking definitely cuts down on the cooking time, but I'm not certain that it bears much other benefit. Lately, I've been ignoring the pre-soaking -- particularly for black beans, which seem to lose a great deal of color when soaked. As a result, I tend to cook my beans on the weekend, when I have plenty of time to wait for them to cook. I've also been adding a strip or two of kombu (seaweed) to my beans as they cook. Like other seaweeds, kombu contains trace minerals -- which give a nutritional boost to the beans. It also contains enzymes that reportedly help to break down the raffinose sugars in beans (the cause of excessive gas and bloating), increasing digestability. The added nutritional benefit is enough for me -- but if it happens to also reduce some of the unpleasant side effects associated with beans, all the better.
This particular bean pot was inspired by a lazy afternoon when the rain was coming down in torrents outside the window. Fresh Mexican-style chorizo was on sale at the Outpost, and I had almost two pounds of spinach languishing in the refrigerator. I wasn't in the mood for soup -- but I was seriously craving a pot of beans.
I cooked the beans simply -- in plenty of water with a large red onion and some garlic cloves. I let them cook gently in my dutch oven for most of the afternoon -- pausing to test every 15-20 minutes during the last stages of cooking. Black beans are done when the skin easily gives way when pressed between two fingers, and the creamy flesh oozes out in a fantastic display of nutty deliciousness.
When the beans were nearly cooked, I sauteed a bit of chorizo and a large red pepper. I also pulled out a 15 oz can of chopped fire roasted tomatoes and a couple of chipotle peppers, which I chopped finely. I added everything to the cooked beans with a bit of salt, and allowed them to simmer for about 20 minutes -- just to let the flavors meld. Then, I added the chopped spinach.
The sheer simplicity of this dish made it an immediate favorite. Seasoned with little more than the spices from the chorizo, a hint of sweetness from the red bell pepper, and a bit of smoky heat from the chipotles, this was one of the best pots of beans I'd ever eaten. And it was even better the next day for lunch, alongside a cheese and jalapeno quesadilla.
Excellent paired with a well-mixed margarita with plenty of lime.
Mexican Bean Pot with Spinach & Chorizo
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