Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Spring Comfort Food: Mexican Bean Pot with Spinach & Chorizo

Spring in Wisconsin is always an interesting proposition. While the weather improves overall, there's no telling what any given day might hold -- rain, flurries, sun, or clouds.  It's also difficult to tell from day to day what the temperature is going to be like.    As the saying goes, Wisconsin is one of the only states where you can experience all four seasons in the span of a week (or less)!

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.

Once the spinach was wilted, I removed the pot from the flame, and spooned the beans into bowls, topping them liberally with cilantro and a nice squeeze of fresh lime.

We scooped up our beans into warm tortillas, slurping up the flavorful sauces as they dripped.

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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  1. Yum yum yum YUM!!!!!!!!!!!!! This looks great!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. DUH! Adding seaweed. What a great idea. I have some Arame I will through into my bean soup tonight. Hope you are well. We are crazy busy here. Half way between the west and east coasts. We'll be making the final transistion to the east coast in June. Boy, am I going to miss the year round farmers markets. :)

  3. I have to say, home-cooked beans are definitely the way to go. They have so much more texture and verve than the cans which are listless in comparison. I love the pairing of this with the chorizo!

  4. Oh that looks so luscious! I know what you mean about the weather, its the same way here in Minnesota.

    I've stopped pre-soaking my beans too. According to Rancho Gordo it doesn't do anything other than shorten the cooking time. Love the seaweed tip! We've been adding epazote to ours.

  5. Mmmmmm. lovely. I would add some avocado too. As to the weather, here in Scotland you can get warm sun, rain, hail, sleet, wind and snow in one day.

  6. This looks like a lovely comforting dish!

  7. The chorizo is a great flavor agent. Sounds like a nice slow cooking dish.

  8. Okay, so totally going to try the seaweed trick with beans! I love using dried beans to cook with for the texture and flavor, but....yeah, most of the time my inner sloth propels me towards the cans. Sigh. I'll try harder, Lo, I promise.

  9. Nice looking bean pot you've got there... I agree there is nothing better than a properly home cooked bean, and it is so absolutly doable for any/everyone. It's way past eating time for me, but I'm suddenly craving some smoky chipotle beans, may have to make a pot tomorrow !

  10. Yes I agree (living in "Illiconsin" that is in Illinois close to the Wisconsin border) the weather can surprise you day to day. Your beans would definately warm me up on this cool spring morning...

  11. Black beans are my favorite beans. I don't think I have to tell you how much I love chorizo either. Yummy. Great dish all around.

    I never knew that you didn't have to soak beans but could just cook them way longer.

    I'm not seeing all 4 seasons right now, but spring has a tenuous grip on NY right now. We dropped out of the 70s and went down to the high 40s over a space of a few days. I'm NOT happy.

  12. Home-cooked beans are so much better than canned! I cook a lot at one time and freeze them in small containers. Great tip regarding the nutritional benefit from seaweed. I have to try that! Your beans with tortillas sounds fantastic.

  13. This line: "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."

    Not only is it useful, but I'm in love with your description! I have some chorizo I stuck in the freezer a few weeks ago - perhaps this will be the time to use it.

  14. Looks delicious. Definitely a cold spring day meal!


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