Reminder Beans

March 24, 2011 § 9 Comments

For the last few years, finances have been pretty uncertain for our family.  And when I say uncertain, I don’t mean asking questions like “Will we be still able to take our family vacation this year?”  No. The uncertainty has been more like “Mommy? Are we going to make it to school this morning?” (because the red E is glaring at us and I have exactly $0 to spend on more gas)  We’ve lost our house, moved in with my in-laws  (with our four children! These are amazing people), and because we’re always paying off debt, we’re still month-to-month with money. Sometimes, day-to-day. There have been some ugly moments.  I’ve had meltdowns. I’ve sworn and yelled and cried.  I’ve thought, deservedly, “This isn’t supposed to be my life!”

The odd thing is, having less has been so good for me: I’ve learned I can do jobs I didn’t think I could stand, and lived without things I ridiculously thought necessary (vacations? Sadly, not necessary to life).  I guess I could be just getting used to it or learning how to make the best of a “bad” situation.  Or, maybe my entitlement is starting to crumble. I don’t really know. But, I do know I feel softer and in having less, I’m more attune to how good I actually have it.

This recipe, a staple in our house, has become a symbol to me of how rich you can be, even when you’re broke.  Humble, everyday ingredients transformed into something that’s both beautiful (contrasting, bold colors) and full of  intense flavors.  It reminds me that there are so many gifts around me, most of them costing little or nothing to experience, and that I really don’t want to miss them by wasting time, wishing we had more money. I know it’s just beans, but it’s a reminder.

I found this recipe in Gourmet a few years ago, when we were all in better financial shape (the magazine and my family).  I loved it then, but have since changed some of the ingredients because of cost (good sherry and avocado are typically out).  But, even if you do use the pricier items on the list, this is still an extremely inexpensive way to feed a crowd, and satisfies in a way you don’t expect from beans and rice.  It’s a great recipe.


Kemp’s Black Beans  (Gourmet April 2007)

  • 1 lb dried black beans (about 2 1/3 cups), picked over and rinsed (but not soaked)
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 8 cups water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • **1/4 cup Sherry (cream or medium-dry)
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Bring black beans, onion, oil,  8 cups of water, and 1/2 teaspoon salt to a boil in a 6- to 8-quart heavy pot, reduce heat and simmer, covered, until beans are tender, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Thin with water if you need to.  Stir in Sherry (if using) and remaining teaspoon salt, then soy sauce and vinegar to taste (start with 1 tablespoon each), and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes.
Cook rice according to the package directions and serve with beans.
**I don’t typically use the sherry in my beans, but I have and it’s very good. I usually substitute a bit more balsamic and/or red wine vinegar.  The recipe is pretty forgiving, so you can experiment.  Just do it in increments and taste as you go.
Serve with your rice.

Goes well with:

  • sweet potatoes, peeled, cubed (1″), and roasted (with a little olive oil and kosher salt on 450 for 20-30 minutes)
  • grated cheese (any kind you like)
  • Pepitas (toasted pumpkin seeds)
  • Chopped red or white onion (or shallot)
  • Chopped cilantro
  • Avocado, cubed
  • sour cream
  • Lime wedges, for squeezing on top
  • Hot sauce

§ 9 Responses to Reminder Beans

  • Susan says:

    This reminds me that we tried a GREAT new black bean plantain quesadilla recipe I think you’d like that is CHEAP and DELICIOUS. I’ll bring it to you.

  • Susan says:

    Also, apparently it is the Cuban way to have balsamic vinegar in your black beans. At least, they serve them that way at the Columbia. I want to try this.

    • Monica says:

      Wait, the Cuban way when they live in Colombia? I’m confused…but I like the balsamic, so whoever it its, I’m supportive of their way with beans.

  • Elena Strawbridge says:

    Thanks for posting this! I just bought black beans on sale and wanting to spruce them up rather than just soaking and cooking them in water. Look forward to trying this.

    • Monica says:

      this is definitely a spruce up. Also, I really like this recipe for a crowd b/c you can serve so many different options with it. People can make it to their tastes. I served it for a get together with my side of the family once and it was a great way to feed everyone (added meat for the hard core carnivores).

  • Susan says:

    *The Columbia Restaurant

  • Elena Strawbridge says:

    I made the beans last night and they are my new favorite version! The kiddos loved them–especially Selle. She sat at her high chair last night for 40 minutes inhaling bean after bean. I am glad to add this to my recipe mainstays. :)

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