31 May 2009

Tiptoeing around

Beth was one of my favorite people in college, and she was killer. I mean, she was just SO COOL. She was nice, really smart, and outdoorsy. She loved her friends, loved math, loved to walk around on her tiptoes, and loved to sing her heart out, preferably in two- or three- part harmony. She had more grace and a bigger spirit than almost anyone else I know. She was also an awesome cook and loved to eat and drink well, especially in the company of family and friends.


The first year that Culinary House was open for students, she was there. One afternoon I went over to hang out, and she made the world’s best snack: spicy, simmered black beans accompanied by tortilla chips. I hadn’t ever eaten anything like it, but it quickly became a part of my snack, and dinner, repertoire.


Now I eat them as the bean component whenever I make Mexican food (though I am partial to refried pinto beans every now and then). Even though I haven’t seen my friend in a while, I still think of her every time I make black beans--sometimes I like to stand on my tiptoes and sing in harmony along to the radio. I know Beth would laugh at that, but she would certainly approve.


Spicy Simmered Black Beans, adapted from Beth Miller

1 can black beans, preferably low-salt
1 tablespoon neutral-tasting oil, such as corn or canola
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ white onion, finely diced
approximately 1 cup vegetable stock, or chicken stock, or water
½ teaspoon or so ground cumin
1 teaspoon or so hot chile flakes
1 teaspoon or so dried oregano or thyme
salt and pepper to taste
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro

1. Drain the beans and rinse. Set them aside.

2. Heat the oil in a small to medium sauce pan, and add garlic and onion. Sauté until onion is softened; try not to let either the onion or garlic brown. Add beans and dry spices, stir to combine.

3. Add some of the stock, about 2-3 tablespoons. Turn down the heat as far as it will go on the stove, and stir. Keep the beans gently simmering for about 30 minutes, adding more stock when the beans look dry. The beans will be done when they have started to break down and look creamy and a little mushy. If you like them mushier, keep adding stock until everything reaches the correct consistency.

4. Turn off the heat and stir in cilantro. Serve.

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