Saturday, March 2, 2013

Puerto Rican Style Red Beans (or, How to Boil Water)

As a budget shopper and a vegetarian I love to find new bean dishes that are interesting enough for everyone else in our family. Often times when I mention to someone that I like to use beans, they ask me if I use dried or canned. Canned beans are very easy, and sometimes I do use them. But the cans are lined with chemicals, they often contain tons of salt, and most of the time they have high fructose corn syrup as well. And they cost more. So, a couple words about using dried beans:

1.) Season the water! If you just throw them in the water until they're soft you will be sorely disappointed. We're used to beans having flavor from the can. So add flavor! Sliced garlic cloves, mollases, oregano (all in the pot above), cinnamon, etc. Get creative and be liberal. Add your salt near the end of the cooking time if you want the skins very soft.

2.) When you think they're done, leave them a little bit longer. It will take a long time to render them mushy, but if you have beans that are too firm in your casserole, yuk. Dry and pasty is no fun.

3.) Experiment with different kinds. You can find far more variety in the dry form, so take advantage of this and try some of the more exotic kinds and colors out there. You also promote the availability of these types if we use them.

All that being said, it's still very helpful to have a really yummy recipe to use them in. I made this pot last week and it was delicious. Everything in it has a bright flavor, and it's easy with very little clean up. It is also very filling, so take a little breather after your first bowl and assess the situation before you reach for seconds. You can always freeze the leftovers.... And there's a link at the bottom to a wonderful black bean soup.

Puerto Rican Style Red Beans

1 1/2 tbsp oil
3/4 cup minced onion
i clove minced garlic
2 cups chopped tomatoes
1 1/2 cups dried kidney beans (I used 3 cans red beans) soaked and drained
Broth or water as needed
2 cups peeled and diced butternut squash
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 bunch green onions chopped, white and green parts
2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
1/4 cup fresh cilantro (do not skip or skimp)
salt and pepper

Sauté onion and garlic until soft. Stir in tomatoes and cook until thick, about 20 minutes.
Stir in beans and cover with liquid til about one inch if using dried, or just until covered if using canned. Simmer 45 minutes for dried, 20 minutes for canned.
Add squash and coconut milk, simmer 10 minutes.
Add herbs, simmer 10 minutes.
Taste for salt and pepper.
Serve with white rice.
Also would be good with sourdough cornbread.

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