Main Attraction, Vegetarian

Dreamy Black Beans and Rice

Usually in September I’m dreaming up ideas for showcasing the season’s most fleeting of pleasures: homegrown tomatoes. Once I’ve eaten my fill of tomato-and-basil sandwiches and made a few batches of the world’s fastest tomato sauce there is still giant bowl of perfectly imperfect tomatoes in my kitchen. Here is a lovely and deliciously plain meal that invites a table full of toppings to garnish it. You can have fun with this, and it’s perfect for a large gathering if you simply scale up the recipe.

The beans can be made well ahead of time, then reheated with a little extra water so they don’t scorch. Bowls of roughly chopped tomatoes, avocado, finely diced onion, cilantro, cheese and some good hot sauces allow each of your guests to make their own beautiful presentation.

It’s also really good with none of these accompaniments, proving that simple is almost always best…

Black Beans and Rice four servings

Seasoning is totally key here, taking something that could be boring to something outstandingly delicious. When starting with dried beans, a full tablespoon of salt is right for me. You might want to start with two teaspoons and season to taste from there.

2 cups dried Black Beans or 2 cans (540 ml) Black Beans
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
1 large Onion, chopped
3 cloves Garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground Cumin
1 teaspoon ground Coriander Seed
1/2 teaspoon Smoked Paprika (optional)
1 Bay Leaf
1 tablespoon Salt
1 cup Brown or White Rice, cooked according to directions (don’t forget the salt!)

If using dried beans, place them in a large heavy pot with 8 cups water.  Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until tender, about an hour and a half. Check from time to time that there is enough water. If using canned beans, skip this step and place the beans in a large heavy pot- no need to drain.  When the beans are tender, heat the olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat and add the onions. Stir until golden, then add the garlic, spices and salt. Cook for a minute, then scrape into the pot with the beans. Add 2 cups water, cover and simmer over low heat until beans are falling apart a little, about an hour. Serve with rice and toppings and cold beer.