our five dollar feast-- 'un'fried low, slow, black beans

tips for tuesday
notes from maggie's farm

In my early college-student-salad-days (as opposed to these late college-student-salad-days) beans were a part of the meal plan, daily.  My meal plan, that is, because I did not live in a dorm.  No check magically made it's way to the sorority house.  I was a young, single mother, back in school to find a way up for my family.  I worked and attended classes, kept a home and doted on children and had little time for playing in the kitchen, or resources for fast food.  Beans were my stock and trade.  And being the kind of girl who believed the variety was the spice of life, and encouraged that in her girls, I had to discover how to dress these beans up to please.  No boring beans.  We even had a little poem: (no! not beans, beans, the magical fruit.....)

Red beans, black beans, white beans, too
Refried, boiled, baked, soup and stew
If you've only got a dollar, give us a hollar
And you can eat some beans with us, too.

We had a lot of time on our hands.

Now the one upshot to this beany economy was our health.  During my annual physical provided by the student health center, (of LSU, currently #2 on the AP poll, if anyone wants to know.....) my doctor was astounded to find my good cholesterol high, and the bad lower than 'normal low'.  He wanted to know my secret.  Beans!  And I hadn't even planned it.  Sometimes 'economic simplicity' works that way. There are benefits to scaling back, whether voluntary or 'suggested' by events beyond our control.

Economical and a great source of fiber, beans are truly a superfood.  Canned or dried, no well-stocked larder should be caught without them.  It's not rocket science, and not as glamorous as, say, beef wellington, but it's a basic skill to add to one's repertoire.  Today, we're making unfried low, slow, refried beans.

'un'fried low, slow 'refried' beans

you will need: 2 cups of dried beans, an onion, peeled and quarter, 2-4 cloves of garlic, minced, 1 tsp each salt and cumin, and 1/2 t cayenne pepper, 8 cups of water or stock.

Combine all ingredients in a dutch oven.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a strong simmer, covered for 6 hours, or until beans are tender, adding liquid by the cupful, as needed, to cover. Your house is going to smell amazing.  Even more amazing than that beef wellington might smell.  Invite friends to stop by,  innocently, just to subject them to the aroma. Then they will think you are a kitchen goddess.  And you are.  Revel in this.
Oh, yeah, then, drain the beans, reserving the liquid, and plucking the onion out.  Return to dutch oven and work them over with a potato masher until the consistency you desire, adding liquid, or 'pot liquor' as they called it in the south-of-the-past, as necessary. 

note:  you can certainly cook these in a slow cooker, as well.  cook on high setting while you sleep, overnight (unless you are Rip Van Winkle), or for roughly 8 hours. 

So there's your very basic beany building block.  Garnish with chopped onion, or our favorite a little queso fresco from your friends at from maggie's farm, and eat alone, or on tortillas, nachos, sandwich wraps.....you know.

Now you can trick these babies out any way your little heart desires.  We used black beans, but pinto beans are most traditional, and, hey! experiment with other beans, too. And the herbs and seasoning to go with them.  Even the cooking liquid.   say...white beans with sage, or mint,  garbanzo beans with rosemary, kidney beans with oregano, pinto beans cooked in ale... you get the idea.

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