November 11, 2009

Smoky and Spicy Black Beans

Nothing beats beans cooked from scratch. Their flavor and texture are vastly better than the canned variety, you can control how much salt you add, and they're more digestible, too. But old dried beans make me sad. And with the dried beans sold prepackaged or in bulk from the grocery store, there's a good chance they have been sitting around for a while. So you can imagine my delight when I discovered a bean purveyor, Cayuga Pure Organics, based near Ithaca, NY, selling at the farmer's market near me (97th St & Columbus Friday market). Not only does CPO offer fresh, high-quality dried beans that have been recently harvested (including pinto, navy, black, kidney, and soy), but also whole grains such as spelt and wheat berries, and a variety of flours (spelt, whole wheat, half WW/half white), polenta, and corn meal. Yay! I'm hoping they start selling wholemeal rye flour, too, so I can use it to make my no-knead sourdough rye bread. Read more about Cayuga Pure Organics here and look for them at your local farmer's market! I bought a bag of black beans at the market before work, soaked about a cup of them in water all day (about 9 or 10 hours), and cooked them when I got home (1 cup of dried beans yields roughly 2 cups soaked and 3 cups after cooking - easy to remember 1-2-3). The recipe below can be tailored to any volume of beans; just taste and adjust seasoning as you go. These smoky, savory, and spicy beans are great on their own, piled on top of a whole grain such as brown rice or quinoa, or, my favorite, blanketed over a bowl of creamy polenta with greens.

Smoky and Spicy Black Beans
Makes 2 to 4 servinngs

  • 1 cup dried black beans (or pinto beans, or whatever variety you have on hand), soaked in water for 6 to 12 hours, drained, and rinsed
  • 1-inch square of kombu (dried kelp)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 to 2 carrots, diced (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp Hungarian hot paprika
  • 1/2 tsp New Mexican red chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar (or freshly squeezed lemon juice)
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
Add beans, kombu, 1 tsp salt, and bay leaf to a 2 or 3 quart pot, cover with fresh water (about 3 parts water to 1 part beans). Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, partially covered, until beans are tender, about 1 hour (time depends on the age and variety of the beans).

Drain beans (discard cooking liquid and bay leaf). (I left the cooked kombu in with the beans. It had fallen apart into small pieces and its flavor wasn't noticeable in the final dish.)

Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a 2- to 3-quart saute pan over medium heat. Add onions and a pinch of salt and cook until softened, 5 to 8 minutes. Add garlic and stir for a minute more. Then add carrots and saute for an additional 5 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add beans, smoked and hot paprika, chili powder, and maple syrup to pan. Stir to combine, add 1/2 cup water, and cover. Simmer for about 10 minutes, until carrots are tender and sauce has thickened. Add apple cider vinegar and season with salt and black pepper to taste.


  1. This looks so festive for autumn and I love the spices and the addition of maple syrup with vinegar. I agree that this definitely beats the canned stuff!

  2. This looks like a great recipe. Thanks for the information about CPO. I've never visited the 97th and Columbus market, but this is worthy reason.

  3. I love black beans and this looks like a great recipe. I'll go check out the beans now. Thanks!

  4. Claudia - yes this is a nice recipe for fall, and so easy to make. (of course, in a pinch I would use canned beans and doctor them up with the spices and other ingredients).

    Christine - I think Cayuga Pure sells at other markets in the city (but I'm not sure which ones). I love their spelt flour and polenta!

    Foodie with Little Thyme - I love black beans, too. So full of flavor and they go well with many spices.

  5. I am so happy that you found my blog and became a follower. This, of course, led me to your wonderful blog which I will follow. I love food, love to cook, love to try new things, and during the cold months my refuge is in front of my stove making large batches of stock. Your blog is a font of information for me. I like your recipes and the photos make me hungry. You've made me very happy... thank you!

  6. Mark - thanks so much for the kind words! I hope you enjoy the recipes here, and I look forward to learning more about the North Fork on your blog. Your photos are fantastic!

  7. This looks to be a great way to cook with black beans! Thanks for sharing :)