Monday, February 8, 2010

Farewell, it's bean nice

Sigh. Here it is, the last of our summer CSA–which officially means we’re deep into winter now. In case you’re wondering what the heck a CSA is, it’s community supported agriculture–a share in a local farm, delivered once a week during the growing season. For us, that farm is Green Thumb, and Farmer Bill’s our guy.

We get what we get, and we don’t get upset. It might be huge, ruffled heads of lettuce, baby turnips smooth as beach stones, or a bouquet of flowering thyme, all pink and green and fragrant. Some weeks it could, frankly, be wormy corn or nonexistent tomatoes–but usually the produce is abundant and sparkling. At the bitter end, in December, the dusty sweet potatoes roll in and multiply, and we get creative. Usually, for the season’s final delivery, we receive a mess of dried black beans still in their papery pods. 

I get excited about these little beans, scraggly as they look–that's the kind of geek I am. They’re fresh by the standards of what you find in stores, and oh, are they tasty. Labor-intensive, maybe–but that’s what little helpers are for. 

This year, I wanted to depart from the usual black bean soup. Scouring my cabinets and fridge, I came up with this simple, wintry dish from what I found there. Since so many of the ingredients were dried or preserved from the summer, I felt kind of pioneer-ish and Little House putting it together.

The pickled onions are key–they’re worth the easy extra step, and if you’ve never pickled anything before, here's the place to start. They keep well and add puckery brightness to grilled cheddar sandwiches or smoked fish. If you aren't into pickles, though, sliced scallions do the trick. 

I like to lighten up the beans with a bit of summery greenness during these dark months: avocado, cilantro, and lime. Roll it all up in a tortilla with some rosy pickled onions and grated queso fresco, and it's dinner.

The groundhog had his say last week, so let's brace ourselves for five more weeks…

Winter Black Beans

  • 4 cups cooked black beans (2 15-oz. cans), some of the cooking or can liquid reserved
  • 2 tablespoons olive or canola oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
  • 1 cup sundried tomatoes, soaked for about an hour in warm water and chopped into small bits
  • 3 dried chipotle peppers, or other small dried peppers, soaked along with tomatoes but not chopped (note: if you like the smoky chipotle taste you can also cheat by using chipotle chili powder or chipotle Tabasco sauce–*sparingly*) 
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon crumbled dried oregano
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • Hot sauce to taste
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Garnish: pickled onions (below) or sliced scallions


Heat a medium-sized saucepan over moderate heat for a few minutes, then add oil. Throw in garlic, cumin, oregano, and chipotles and cook, stirring, for a few minutes. Add sundried tomatoes and cook a few more minutes, splashing in a bit of the reserved soaking liquid. Put in the beans with some of their liquid (just enough to create a bit of a sauce) and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until beans are tender (even among canned beans time will vary) and cooking liquid is nearly absorbed. Season with lime, hot sauce, salt and pepper until they taste the way you like them. Remove chilis before serving, and scatter pickled onions or scallions on top.

Rosy Pickled Onions

  • 1 medium red onion
  • 3/4 cup vinegar, either white vinegar or a combination of white vinegar and red wine vinegar
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds (optional)

Cut onion in half longways, then slice each half into thin slivers longways, discarding skin and ends. Place slivers in a clean, medium-sized jar.
Put all other ingredients in a pot on the stove and bring to a boil for 2 minutes or so. Pour over onions to cover. Top with lid and allow to cool. Refrigerate–they're best if left overnight or longer.


  1. beans are so good and impossible for me to come up with "what to do with". Thank you for the recipe. Cannot wait to try. Love the photos so MS:)

  2. Claiborne I love this blog! I have to ask you if you have been reading Pinkalicious in your house....

  3. I love beans as well and always like to get different ideas on how to make them; thanks for this. I made my Texas-style beans last night. Soaked the pintos, added vidalia onion and bacon (cut it up with kitchen shears) and then a can of Ro-TEL (chopped up chilis and onions and peppers that can be purchased at Key Foods; can't find it anywhere else up here). Not quite as goremett as Claiborne's but it does the trick.

  4. Thanks for the comments, guys. Milly, I'm headed over for leftovers, and by the way it warms my heart to hear you mention Ro-tel, which is my mom's secret weapon--now I know where to find it around here! Becky, what do you think the answer to your question is, in any house with 2 little girls?

  5. BTW. Love the title of this entry and the bean spelling. Can't wait for the next one.

  6. Better than MS!

    I'm doubly impressed that you worked in a "Pinkalicous" reference!