First published in July 2008, this updated ingredient post features new photos, links, and tweaks to the recipe, which I learned from the chef at a restaurant in my Boston neighborhood many years ago. My taste buds have matured a bit since I first tried this recipe in the mid 1990s, so it's possible I now add a wee bit more cayenne pepper than the recipe specifies.
A condensed history of canned black beans and me...
Ages 0-14. No black beans. No beans at all. Seriously. My mother never cooked them.
Ages 15-16. Campbell's Vegetarian Baked Beans (not black). During my brief affair with vegetarianism in my high school days, I'd come home from tennis practice, open a can, grab a spoon, and eat those beans cold, right from the can. Loved, loved, loved them. I don't think Campbell's makes them anymore.
Age 20. Lots of beans, in all colors of the rainbow. My first apartment, in the early 1970s, had a decent kitchen. I saved lots of old jars, and bought lots of grains and pulses to fill them up. I didn't know how to cook beans (or anything else, really), but I had jars of black, yellow, green, and red beans, and the kitchen looked respectably hip -- or, more accurately, hippie.
Age 35 or so. Black bean soup! My first really great bean soup, on a visit to New Mexico, turned me into a bean lover. It looked like sludge, but oh, what fantastic sludge.
Age 43. Black beans and rice. Moros y cristianos. Ted and I finally had the real thing, at La Bodeguita del Medio, the famous bar in Old Havana, Cuba. When we came home, I started collecting Cuban cookbooks and tinkering with recipes for black beans and rice, bean soups, and bean salads.
Age 55+. The more I learn about black beans, the more I love them. The color, in addition to being seductive (and not always deep black), contains at least eight different flavonoids that have anti-oxidant potential. Loaded with fiber, black beans contain three times the omega-3 fatty acids of other types of beans, and they help to stabilize blood sugar.
Unlike canned vegetables, there's not much difference in the nutritional value of canned black beans and dried beans you cook yourself. The canning process requires long cooking time at a high temperature, which lowers the nutritional value of most vegetables, but beans require long cooking time anyway. And unlike dried beans, canned beans don't get stale and can keep for years in your pantry.
To use canned black beans, rinse them under cold water and drain them; if necessary, rinse and drain a second time. For salads, bean dip, salsa or brownies, use the beans as is; for soup or enchiladas, cook canned beans for 15-20 minutes.
I always have dried black beans in the pantry, but it's hard to beat the spontaneity of canned beans.
Vegan black bean cakes with guacamole
I learned this vegan recipe fifteen years ago from Baja, a short-lived restaurant in Boston's South End. Serves 4-6.
For the guacamole:
2 avocados, diced and mashed with a fork
1 chopped plum tomato
1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1 Tbsp chopped cilantro
1 Tbsp chopped scallions
1 clove garlic, minced
1 chopped jalapeño pepper
Salt and pepper to taste
For the black bean cakes:
2 cups canned black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 to 1 tsp cayenne pepper, to taste
1 tsp mild chili powder
2 oz peanut butter
2 tsp grated fresh ginger
1-1/2 oz all-purpose flour + a few Tbsp for dusting
Salt and pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients for the guacamole and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Roughly chop all ingredients for the black bean cakes in a food processor fitted with a metal blade, or mix in a large bowl, mashing the beans as you go. Form into small patties and dust with flour.
Film a large frying pan with peanut oil, and sauté the black bean cakes until nicely browned on each side.
Serve hot, with guacamole.
More recipes with canned black beans in The Perfect Pantry:
South End Deep Root Chili
Vegan black bean and sweet potato stew
Quick and easy black beans and rice
Quinoa, avocado, tomato and black bean salad with chipotle lime dressing
Smoky turkey, black bean and corn chili
Other recipes that use these pantry ingredients:
Sweet potato black bean enchiladas, from Gluten-free Goddess
Crockpot pumpkin chili with ground beef, black beans, and kidney beans, from Kalyn's Kitchen
Black bean, sweet potato and quinoa stuffed bell peppers, from Ambitious Kitchen
Balbacua, from Ang Sarap
Slow cooker black bean enchiladas, from The Kitchn