Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Black bean stir fry

Though I like different types of beans, black beans have rarely been a staple. I do not remember it being popular in India and, despite my bold forays into different types of cuisines, usually without a recipe, I never really got around to black beans. I always thought of it as a burrito filler, and a really good filler at that. I rarely make burritos at home and, so, black beans were hardly purchased at home. The few times I did purchase black beans, I was disappointed by the output since I tried to use them as a replacement for chick peas or vatana. Grave error.

All that changed when we visited a friend's place for lunch a few months ago. He is a very limited cook, at least that is what we think. We were invited once and ended up with very little lasagna - it was almost like they had forgotten we'd visit them. We chalked it to their being (not so) new parents. This time, we were really worried since they had a second child. We were planning on hitting a neighboring restaurant after lunch at their place to soothe, what we anticipated would be, growling and empty stomachs.

We were in for a pleasant surprise. We still had only one dish but it was in good quantity. The dish was a black bean stir fry, to be eaten with tortillas (flame toasted). It was the finest black bean stir fry we had ever eaten until then. It was simple - canned black beans stir fried with some canned jalapenos and broccoli. Neither me nor my wife could believe that it was that simple. We didn't quite ask for a recipe - it was too simple to merit one. Along the way back home, interspersed with praise for the dramatic improvement in food, we deconstructed the dish. We realized that the key item was the jalapeno, and not just any jalapeno. It was good because it was from a can - the vinegar added great taste to the dish.

After a long time, I decided that chick peas, vatana, moong dal, chana dal, toor dal, and kala chana became a bit boring. I was making mostly Indian-ish stuff. So, I purchased a pound of black beans and let half of it soak for almost 24 hours (canned beans are usually much costlier than raw version). Then I pressure cooked them until it became soft, but it did not lose its identity and become one solid lump. About 12 hours before I was to cook, I soaked a few serrano peppers in vinegar. Instead of broccoli, I decided to use other vegetables. I wanted to use celery because it gives a nice crunch. I stir fried some onions in olive oil - nothing fancy. Wait until browning. To that I added the celery. And then, I grated two whole carrots into the pan. I added some salt and let them stir fry. After a few minutes, I added the serrano peppers, along with the vinegar. After a few more minutes, I added the black beans and let them cook on a low flame for about 10 to 15 minutes. That is it, you are done. This goes very well with any good plain yogurt you can lay your hands on.