RECIPE: A black bean dish that will impress your family

Warmly Spiced Black Beans is a side dish that will perk up your dinnertime. John Kessler for The AJC
Warmly Spiced Black Beans is a side dish that will perk up your dinnertime. John Kessler for The AJC

Credit: John Kessler

Credit: John Kessler

When onetime restaurant chef Pierre Franey began writing the “60-Minute Gourmet” column for The New York Times in 1975, it was considered a revolution for home cooks. A full meal ready in an hour? How astounding. You could cook, eat and get the dishes done in time for “All in the Family.”

Today, having a full 60 minutes to prepare dinner feels like a luxury, and it’s one I’ve been more than happy to reclaim during this cursed year. For me, this hour begins when the cat awakens from his nap on the sofa in my office at 5:30 like clockwork. He informs me, in no uncertain terms, that it’s time for his dinner. Once he’s settled in front of his bowl, I make myself a beverage, put on a podcast or some tunes, and survey the contents of the kitchen to come up with a game plan.

Thanks to my electric pressure cooker, these meals often begin with dried beans, which can absorb a lot of flavor and enliven the rest of the meal. For this recipe, I started with an odd spice mixture called This Little Goat Went to India manufactured by Chicago chef Stephanie Izard. (She has three restaurants with “goat” in their names.) When I tasted the finished product, I wasn’t quite sure what to think. The flavor was redolent with the expected clove, cinnamon and cardamom but then finished with the wholly unexpected licorice twang of star anise. My wife and daughter, however, loved the beans and kept going back to sneak tastes before I had finished the rest of dinner. “I need this recipe,” my kid said.

If you can’t find the spice mixture, use garam masala and add a pinch of Chinese five spice or a star anise pod. And if you don’t have an electric pressure cooker, you can easily make these beans on the stovetop; just don’t expect dinner in an hour.

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Warmly Spiced Black Beans. John Kessler for The AJC
Warmly Spiced Black Beans. John Kessler for The AJC

Credit: John Kessler

Credit: John Kessler

Warmly Spiced Black Beans
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil plus more as needed
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1 heaping tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 heaping tablespoon minced ginger
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala
  • 1/4 teaspoon Chinese five spice or one star anise pod
  • 1 (12-15 ounce) can full-fat coconut milk
  • 1 cup dried black beans (rinsed and picked over)
  • 2 cups water (4 cups if using stovetop method)
  • 1 teaspoon salt plus more and cayenne pepper to taste
  • Set your electric pressure cooker to the saute function and warm the oil until it shimmers. Add the onion and stir until very wilted and fragrant but not colored, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and continue stirring for another minute or two until wilted. Add another glug of oil if it seems dry: The longer you can saute these aromatics without coloring them, the more of a flavor base you will get. Add the ground spices and stir, making sure there is enough oil to actually fry the spices a bit. Add the coconut milk, the beans and 2 cups water and stir to remove any bits stuck to the bottom of the pot. Cook according to your device’s bean setting or recommendation, which is 35 minutes at high pressure in an Instant Pot. Allow pressure to drop naturally. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding a dash of cayenne pepper to perk up the flavor without adding noticeable spice.
  • Stovetop method: Follow instructions above, but add 4 cups water instead of 2 cups. Bring to a boil then reduce heat until the beans are gently burbling. Cover, leaving the lid slightly ajar to allow some steam to escape. Cook for about 90 minutes, stirring occasionally. When beans are tender, smash some against the side of the pot with a large metal spoon to thicken the sauce. Serves 6 as a side dish.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per serving: 295 calories (percent of calories from fat, 54), 9 grams protein, 27 grams carbohydrates, 7 grams fiber, 19 grams total fat (13 grams saturated), no cholesterol, 331 milligrams sodium.
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