Bean

A Week's Worth of Black Beans Without Any Boredom

Cook ’em once; eat ’em five times. Stretch one big pot of black beans into a work week’s worth of distinct meals.

October 26, 2021
Photo by EE Berger

You may think it'd be impossible to eat black beans every day for five days without getting bored, but beans are so versatile, you won't believe what you'll be able to come up with. If you need some inspiration, here are my favorite ways to make additions and variations to a big pile of black beans to get you through the workweek.


5 Days of Beans

Day 1

Make the beans! And take a look below at how I doctor them up.

Add a starch

Combining protein and starch makes a complete meal. I usually assume half as much starch to the volume of beans I have on hand. Very optional, but a starch can also help flesh out a bowl of beans: rice, fonio (a millet-like grain), chickpea pancake, farro, bulgur, and on and on.

Add a vegetable

Adding a pile of roasted carrots and delicately dressed radicchio to a bowl of rice and beans lifts the dish from age-old staple to contemporary $14-small-plate status. Consider roasted carrots, sweet potatoes, stewed peppers, raw tomato, shaved radishes, roasted broccoli, shaved cauliflower, and of course greens, raw or cooked, in addition to any other veg or on their own.

Add some fat

Vitamins and micronutrients in beans are fat- soluble, so adding a dollop of sour cream or mashed avocado is not only delicious but also increases absorption of the healthful side of beans. Try sour cream, avocado, cheese, olive oil, chili oil, nuts, tahini, or vinaigrette.

Add something acidic

Beans are rich and provide the base of flavor for a great dish. That base is accentuated by an acidic foil. Top your bowl of beans with a spoonful of vinaigrette, spoonful of mustard, squeeze of lime, or spoonful of fermented vegetables to add dynamism and contrast.

Add something crunchy

Speaking of contrast, beans are often cooked until creamy and comforting. Adding a sprinkle of something crunchy means your mouth won’t get too comfortable (read: bored). A handful of chopped nuts or a crumble of potato chips, tortilla chips, fried chickpeas, or crisped-up buckwheat will enliven the enveloping succor of a bowl of warm beans.

Photo by Reprinted from Grist: A Practical Guide to Cooking Grains, Beans, Seeds, and Legumes by Abra Berens with permission from Chronicle Books, 2021. Photographs © EE Berger.

Day 2

Make a black bean grilled cheese by adding a ¼ cup of cooked black beans to the center of a grilled cheese sandwich. I like to serve this alongside a bowl of tomato soup topped with a hefty handful of chopped cilantro.

Day 3

Use reserved bean cooking liquid to make a soup like squash black bean chili. Slice an onion thinly. Mince a few cloves of garlic and sweat over low heat with a big pinch of salt until soft. Add the reserved black bean cooking liquid (and any stray black beans that come along with it) and 3 cups of water to thin. Bring to a boil and then add 3 cups of frozen, diced butternut squash. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the squash is tender, about 20 minutes. Then serve with quesadillas or a dollop of sour cream on top.

Day 4

Beans for breakfast! Warm a couple of big scoops of cooked beans in a sauce pan. Toast a couple pieces of thickly sliced toast and when they come out of the toaster rub with a clove of garlic. Poach or soft boil an egg. Dress a handful of arugula with a glug of olive oil and pinch of salt. Spoon the warm beans on the toast, top with the egg, and the arugula salad and you won’t have to eat again until dinner!

Day 5

Blend the last of the black beans with a couple glugs of olive oil to make hummus. Use that hummus to make any number of things: a BBLT (black bean, lettuce, and tomato) for lunch, or serve the purée with a dollop of harissa and any array of veg for a snack platter. Or schmear the hummus onto chickpea fritters and top with some fresh greens for a light dinner, or transfer the purée to an ovenproof dish, cover evenly with a melty cheese, and bake until warm and bubbly, then serve with toast or chips for scooping, or ... the options are endless.

Reprinted from Grist: A Practical Guide to Cooking Grains, Beans, Seeds, and Legumes by Abra Berens with permission from Chronicle Books, 2021. Photographs © EE Berger.

Got a week's worth of bean? Let us know how you plan to use them in the comments!

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Abra Berens is a chef, author, and former vegetable farmer. She started cooking at Zingerman's Deli, trained at Ballymaloe in Cork, Ireland. Find her at Granor Farm in Three Oaks, MI or Farm Club in Traverse City, MI. Her first cookbook, Ruffage: a practical guide to vegetables is out now. Her second book, Grist: a practical guide to grains and legumes is due Fall 2021.

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