This was inspired by a Gourmet recipe, which called for sherry, balsamic vinegar, and soy sauce. When I went to make it, I found the sherry I had was sweet. So I went on a pantry rampage, adding in whatever I could get my hands on. The only requirement I had for the additions was that they be dark, like the beans. The result was this scrumptious pot of savory, fragrant beans, flavored by vinegar, adobo, and chocolate. They're great accompanied by yellow rice and lime-spiked avocado. —Cara Eisenpress
For cooking the beans
1 1/2 cups
dried black beans
small onion, halved
For flavoring and serving
small onion, diced
celery stalks, diced
clove garlic, minced
yellow pepper, diced
adobo from canned chiles in adobo, plus 1/2 teaspoon or so of a chile, minced
Look over the beans, picking out any that are shriveled or broken. Put them into a big pot with water to cover. Bring to a boil, simmer a minute or two, then turn off the heat and leave the beans covered for 1-2 hours. (You can also do a longer cold soak over night in the fridge--just combine the picked-over beans with water in a large bowl and leave to soak 6-8 hours.)
Drain off the water. Return the beans to the pot, with water to cover them by a few inches. Add the garlic, onion, and olive oil. Bring to a boil, then simmer partially covered for an hour or two, until the beans are quite soft but not falling apart. When they are nearly done, add the salt and mix to dissolve. When finished, drain the beans reserving 2 cups of the bean cooking water. Toss the garlic and the onion.
Then, in a large pan, heat the oil. Add the onions, cook until translucent, then add the carrots and celery. After 3 minutes, add the garlic and pepper and cook until everything is soft. Pour in 1 cup of water and bring to a boil, then add the beans and the adobo. Heat everything to boiling, letting the water reduce. Grate in the chocolate, and add the soy sauce. Cook for 15-20 minutes, adding bean cooking water as needed to keep everything just on the dry side of soupy. Add the balsamic vinegar and the cayenne, then taste for balance of flavors and salt. You can add a bit more soy sauce or salt and a splash more vinegar as needed.
Transfer about half of the beans to a food processor or blender (if you have an immersion blender, use that). Puree until smooth, then mix back in with the whole beans and reheat as necessary.
I'm the founder, editor, and head chef at the blog Big Girls, Small Kitchen (www.biggirlssmallkitchen.com), a site dedicated to easy-to-execute recipes and stories from a quarter-life kitchen. I'm also the author of In the Small Kitchen published in 2011.