Friday, July 31, 2009

The Reporter's Table: The common bean gets flashy

By Helen Klein

Colorful and savory, beans enhanced with herbs and spices reminiscent of the southwest can serve as a simple side dish or a light main dish.

In my house, whatever bean dishes I put together are used up quickly. This recipe, which combines black and white beans, is eye-catching as well as palate-pleasing, studded with chunks of grilled colored peppers and shreds of fresh cilantro.

Adding snap to the flavor, and a bit of complexity, are fresh onion and garlic, a couple of squeezes of lime, and a sprinkling of ground cumin, which is arguably my favorite spice. A chameleon in the kitchen, dusky, aromatic cumin effortlessly helps to create complex dishes that reflect the intriguing soul of Latin America, or, alternatively, evoke the sultry flavors of the Middle East.

The fun of this dish is that it is infinitely malleable. Want a Provençal touch? Use only white beans, select rosemary or sage in place of the cilantro, leave out the cumin, and trade in lemon for the lime.

If Italian food is more to your taste, fresh basil leaves can replace the cilantro, and chunks of sun-dried tomato can stand in for the peppers. Here, too, lemon is more authentic, and cumin should not be used. If you want, toss in a tablespoon or two of rinsed capers to enhance the dish’s Mezzogiorno flavor.

For all of these versions, I would use olive oil, preferably extra-virgin.

Any of these bean dishes can serve as a side dish with basic grilled or roasted meats or poultry. They also are a welcome addition to a buffet table, and make the perfect filler for pita bread, topped by shredded lettuce and chopped tomato, for a vegetarian lunch.

Southwestern Beans

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can small white beans, drained and rinsed
1 red pepper, roasted, seeded and diced (homemade or store-bought)
½ cup chopped sweet onion (Vidalia, Maui or Walla Walla, for example)
2 cloves garlic, minced
Juice of one lime
Extra-virgin olive oil (the quantity should be twice that of the lime juice)
1 tsp. cumin
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro

Combine beans, pepper, onion and garlic in bowl.

In a screw-top jar, combine lime juice, olive oil, cumin, salt and pepper. Shake well.

Pour dressing over bean mixture, and combine thoroughly.

Add cilantro just before serving, and stir to combine.

Serves 4-6 as a generous side dish.


Copyright © 2009 All rights reserved

  © Blogger templates The Professional Template by 2008

Back to TOP