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Four recipes for the mild but little-known black beans.

Four recipes for the mild but little-known black beans

A cooking staple of Latin America, black beans share the same classification as kidney and navy beans--Phaseolus vulgaris. The full flavor of the black bean combines some of the sweetness of the kidney bean and the mildness of the navy bean. In the following recipes, these beans prove their versatility--as a vegetable dish, an appetizer, a salad, and a soup.

Sometimes called turtle beans, black beans are sold in Mexican markets, as well as in some supermarkets and health food stores. Surprisingly, many of the beans are grown in California. Prices are comparable to other beans. (When you shop, don't confuse them with round Japanese black beans or fermented Chinese black beans.) As a guide, 1 pound dried black beans (2 1/2 cups) yields 6 2/3 cups when cooked.

Basic Black Beans

Sort 1/2 pound (1 1/4 cups) dried black beans; discard any debris and rinse.

In a 10- to 12-inch frying pan, cook 1/2 pound diced salt pork, uncovered, until fat is rendered, stirring occasionally. Add 1 medium-size onion, chopped, and 3 large cloves garlic, minced; stir often until translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in beans and 4 cups water.

Bring to a boil; cover and simmer until beans are tender to bite, 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Uncover and boil over high heat until reduced to 3 cups, stirring often to prevent scorching.

Pour into a bowl; garnish with fresh cilantro leaves (coriander) as desired. Makes 6 servings.

Black Bean Appetizer

1/4 pound (about 1/2 cup) dried black beans

1/4 pound salt pork, diced

1 small onion, chopped

4 large cloves garlic, minced

About 2 cups water

1/4 cup lightly packed fresh cilantro (coriander)

3 tablespoons crumbled Mexicanstyle hard white cheese or grated Parmesan cheese

Tortilla chips

Hot salsa (recipe follows)

6 sprigs fresh cilantro (coriander)

Sort beans to remove any debris; rinse. In a 2- to 3-quart pan over medium-high heat, cook salt pork, uncovered, until fat is rendered; stir occasionally. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add 2 cups water, beans, and cilantro. Bring to a boil; cover and simmer until beans are tender to bite, 2 to 2 1/2 hours. (At this point, you can let beans cool, then cover and chill as long as 4 days. Reheat to continue.)

Puree bean mixture in a food processor or blender, adding water if needed to make 1 1/2 cups.

Mound beans equally on 6 salad plates and sprinkle with cheese. Arrange chips beside beans. Pour salsa into small individual bowls and set on each plate. Garnish with cilantro. (Or make up one platter with beans, chips, and a bowl of salsa; pass, or let guests serve themselves.) To eat, scoop tortillas through beans and then through the salsa. Makes 6 servings.

Hot salsa. Mix 1/4 cup lime juice with 2 tablespoons finely chopped small hot fresh chilies (such as jalapeno or Fresno) and 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro (coriander), optional.

Black Bean Salad with Pineapple and Mustard Greens

1/2 pound (1 1/4 cups) dried black beans

4 cups regular-strength beef broth

1 orange, unpeeled, cut in half

Herb bouquet (directions follow)

Cumin vinaigrette (recipe follows)

6 large mustard green leaves, washed and crisped

6 round slices fresh pineapple, halved

Red, green, or yellow bell pepper slices

Sort beans to remove debris; rinse. In a 3-to 4-quart pan, combine beans, broth, orange, and herb bouquet. Bring to a boil; simmer, covered, until beans are tender to bite, about 2 1/2 hours. Drain off liquid (disecard or reserve for soups). Discard herbs and orange; stir in vinaigrette. Cover and chill up to 1 day.

Line 6 salad plates or a platter with mustard greens. Mound beans onto leaves; add pineapple and bell pepper. Serves 6.

Herb bouquet. In 3 layers of cheesecloth, tie 1 medium-size onion, quartered; 4 cloves garlic; 1 tablespoon each dry oregano leaves, dry thyme leaves, and dry basil leaves; and 2 bay leaves.

Cumin vinaigrette. Combine 1/2 cup each olive or salad oil; chopped red, green, or yellow bell pepper; 3 tablespoons each finely chopped onion and balsamic or red wine vinegar; 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard; and 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin. Use or cover and chill up to 1 day.

Brazilian Black Bean Soup

1 pound (2 1/2 cups) dried black beans

2 medium-size onions, chopped

1 1/2 pounds ham hock, in chunks

4 large cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon cumin seed

2 tablespoons salad oil

About 6 cups water

2 cups regular-strength beef broth

1 can (8 oz.) tomato sauce

1/2 teaspoon pepper

2 tablespoons dark rum, optional

1 large tomato, cored and chopped

Cilantro (coriander) sprigs

Sort beans to remove debris; rinse. In a 5-to 6-quart pan on medium-high heat, stir 1 1/2 cups of the onion, ham hock, garlic, and cumin in oil until onion is translucent, about 7 minutes. Add 6 cups water, broth, beans, tomato sauce, an pepper. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer until beans are tender to bite, about 2 1/2 hours.

Lift out hock; when cool, pull meat from bone and shred, discarding skin, bone, and fat. Coarsely puree 2/3 of the beans, a portion at a time, in food processor or blender. Return puree and ham to pan; add rum. Stirring, return to a boil. If desired, thin soup with up to 1 cup water. Garnish servings with remaining onion, tomato, and cilantro. Makes 8 to 10 cups, or 8 to 10 first-course servings. Terri Wallis, Albuquerque.

Photo: Mellow salad of black beans, garnished with bell pepper, is backed by pineapple slices and nippy mustard greens

Photo: Dried black beans are about half the size of red kidney beans, to which they're related. While their bigger brethren have sweeter flavor, black beans have a richer taste
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Title Annotation:recipes
Date:Mar 1, 1984
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