Tuesday, June 10, 2008

"Beans don't burn on the grill..."

Ah beans and rice: the musical fruit of the vegan/vegetarian life.
Black beans are likely my favorite bean. They have their own distinct flavor that goes well with many types of seasoning. They're also easy to find canned, which makes supper-time prep a breeze. I'm all about dried beans and pulses, but we don't hall have hours to spend dealing with bean issues. Even my beloved pressure-cooker just doesn't speed things up quite enough for most week day meals.

Of course, it's still grill season, so most of this meal is done on the grill. I have a lovely little cast-iron pot with a tight-fitting lid that works very well for beans. For the rice, we employed the trusty rice-cooker, which doesn't really heat up the kitchen at all.

Black Beans on the Grill

2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed (or 3 cups cooked from dry)
1 tbsp minced garlic
2 tsp ground cumin
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
juice from 1 lime
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 to 1 c water

1. Heat the grill to 4ooF with a cast-iron pot inside.
2. Make a paste from the garlic, cumin, pepper, salt and lime juice
3. In the pot, saute the paste in the olive oil for just a few minutes until you can really smell the garlic.
4. Add the black beans and water (only 1/2 c at first, more later if the beans are too dry) and cover. Let cook until the grill reaches 400F again, then stir.
5. Cook, stirring every 5-7 minutes, until they reach a nice, thick consistency (about 15-20 minutes on a hot grill).

We had this we our standard grilled veggies: peppers and onions.

Standard Grilled Peppers and Onions

1 green bell pepper
1 red bell pepper
1 medium onion


1 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp lime juice
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
black pepper and salt to taste

As is our standard method: grill the peppers and onions in an oiled perforated grill pan. When they are cooked to your preference, toss in a bowl with the dressing.

As mentioned above, we had this all with some rice from the good ole rice cooker. The red-haired vegan and I compromised and had a mix of brown short-grain and white sushi rice (I'm not a big fan of white rice, but I was feeling collaborative).

There's something intrinsically homey and earthy about cooking beans in a cast-iron pot over flames. I think it was the cook in "City Slickers" that succinctly stated the cowboy/rancher view of beans: "hot, brown and plenty of it". Beans are cheap, easy to cook, very nutritious and very filling.

As for the musical properties...never be ashamed of your fiber intake. While the steak and burger eaters battle with their high cholesterol and slow digestive tracts, we bean eaters will raise our bean pots high and celebrate our polyp-free colons. And, with the right equipment, we can celebrate all summer by the grill.

And let us not overlook the benefits of eating outside in the fresh air by an open flame...

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