Black Bean and Vegetable Stew

Judging by the empty shelves in the dried bean and legume aisle of our grocery store, beans are everyone’s go-to ingredient for cooking in a crisis. I’ve been using them a lot in soups and stews, because one-pot meals are easy, nutritious and comforting — just what we need right now. This black bean and vegetable stew is great ladled over some white or brown rice, but it would also be tasty with fresh tortillas, garlic bread, or just as a stand-alone dish.

If you don’t want to use dried beans, you can substitute 3 cans of black beans, drained and rinsed (reduce simmer time to about 20 minutes). To make a vegetarian version, omit the bacon, use olive oil to saute the vegetables, swap in vegetable broth and add 1 tsp smoked paprika.

Adapted from The Splendid Table’s Cuban Black Bean Stew.

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

3 slices thick cut bacon, cut into small pieces
1 large onion, chopped
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 jalapeño, chopped fine
6 cloves garlic, chopped fine
3 tbsp tomato paste
4 cups chicken broth
3 bay leaves
3 whole cloves
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp pepper
1 lb dried black beans
1 cup water
Juice from 2 limes
Salt
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

Soak the beans in about 4 cups of water. You can do this overnight or use the quick soak method: In a large bowl, pour 4 cups of water over the beans, cover and let sit for 1 hour. Drain and rinse.

In a large pot over medium high heat, cook the bacon until the fat has rendered and the bacon is starting to brown. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and set aside. Reserve about 1 tbsp of grease and discard the rest.

Add the onion, carrots, celery, bell pepper and jalapeño and saute until the onions and celery are translucent. Add the garlic and cook about 1 minute more. Stir in the tomato paste, then deglaze with about 2 cups of the chicken broth.

Stir in the spices, beans, reserved bacon, remaining broth and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 40 minutes.

Test beans for doneness. If they have not softened enough, give them more simmer time in 10-minute increments (add water as needed). Cooking time for dried beans varies widely by age and quality, but it typically shouldn’t take more than an hour or so.

Stir in lime juice, salt to taste and cilantro. Serve over rice.

Pictured: Descoware Flame Dutch Oven, Pyrex Spring Blossom 443 Cinderella Mixing Bowl, Corning Ware Grab-It Bowl

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