While I was entertaining myself out and about with the delicious creativity of the Carioca contemporary cuisine, my kids were in love with the daily black beans with rice. Although I've been cooking beans on a frequent basis for more than ten years while not living in Brazil, I thought it was time for me to go and learn a bit more about it.
For that mission, I invited Lu, our family cook, to teach me how to make that delicious stew in no time. Normally I make it with a bit of planning, because up to this last visit, I was a believer that I had to soak the beans overnight.
Black beans with rice is a national favorite, with international projection, and for generations it has been considered the core of kids' nutrition in my home country. My mom was the one who suggested I look further into the science behind the mix: Recently it has been discovered that the combination of black beans and rice is a winner. According to a study by the department of nutrition of Unesp, the combination of two amino acids in both foods optimizes absorption, great for tissue repair and with the perfect glycemic index. Embrapa, the Brazilian agricultural research agency, found that the best ratio to have all benefits from the mix is 2 parts black beans to 1 part rice. Another study found that black beans have a wonderful amount of fluoride, which benefits dental health.
Back to the kitchen: Besides the unique flavor that Lu adds to her black beans "formula," she was happy to reveal to me that 30 minutes in the pressure cook would be enough for the beans to get the right al dente texture and, better than that, the best flavor. If you want to get more familiar with the pressure cooker, you can read more about it here.
I adapted her recipe for an even faster recipe and if you are willing to try it, there's a good chance you, and most importantly, your kids will love it. Use your favorite type of rice to eat with the beans.
Fast Black Beans
To make it even faster, use two cans of black beans. I've read that beans retain a lot of their nutritional properties when canned. Trader Joe's black beans, for example, have 45 percent of the recommended daily amount of iron and 6 grams of protein; the dry beans have 8 grams of protein. I do use canned beans when I have a emergency. Sometimes canned black beans are easier to find than dried beans, which usually are available in the Mexican section of California supermarkets.
1 lb dried black beans
2 bay leaves
Enough water to cover beans plus two inches
1 tablespoon olive oil (canola is ok)
2 tablespoons chopped onion
1 garlic clove, minced
Salt to taste
Combine dried beans, water, and bay leaves in the pressure cooker and cook for 30 minutes. Discard bay leaves and drain beans, reserving water used for cooking. (If using canned beans, skip ahead to the next step.)
Shallow-fry half of the beans with onion and garlic over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add some of the cooking water to the beans and your desired amount of salt, and crush some of the beans with a ladle or wooden spoon to have a creamy sauce.
You can freeze the remaining seasoned beans with some cooking water for the next time, so you'll just need to do the second step.
Serve beans hot over your favorite rice.