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Recommendations on herbs and spices for black beans?

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  • Bill Sep 11, 2003 07:05 PM
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The black beans I make come out pretty dull for my tastes (I add carrots, garlic, onion, and cumin)-- not at all like the tasty black beans I get at some restaurants. Can anyone recommend additions that will make them very tasty?

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  1. Boil black beans with onions, garlic, and epazote. A little bit of stock (chicken or vegetable) also does wonders. But with black beans, it's the epazote that makes all the difference.

    Link: http://www.gourmetsleuth.com/epazote.htm

    3 Replies
    1. re: nja
      j
      JessicaKlonsky

      I'll second the epazote. It is the key ingredient. Also, if using dried beans, don't add salt until the end, adding salt to the cooking water toughens the beans.

      1. re: JessicaKlonsky

        Adding salt early tends to break the beans. Same thing also happens when you cook with old beans, which is why I only buy them from Mexican grocers anymore.

        Acids, like those in tomatoes, are what toughen the skin.

        1. re: nja
          j
          JessicaKlonsky

          I had never heard this before, so I did some (albeit brief) investigation. According to Mark Bittman, both the salt and the acid bans are myth. He claims salt makes no difference except, of course, to make the beans salty. He alsoclaims acids keep the skin intact and keep them from getting mushy but don't cause tougher skins. He states baking soda will break down the skin of beans.

          Who knew?

    2. I think oregano adds a nice flavor.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Celeste

        I use Deborah Madison's recipe for black bean chili, and she instructs to toast the oregano in a skillet. This really brings out the flavor and aroma of the oregano. Unfortunately it also makes your house smell like a marijuana den.

        No, really officer, I was just making chili ....

      2. You absolutely need to add some ground comino (cumin). I cook black beans with salt, onion, and green pepper and a ham bone if I have one. After the beans are soft I puree at least half of them and return this puree to the pot. Add a small can of tomato sauce, more salt to taste, garlic, comino, and a little ground hot chili pepper. Keep tasting. How liquidy it should be depends on whether I intend it to spoon over rice or to use as a soup. If I've used the ham bone I remove any bits of ham and return them to the pot. You can freeze this in pints or quarts. If served as a soup, put a little pitcher of sherry on the table. In Puerto Rico they serve the soup with side dishes of rice and chopped onion to add to a bowl of soup. PS Carrots will make a soup sweet. You may not want that with black bean soup since the beans already have a natural sweetness. PPS The places that sell fancy spiral-sliced hams,eg Honey-Baked etc., also sell ham bones.

        1. Cubans generally add bay leaf (fresh is best--it really complements the flavor of the beans), oregano, and just a bit of cumin. You can also saute the garlic and onion in a generous amount of olive oil.

          All of that said, I really think that what makes black beans good is the beans themselves--some batches are definitely better than others.

          1. My mom never makes beans without some kind of pork fat (ham hock, fatback etc) and she's a mean cook!
            The best black beans I made were cooked with a full jalapeno pepper (plus cilantro, onion, garlic and olive oil -no animal fats) in their water. They really got the spicyness in. Still, not like my mom's.
            Tomato sauce somewhere after the beans are cooked is a nice addition.

            I love beans of all kind, so this is not meant as an insult to beans, but beans are bland. You need a hell of a lot of spicing (whatever kind you like), and fat and saltiness, to really round up the taste.

            Good luck!

            1. Cilantro!

              When I fished a cilantro leaf out of the beans at my favorite restaurant (Carribbean), I finally figured out why his beans are so great. Given the distinctive taste of cilantro, you would have think I would have realized it from tasting.

              1. If I'm doctoring canned black beans (which I often do for the sake of convenience) I mince up some garlic and green pepper, sautee it in olive oil until clear and reduce about 4oz. of cream sherry, then add the beans and simmer for a little while. They taste even better the next day folded into an omelette with some jack cheese and and fresh salsa. If I'm making a pot from scratch, I soak two sacks of beans overnite, change the water, add 4-5 meaty smoked ham hocks or neckbones, two head of minced garlic, one minced bell pepper and about 8oz. of cream sherry and a fresh bay leaves. Let it simmer low all day and serve w/fresh copped onion and a dollop of sour cream, rice on the side and hot cornbread. That is some good, mi hermano.

                1. I like to add a packet of Sazon Goya Con Culantro Y Achiote along with fresh coriander and green Tabasco, among other things.

                  1. I agree with the other posters; when I make black beans, I add garlic, cumin, oregano, and sometimes chopped tomato, onion and green pepper sauteed in a little olive oil.

                    This may sound obvious, but did you add salt to your beans? That could make all the difference, as beans are pretty bland, and especially if you are starting with dried (vs. canned) beans, you'll need to add quite a bit of salt to enhance the flavor.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: DanaB

                      Also start with whole cumin seed and toast it in a skillet until it is fragrant and then grind to a powder in a mortar. You will be amazed atthe flavor.

                    2. Thanks to all for some very helpful suggestions. I'm going to try them for sure.