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Cafe Pasqual's Black Beans

Source: Cafe Pasqual's, Santa Fe, New Mexico

2 1/2 cups dried black beans (about 1 1/4 pounds)
1/2 white onion, finely diced
1/2 green or red bell pepper, seeded and diced
2 fresh jalape?o chiles, seeded and minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 bay leaf
3 quarts water
1 teaspoon salt to taste

Black beans, also known as turtle beans, are native to Central and South America. Black beans do not need the addition of meat fat for flavor the way pinto beans do. Do not soak these beans overnight. Presoaking actually seems to lengthen the cooking time. Also, to achieve soft, tender beans, do not add salt until the end of the cooking process. Adding salt early in the cooking will make the beans tough. Sort the beans by hand to remove small rocks and bits of organic debris, and clean thoroughly, rinsing under running water.

Combine all the ingredients, except the salt, in a stockpot. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to low. Simmer uncovered, until the beans are soft, about 1 1/2 hours. Add water as needed to keep the beans immersed during cooking. When the beans are properly cooked, they are tender but their skins remain unbroken.

Season with the salt. Cool the beans and store in their liquid to cover in the refrigerator. the beans will keep up to 5 days in the refrigerator. The beans will keep for up to 5 days in a container with a tight fitting lid. You may freeze the beans for up to 2 months. When thawed they will be softer in texture.

Variations: Halfway through the cooking, add to the beans 2 lemons, sliced, seeded, and coarsely chopped; and/or 1 1/2 teaspoons medium-hot New Mexico red chile powder (molido) and any leftover salsa. For more piquant beans, add 1 fresh serrano chile, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped.

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