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How to Cook Non-Spicy Black Beans

Love black beans, but can't eat spicy foods, what to do?

I'm a vegetarian, new to cooking beans. My husband and I love black beans that are served at Mexican restaurants. Due to dietary issues and wheat allergies, we can't eat spicy foods.

The manager of a Mexican restaurant told us that they cook their black beans slowly and don't add any spices. I need some measurements and instructions to get started. I'd appreciate your advice. - A. W.

Savvy Vegetarian Advice

Dear A. W.,

I've attached the SV Bean Report, with general info about bean cooking. Re black beans: pre-soak 4 hours, rinse, bring to a boil without salt, skim, simmer covered 2 - 4 hour in 6 -8 cups liquid to 1 cup dried beans (before soaking). Start with less liquid and add more as needed. Or pressure cook for approx 9 minutes on high pressure.

Slow Cooking: Beans need to be soaked and boiled first for gas reduction, but slow cooking is ideal, as it breaks down the beans so that they are easily digested. Black beans will form a thick sauce with long slow cooking.

Spicing Beans: Beans are so much more digestible and less likely to cause gas when spiced as suggested in the bean report. Cumin, coriander and fennel are not hot spices, and help digestion. Heating ground spices first in ghee or oil helps flavor, color, and digestibility.

It isn't necessary to use a lot of 'hot' spices like ginger, cayenne, paprika and other hot peppers, although fresh ginger is a tremendous digestive aid, and is much less hot than dried. When cooking beans, I like to add one or two thin slices of peeled fresh ginger, and a bay leaf. I remove these goodies after the beans are cooked.

Black beans are full of flavor and don't require a lot of spicing, but a little is good for digestion, along with some tomato, green or red pepper, celery and salt. Carrots, yams, winter squash or sweet potato all are great with black beans. Onions and garlic are gaseous themselves, so it's not a good idea to have them with beans! Black beans are delicious with whole grains like brown rice or quinoa.

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Judith Kingsbury, Savvy Vegetarian

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