Ingredient SpotLight

Black turtle beans, often called simply black beans, are especially popular in Latin American cuisine. They have a dense meat, which make them popular in vegetarian dishes such as the vegetarian burritos. They are served in almost all of Latin America as well as many Hispanic enclaves in the United States. The black turtle bean is also very popular for making into soups and chilis.

Black turtle beans have recently been reported to be an extremely good source of nutrition. Black bean varieties include:

  • Black Magic
  • Blackhawk
  • Domino
  • Nighthawk
  • Valentine

While you can cook dried black beans and even speed the process using a pressure cooker, many people opt for canned black beans, which are a handy convenience food. What follows are a selection of recipes that can use either cooked dried beans or canned beans. They feature some of the spicy flavors most associated with the use of black beans and are an excellent introduction to their use.

Black Bean Gazpacho

  • 1 green bell pepper, roughly chopped
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, roughly chopped
  • 1 orange bell pepper, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 English (seedless) cucumber, roughly chopped (do not peel)
  • 3 very large ripe tomatoes
  • 1 c. cooked black beans, roughly smashed
  • 16-24 oz. V-8 juice, to achieve desired consistency
  • 2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
  • Hot sauce (I use Tiger Sauce), to taste
  • 2 T. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • Coarse sea salt and black pepper, to taste
  • Juice of 1-2 limes, to taste

In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, process the bell peppers until finely minced, and add them to a large nonreactive (glass, plastic or stainless steel) bowl. Without cleaning the processor, chop the cucumber, and add it to the bowl. Cut the tomatoes into quarters, and with your finger, poke out the seeds. Add the tomato pieces and beans to the food processor, and pulse until finely chopped. Add them to the bowl and stir in the remaining ingredients. Adjust the seasoning to taste. Refrigerate the soup for at least two hours to allow the flavors to marry (taste for salt again before serving). Serve very cold.

  • Yields: 8 servings
  • Preparation Time: 30 minutes, plus chilling time

Spicy Black Bean Soup With Cajun Sausage

  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 12 to 16 ounces Andouille or spicy sausage, thinly sliced
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 ribs celery, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small red bell pepper, diced, about 1/2 cup
  • 2 T. diced jalapeno peppers
  • 4 c. beef broth
  • 2 cans (15 ounces each) black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes with juice
  • 2 T. lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp. dried leaf thyme
  • 1 tsp. Cajun seasoning
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven. Add the sausage and cook over medium heat until it is browned. Add the onion, celery, red bell pepper, and jalapeno peppers; sauté for about 3 minutes, until tender. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute longer. Add the beef broth, beans, tomatoes, lemon juice, and remaining seasonings. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for about 45 minutes.

Serve with cornbread or crusty rolls.

  • Yields: 4-6 servings
  • Preparation Time: 1 hour

Caribbean Rice and Beans

  • 2-3 tsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1/2 c. sliced roasted red pepper
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cans (15 to 16 ounces each) black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 T. white vinegar
  • Few dashes Tabasco
  • 3 c. white rice, cooked
  • 1 T. dried oregano
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Heat the oil in a large skillet; sauté the onion, red and green peppers and garlic until softened. Add the black beans, vinegar and Tabasco. Bring to a boil; reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in the cooked rice and oregano; heat through. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Serve with additional Tabasco.

  • Yields: 6 servings
  • Preparation Time: 20 minutes