Foodforfun has taken a (culinary) trip to Guatemala. Last week, I walked six high-school students through a few Guatemalan recipes at the request of their teacher and my good friend, Traci. You can circle back to Monday’s post for more background as well as the skinny on the Crispy Corn Tortillas we made. Today it’s all about the black bean paste we spread on top of those tortillas.
Our recipe called for soaking and cooking dried beans, a step I did the night before the class. The beans were then pressed through a mouli food mill (a hand-held contraption from another decade–mine a gift from my mother-in-law), which left the skins behind and produced a creamy, yet sort-of chunky (think guacamole) bean paste. The paste was mixed with a bit of vegetable oil and cooking liquid, then “fried” to dry it out just a touch. The final spread was warm, savory, full-flavored, and oh-so-amazing.
Another bean paste recipe I had found online kept things super-simple by stirring a touch of oil into canned refried black beans, then cooking this up in a skillet. I was glad we spent the extra time soaking and cooking dried beans, as the canned version would have been less full-flavored than our from-scratch batch. As well, simmering the beans with onion, garlic, and cilantro added background flavors.
While delicious, this bean paste will win no beauty contests. Only the bravest of the students dared work the beans through the food mill to produce the dark, mucky-looking mixture. In the end, everyone was willing to sample the beans as the “puree” was seasoned to taste with salt. And all agreed the final spread made a perfect topping for the tortillas. Sprinkled with cotija cheese, it was slightly more attractive and the salty tang of the cheese offered great flavor balance. All of this on the crispy corn tortillas? Perfection.
Fried Black Bean Paste (Frijoles Negros Volteados)
2 cups dried black beans, soaked overnight and drained
1/2 head garlic
1 small onion, cut into 4 wedges
3 sprigs fresh cilantro
6 cups cold water, plus more as needed
Sea salt, to taste
Rinse beans; transfer to large saucepan. Add garlic, onion, cilantro, and water. Bring to a boil; partially cover. Simmer 1 hour or until beans are very tender. If beans begin to dry out before fully cooked, add more hot water as needed. There should be a cup or so of bean liquid left in pan when beans are fully cooked.
Remove garlic; squeeze softened cloves out into beans. Discard garlic peels. Remove and discard onion and cilantro. Set beans aside to cool slightly. Pass beans, garlic, and enough of liquid for creamy consistency through food mill. Final “puree” should have consistency of guacamole. Season with salt.