I love beans. I throw them into salads, eat them in burrito bowls, and add them to soups. I’ve paired beans close relative, lentils, with pasta, twice. I’ve been known to eat a bowl of beans as a snack. We stockpile cans of beans in our pantry and keep a handful of 4 quart mason jars filled with dried beans at all times. And there’s almost always a carton of almost finished hummus lurking in our refrigerator.
There’s a lot to love about beans. They’re intensely good for you. Beans have been linked in cross-cultural studies with longevity. They’re nutrient dense. They have a fair bit of both protein and fiber, which is good for feeling satisfied and energy. But for me, these are bonuses. I love the immense variety of beans, the colors that vary from eggshell white to inky black, to burnt red to playful speckles. I love the ritual of cooking beans, of soaking beans overnight and then simmering in aromatics the next day, checking every so often to see how luscious the beans are. I love the creamy, soothing quality they have, and the way that beans are always happy to be a supporting player to a dish. I love that they come off as unassuming, but with the right companions can be coaxed into greatness. And I love how quick they are.
I know. I was just talking about soaking and slowly simmering beans. And to be fair, that’s not an instantaneous task. But beans can still be quick. I cook beans once a week so I can throw them into anything whenever I don’t have time to make a full meal. But if you haven’t cooked beans, or have and already used them up, canned beans are an excellent substitute.
I am very interested in living well, and not so interested in living in purity. Dried beans are my favorite, for taste and customization. But canned beans are still delicious and cheap and quick. And if they are less delicious and cheap than dried beans, that’s fine. If my compromise is canned beans I still come out the winner.
To whit, these tacos I made one warm night last week. I was my day off and Aaron had just finished work. We took a brisk walk to a bar that used to be our place when we were 23 and broke and confused. We befriended the bartenders there and would routinely stay out too late and spend too much money and get free shots. Now our place has changed, and we only occasionally stay out too late and spend too much money and get free shots. Times have changed. But our old place has an excellent patio so we made the trek to sit outside and drink gin cocktails in the sunlight. On our way back we stopped to grab limes, cilantro, mangos, and cotija at our co-op. Twenty minutes of simmering and assembly later we had these drippy, bright, beautiful tacos on our plates. They’re sweet with the mango salsa and tart with lime juice and have a hint of spice from the fresnos. Aaron inhaled them. I closed my eyes while chewing. Canned beans saved the day, or at least the dinner, once again.
Black-Bean Tacos with Mango Salsa
If you wanted to make these with dried beans, then I’d use about a cup and a half of beans with some of their cooking broth. If you were making these said dried beans from scratch I’d definitely throw in some cilantro while the beans are cooking.
1 fifteen-ounce can black beans
1 cup finely chopped cilantro leaves and stems
1/2 cup lime juice (about 3 limes)
1 1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon salt
2 mangos, diced
1/2 cup roughly chopped cilantro leaves
1/2 chopped red onion (about 1/4 large)
2 fresno peppers, diced
3 tablespoons of lime juice (about 1 lime)
1/2 teaspoon salt
lettuce, sliced into ribbons
In a medium saucepan combine the black beans with their liquid, 1 cup cilantro, 1/2 cup lime juice, cumin, and teaspoon of salt. Bring to a simmer and stir well. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes, until the liquid has reduced to a saucy consistency. Taste and adjust for seasonings.
In a medium bowl combine the mangos, cilantro, red onion, fresnos, lime juice, and salt. Stir well. Set aside.
To serve tacos, warm the tortillas in a low oven, in a skillet, or in a microwave. Dollop on the beans, top with lettuce and cotija, and finish with the salsa.