Monday, January 19, 2015

Smokey-Spicy Black Beans with Ham

Boy, does my kitchen smell good right now!

Last week, I got the Penzey's Spices catalog in the mail.  I do love Penzey's Spices--everything is super-fresh. What a difference fresh spices and herbs make when you cook and bake with them.  And surprise--it costs less than supermarket spices.  There are some, limited Penzey's Spices locations, but they also are available in other stores and by mail order.  But really, the Penzey's online catalog is vast, and a visit to a store is fun.  

Mixed among the list and pictures of the herbs and spices, is a good selection of recipes in each release of the catalog.  A recipe for Carolina's Cuban Black Beans gave me the inspiration to make this dish.  The original recipe was vegetarian, but I wanted to add ham.

I ended up adding supermarket ham steak.  It actually wasn't my first choice.  I wanted to add a ham hock, which would have been much more fatty and smokey. So I guess I'm glad I couldn't find one.  It was due to the lack of the smoked ham hock that I added the chipotle peppers.  Good move!  (pats self on back)

Chipotle peppers start out as jalapeños. The manufacturers dry them and smoke them.  You can buy them that way, but you can also get them canned in adobo sauce, which is what you need for this recipe.  The adobo sauce rehydrates them, and quite frankly, makes them amazing!   You can find cans of chipotles in adobo sauce in the Mexican foods section of the grocery stores.  I think they are pretty widely available.  I put them next to the tablespoon so you can see the size.  But don't be fooled, these things pack a serious punch! I started out this recipe with two.  I ended up adding a third, but you might not like it that way, so start small.  As the beans cook down, you can always add more.  And if you want to cut down on the spice, slice them down the middle and scrape out the seeds. That would help.  But keep it all off of your fingers.  The heat stays on your skin for a while, and if you rub your eyes after touching them, that would hurt.


The recipe in the catalog called for putting the garlic cloves, cumin, and a little salt into a mortar and pestle.  I don't know about you, but I don't keep those in my kitchen.  So, instead, I minced the garlic, added the cumin and a pinch of salt, and then minced the crap out of it for a while.  I ended up with this:

I used dry turtle beans (as opposed to canned).  I had plenty of time, so I soaked them overnight.  In fact, I ended up going out to see a movie and came home really late, so they soaked a second night.  That was not a smooth move.  If you ever find that happens to you, remove the beans from the liquid after the first night.  I saved the dish, cooked it less, reduced liquid, and cooked uncovered to get some of the liquid to cook down.  That worked.

Oh, the Penzey's recipe used a shortcut to soaking the beans--just in case you want to do it all in one day.  Cover them with water i a large pot and boil for 2 minutes.  Turn off the heat and let stand, covered, for one hour.  Then drain them.

Onto the results:  Those are some mighty delicious beans!  I'll definitely make them again. In fact, I could see making them several times a year for the rest of my life.  I'm highly recommending this recipe!

Smokey-Spicy Black Beans with Ham  
(serves 8)

1 16-oz bag of dried black beans (aka: turtle beans)
water for soaking
4 cups chicken stock (I used unsalted)
3 cloves garlic
1 Tbs ground cumin
pinch of salt
2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped 
1 large green bell pepper, chopped
jalapeño, chopped, seeds removed
1 Tbs distilled white vinegar
2 whole bay leaves
1 1/2 Tbs herbes de Provence 
14 ounces hickory smoked ham, chopped
2-3 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, minced
sea salt to taste (maybe 1/2 teaspoon)

Wash off the black beans and soak them in a large bowl overnight.

Mince the garlic.  Add the cumin and pinch of salt, and mince it as much as you can. Optionally, you can make a paste, crushing the garlic, cumin, and salt using a mortar and pestle.

In a large pot, heat the chicken stock, soaked beans, vinegar, bay leaves, and herbes de Provence.

While the beans, liquid, and herbs heat up, add the extra-virgin olive oil to a large skillet. Heat it on medium-high and add the onions, bell peppers, jalapeño, and garlic mix.  Saute until the onions and peppers brown some. browned.  Transfer them to the pot of beans.

Add the ham, chipotles, and salt.  

Cover and simmer until the beans are tender, about 2 hours.

It's great on top of a bed of white rice, but if you don't do rice, put the beans in a bowl and enjoy!

The Nutrition Facts are just for the beans and ham.  I didn't add in the rice since you may not, or if you did, you might use less or more than I would.
Nutrition Facts
Servings 8.0
Amount Per Serving
calories 185
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 7 g10 %
Saturated Fat 2 g8 %
Monounsaturated Fat 2 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1 g
Trans Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 14 mg5 %
Sodium 411 mg17 %
Potassium 399 mg11 %
Total Carbohydrate 20 g7 %
Dietary Fiber 6 g23 %
Sugars 2 g
Protein 13 g26 %
Vitamin A4 %
Vitamin C29 %
Calcium2 %
Iron9 %


Wow, it has been a very long time since I posted here, and a lot a changes happened in my life since my last post.

I'm going to be 48 next month.  Holy shit!  48?  I never could have imagined stating that.   But I don't feel old, and I'm told I don't look it either.  That makes me happy.

I went through a divorce, moved into a tiny apartment with the tiniest of kitchens.  To say it was dysfunctional doesn't begin to describe it: There was a sink, refrigerator (22 inches wide), and stove.  Along with that, it came with a whopping 12 inches of counter space and only 2 sets of cabinets above the sink, which at 4'9" I was unable to reach most of without a step stool.  So cooking didn't much happen in the apartment.

I am proud to announce that I am doing much better now!

This past May, I bought a home, and for the first time, I like my kitchen!  When I was in college, there was no kitchen.  Then I moved into an apartment with a galley kitchen.  Then, another galley kitchen.  When we bought our home, the kitchen was better, but still rather small, with very high counter tops that were dark mauve--a popular color in the 80s.  Yuck! After that, there was the lack of a kitchen, and now, happiness.  And with all the cabinets, I have managed to stuff them all and have a wire rack under my kitchen window holding some items that just didn't fit. Well, to be honest, if I were taller, and used the top shelves, maybe I wouldn't have needed it.  Ha ha!  

Here's my well-used kitchen, soul of my home.   

And that's my heart-dog waiting for a treat by the door to the deck.  What a good boy!

And before my first food post, I just want to set out some goals I have for the resurrection of Inspired Bites:

  • I'm going to be true to who I am, both in what I choose to cook and my writing style.  If I don't, my writing will bore me to death.  So it may get colorful at times!
  • I'm going to include posts about restaurants I visit and dishes I try.  My city is turning into a great place for foodies.  I am so happy about that!
  • I'm cooking for me.  So I will often, but not always, cut down on fat and sodium and go high in protein.  At the same time, hoping to make you jealous and inspired to try new things. Variety is the spice of life, after all.
  • I'll be figuring the nutritional information for my recipes.  That's important to me, and MyFitnessPal makes it easy to do.  You can add a recipe, either importing it from another site, or adding it manually.  You say how many portions, and it does all the work for you. How sweet is that?
  • I'll be posting when I get the urge.  At the end of my blogging 4 years ago, I was posting because I felt I had to.