Saturday, January 2, 2010

Beans, Pepper, Cilantro, and Tomatoes (Spicy or Not)

You can make this recipe picante (hot spicy) or mild. I usually make it without the hot chili peppers and then add jalapeños or ground fresh chili paste (Sambal Oelek) on my own plate. It is a more versatile recipe and suits more palates if you leave the level of spiciness up to each individual eater.


15 oz. (one can) pre-cooked black beans
15 oz. (one can) pre-cooked pinto beans or kidney beans
15 oz. (one can) diced tomatoes or two large chopped fresh tomatoes
8 oz. nopales (cactus) chopped (about half a jar of nopales strips)
1 sweet red bell pepper chopped
½ c. onion chopped (or substitute 2 tsp. onion powder)
¼ c. olive oil
1 bunch cilantro chopped fine (use 2 bunches if you love cilantro)
2 tbsp. red wine (Merlot works well)
2 cloves garlic crushed
2 tsp. coriander
2 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. cumin
salt and pepper to taste


Chop the red bell pepper and onion, crush the garlic cloves, and sauté these together in the olive oil until just soft. Then mix in the tomatoes, red wine, and herbs and allow to simmer on low temperature, covered, for 7 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the nopales and beans. (If you love onions, you may wish to put more onions in the pot. And if you love peppers, try adding a half a green pepper also.)

I buy nopales strips in a jar. I have never attempted to cook with fresh nopales. The trick to nopales is to remove the slime from it and this is easy to do. Simply wash the nopales by placing it into a colander and running water over it while tossing it with your hands. You will be able to feel and see when the slime dissipates. Keep rinsing it until it looks and feels appealing, more rubbery than slimy. Then chop it into pieces about a quarter of an inch long.

You are welcome to cook your beans from scratch, but what a lot of work! This recipe tastes terrific with canned beans and they are so easy. There is a nifty trick to cooking with canned beans. You can reduce their gassiness by rinsing them. Just toss them into a colander and run water over them until they stop making bubbles. The human digestive system will produce gas from beans no matter what, but if you eat beans fairly often then you will experience less gas when you eat them. And if you rinse them before throwing them into the pot then you will reduce the gas even more.

So now you have your nopales and your beans ready for the pot. Toss them in and put the lid back on. Allow everything to stew together on a low temperature until the beans are nice and hot, about 5-7 minutes. Meanwhile, rinse and finely chop the cilantro. One bunch of cilantro will do the trick; however, if you love cilantro, you can do 2 bunches. When the other ingredients are all nice and hot, add the cilantro and put the lid back on to steam the cilantro down. This will only take a couple of minutes. As soon as the cilantro goes limp, but before it loses its bright green color, stir it into the beans and veggies. Now it’s ready to serve.

This dish goes well with a Mexican meal as a substitute for refried beans. These beans work well in a burrito, with quesadillas, or as a side dish for a larger meal featuring meat. This is a terrific dish to take to potluck dinners. You may choose to serve the beans with grated cheese to sprinkle on top, with sour cream, and/or with guacamole. As for spiciness, if you like spicy then try this dish with some ground fresh chili paste (Sambal Oelek), jalapeños, salsa, or chopped chilies. If you are preparing it for people who all like hot spicy food, then you can cook some chopped chilies into it or add a teaspoon of hot red pepper flakes.

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