I recently went to Oaxaca and Mexico City. Oaxaca is known for its mole and mezcal. I went to many of the notable restaurants there but my favorite meal was a simple breakfast a local woman made for us on our way to Hierve el Aqua, a petrified waterfall outside Oaxaca City.
But first, I thought it would be appropriate to master traditional frijoles or beans. In Mexico, black bean frijoles are spread on tortillas the way we spread mayo on a sandwich. I even had some on a Mexican pizza – the black beans were used instead of the tomato sauce and it was topped with avocado and cheese. Such an easy thing to make at home!
Black beans are high in fiber and are a great source of magnesium (good for your bones!) and a great vegetarian source of protein.
It’s best to use dried black beans if you want to make a batch but if you’re in a rush, you can substitute canned black beans.
PATI JINLICH’S FRIJOLES OAXAQUENOS
1 pound dried black beans rinsed
1 white onion halved
1 tablespoon kosher or coarse sea salt or to taste
A couple sprigs fresh epazote or cilantro
5 dried avocado leaves
3 dried chiles de arbol
2 tablespoons lard or vegetable oil
1/2 cup white onion finely chopped
For garnish queso fresco
For garnish ripe avocado
Place the black beans and the onion in a large soup pot or casserole and add enough water to cover by at least 2- to 3-inches. Bring to a rolling boil over high heat and cover with a lid, leaving it slightly open. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook for an hour to an hour and 15 minutes – making sure there is always sufficient water (if you need to add a cup, make sure it is boiling hot).
Once the beans are cooked and tender, add 1 tablespoon salt and a couple sprigs of fresh epazote or cilantro. Cook for another 15 minutes. Turn off heat.
In a hot comal or skillet set over medium heat, toast the avocado leaves and chiles de arbol for a couple of minutes until fragrant and browned, flipping as they toast. Remove from the heat. Break the leaves into pieces. Remove the stem from the chiles and break into pieces without discarding the seeds.
Working in batches if necessary, add the cooked beans and at least 1 1/2 cups of their cooking liquid (or add water if need be) to the jar of a blender, as well as the avocado leaves and chiles. Puree until a little chunky. In a large skillet or casserole set over medium-high heat, heat the lard or vegetable oil. Once hot, but not smoking, add the chopped onion. Cook until translucent and edges are beginning to brown, about 6 to 7 minutes. Incorporate pureed beans and reduce heat to medium. Cook, stirring occasionally, until they thicken to your liking. I cook them for about 10 to 12 minutes.