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Colombian-style beans bring party to table even if it’s party of two

Colombian-style black beans with potatoes and plantains is a simple dish that is deeply spiced and satisfying.  (Rey Lopez/For the Washington Post)
Colombian-style black beans with potatoes and plantains is a simple dish that is deeply spiced and satisfying. (Rey Lopez/For the Washington Post)
By Joe Yonan Washington Post

I have a thing for bean dishes. Did you know? If you’re a regular reader, of course you did: After all, I wrote a cookbook devoted to the topic. But what you might not realize is that after I turned in the manuscript of 125 recipes a few years ago, I took a break of only about a few weeks – and then started looking for more.

I’ve cooked bean dishes, traditional and not so much, that hail from every continent and dozens of countries, and I haven’t gotten tired of them yet. A Twitter follower summed it up in a flattering way just the other day: “Forget plant-based, I basically have a bean-based diet now,” he wrote, giving me all the credit. “I’m a yonanite.”

So here’s my latest offering to him and the rest of you bean-based eaters out there: a simple dish of black beans, potatoes and plantains, deeply spiced and so satisfying as we head into the heart of soup and stew season. It’s from Edgar Castrejón’s beautiful new book, “Provecho,” and comes to him courtesy of his partner’s Colombian mother.

Some Colombians might take issue with the recipe, given that it includes no pork, but that shouldn’t stop anybody from making it, as it’s deeply flavored by a smart combination of cumin, garlic powder and smoked paprika. Plus, the plantains add just a touch of sweetness that goes so well with the earthy beans.

As Castrejón writes, his partner’s mother told him that these beans aren’t just a staple in Colombia, but “it’s not a real party without them.” I haven’t been hosting many parties lately, but I consider this just the thing for a party of two: my husband and me, far from Colombia but loving these bowls of beans nonetheless.

If you make it, I’ll tell you what I told my new Twitter friend in response to his dietary declaration: “Welcome to my world.”

Colombian-Style Black Beans With Potatoes and Plantains

Mexican American cookbook author Edgar Castrejón often serves this with rice and a chickpea stew, but it’s so hearty it can easily be a meal unto itself. Feel free to use beans you’ve cooked from dried with this; the dish will be even richer and more flavorful.

2 tablespoons avocado, sunflower or another vegetable oil

1 large white onion, cut into ½-inch cubes

2 small russet potatoes, scrubbed and cut into ½-inch cubes

2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, one drained and one undrained (or 3 cups home-cooked beans plus ½ cup cooking liquid)

2 Roma tomatoes, cut into ½-inch cubes

1 large green or pale yellow plantain, peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes

1 cup low-sodium or homemade vegetable broth

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons garlic powder

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 teaspoon fine sea or table salt, plus more to taste

In a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat, heat the oil until it shimmers. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until translucent, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the potatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until they pick up a little color, about 4 minutes. Add the beans and their liquid, tomatoes, plantain, broth, cumin, garlic powder, paprika and salt.

Increase the heat to bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce it to medium-low, cover and cook until the potatoes and plantains are tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Taste, and season with more salt, as needed. Serve hot.

Storage notes: The beans can be refrigerated for up to 1 week or frozen for up to 3 months.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

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