“I made something vegan!” This is what I exclaimed about an hour after I piled all of the ingredients for this dish into the slow cooker, just as the delicious smoky smell of paprika and cumin began wafting into the living room. Frankly, I was taken by surprise.
You can probably tell by my reaction that we don’t do too many vegan meals around here. The truth is that sometimes I find delicious-sounding vegan recipes, and then inevitably un-veganize them by adding a pat of butter, or substituting chicken stock for water, or heck, adding a few pieces of bacon. Just a few. But this time I had actually done it. I made something completely chock-full of non-animal based goodness.
I immediately started worrying that I should have added a slice of bacon for just a little flavor, which was so silly, now that I’ve tried these beans. They are incredibly flavorful, thanks in large part to all the wonderfully smoky, rich spices that have a nice long time to soak into the beans and make a thick, rich broth. They don’t need bacon. Strange, I know.
There are a lot of things I like about this ragout. I like that it doesn’t call for pre-soaking the beans. I am not so great at pre-mediated bean-soaking. I like that it’s a crock pot meal, because I like throwing everything in one big pot at the beginning of the day and then feeling like I’m ahead of the game all day. I also like that I can serve this one night as a side with Cochinita Pibil or tacos or grilled something-or-other, and then have it for lunch the next day, piled on top of garlic toasts and topped with all kinds of good things, and it seems like a whole different meal. I like versatility in a ragout, don’t you?
I also kind of love that I have a vegan dish up my sleeve. It makes me feel very prepared. Prepared for, um… dinner party emergencies? Are there such a thing? Do I even have dinner parties? Not really. But if I did, and there was a vegan in attendance, I’d be set.
And yes, I do realize that making the cumin crema to top it all off makes it not-vegan. I also realize that serving this as a side dish for mexican braised pork is kind of beside the point for a vegan dish. But I don’t care, because this black bean ragout is just plain good eats.
Smoky Slow-Cooker Black Bean Ragout
For the pickled onions, I use the ones from this recipe. But really, equal parts vinegar and water, with a pinch of sugar and pinch of salt, poured over red onion slices will do the trick.
adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook (which rocks, by the way)
1 large onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground chipotle powder or cayenne
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 lb dried black beans, rinsed
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons table salt
8 cups water (or stock)
1 TB lime juice
1 inch slices of good bread
1 garlic clove, cut in half
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 cup sour cream
Pickled onions, diced
Put all ingredients in your slow cooker. Cook on high until beans are very tender, approximately 6-8 hours. Add in lime juice and stir. (Note: Slow cookers vary greatly in their cooking temps, so times may vary.
To make the cumin crema, mix the sour cream and cumin in a small bowl and refrigerate until ready to use.
When ready to serve, preheat your broiler. Brush bread slices with olive oil and place on a baking sheet. Broil until toasted, and then take them out of the oven and rub the tops with the cut side of the garlic clove.
Ladle a spoonful of beans on top of the toasts, then top with crema, cilantro, and pickled onion.
*Alternatively, skip the toasts, crema, and other toppings and serve these beans as a side dish alongside meat, chicken, or fish.