Sunday was a gorgeous, remarkably cool day in the Catskills and we visited some friends for a feast of a lunch. We didn’t have much time for dinner but I whipped up some fast and yummy “comfort food”. I have no idea what it should actually be called – “black bean grilled cheese” sounds about right (although not a sandwich).
My base was some unused black beans left over from Saturday night (an experiment with Poblano peppers that went horribly wrong – “don’t ask, don’t tell” is my policy for that dog’s breakfast kthxbye). Thankfully this meal came out delicious. Redemption! (although, smoked ham and a layer of melted jack cheese? what a shoo-in!)
Black Bean Grilled Cheese (for lack of a better name)
The following amounts served 2 and 1/4 people pretty well
Smoked ham, cubed, about a cup’s worth
Cooked black beans, about 1 1/2 to 2 cups
1/4 lb Monterey Jack cheese
1 tsp Ground cumin
1/2 tsp Paprika
Cut hickory smoked ham into 1/4 inch cubes. Heat a dash of olive oil in a cast iron frying pan (or a pan you can place in the oven) and lightly brown the ham, stirring regularly, on medium-high heat. Lower the heat and add a 1 1/2 cups of cooked black beans (pre-made or canned). Add 1/4 cup of water, then 1 tsp of ground cumin, 1/2 tsp of paprika, and some salt to taste.
Stir in the spices and let cook for about 5 to 10 minutes together, adding small amounts of water if needed – you want it moist but not soupy. Turn off the heat, and sprinkle grated monterey jack cheese over the top, and then add a light layer of breadcrumbs. Place the pan under the broiler to brown the cheese and breadcrumbs — depending on how close the pan is to the broiler heat, this can happen really quickly. This will melt the cheese and the toasted breadcrumbs will add a nice texture.
Note: if you are working with dried beans, you’ll need to start a couple of hours earlier. Place in a pot with a bay leaf (and/or half an onion), cover with water, and bring to a boil, then simmer for about 1 to 1.5 hours until tender. Keep an eye on the water level and add more if it falls below the top of the beans. I’ll also note that I almost never use bought breadcrumbs — rather I just put a couple of slices of farm bread in a food processor.
I served the black bean concoction with some roma beans from our local farm. I’d never cooked roma beans before, but they looked great and the nice lady at the farm stand said to treat them just like green beans. I nipped off the ends and boiled them for about 3 minutes and tossed with a small amount of salt and butter, and they were wonderful.