In the early Middle Ages, to help prevent Catholic nuns from breaking their vowed celibacy, Saint Jerome forbid them to eat black beans. Lore had it that based on the way the legumes grew, they promoted fertility in women. And though the Law of Similarity is more anecdotal then verity black beans do contain the amino acid trypotphan, which relaxes the body and eases the mind from daily stress. Black beans grow nestled in a protective casing, resting like a child growing in its mother. Then, when large enough the bean emerges from it’s pod, glistening black like a smooth pond on a moonless night. Thrown in the bottom of a large pot of water the bean appears smooth like pebbles washed ashore. Once cooked, it becomes palatably plump adding meatiness to any dish.
Possibly, women were getting pregnant after nights of eating black beans due to the legumes nutritional content more than its physical similarity to a woman with child. Black beans contain protein, fiber and folate. Even if these beans don’t stir up strong feelings of desire in you, eat them for their protein. Unlike animal protein, beans digest quickly, so your body can take what its needs and continue at the task hand. I like to add garlic and cumin to black beans and serve along side eggs, rice, or corn tortillas then top with sour cream and avocado. Black beans can substitute oil in brownies, getting even the pickiest eater to devour this aphrodisiac. This month’s recipe, Stuffed Ancho Chilies is a show stopper at the dinner table. I find that this dish finishes faster and more efficiently if two people are working on it. Serve these peppers as an hor d’oeuvre at parties, or along a side salad that is covered in a lime dressing.
Black Bean Stuffed Ancho Chili Peppers
- 8 ancho chili pepper (large at least 3 ounces)
- 15 oz. can tomatoes with juice (can stewed)
- 3/4 pound Yukon gold potatoes (or any yellow potatoes)
- 1 12 oz. can black beans
- 1/2 tsp. cumin
- 3/4 pound monterey jack cheese
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- Rinse chiles, then cover with cold water in a bowl and soak, weighted with a full tea pot, brick or large stone (to keep submerged), until completely rehydrated (most will turn a brighter red), about 8 hours. Do not drain chiles.
- Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Remove 1 chile from soaking liquid and, working over a bowl and sieve, cut a slit down one side with scissors and let interior liquid and loose seeds drain into sieve and bowl. Carefully cut out seedpod, leaving stem intact and letting any easily loosened seeds fall into sieve, then arranging the chiles, cut sides up, in 1 layer in a 13-by 9- inch (3-quart) baking dish.
- Reserve 1 cup chile-soaking liquid for sauce. Turn chile seeds out of sieve in a shallow baking pan and spread evenly, then toast in oven, stirring occasionally until dry, fragrant, and a few shades darker, about 8 to 10 minutes. Cool seeds in pan on a rack, then finely grind in a grinder (you should have about 1 tablespoon).
- Puree tomatoes, including juice from can, in a blender with reserved soaking water, ground chile seeds, and 1/2 teaspoon salt until smooth, then transfer to a 3-quart heavy saucepan and boil, stirring occasionally, until sauce is thickened slightly and reduced to about 2 cups, 5 minutes.
- Roughly chop potatoes. Cook in a 3-quart pot of boiling salted water until tender, about ten minutes. Drain in a colander and rinse under cold water to stop cooking.
- Put potatoes, drained black beans,cumin, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/2 of the cheese into a large bowl and mash with the back of a fork or a potato masher.
- Fill chiles generously with stuffing (about 1/3 of a cup each, slit will not close over it). Pour sauce around (not over) chiles, then cover the peppers with the remaining cheese, top with fresh cracked black pepper.
- Bake until sauce is boiling over, and cheese is bubbly and golden, about 35 to 45 minutes.
- Serve warm.