Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Quick Beans and Greens

Black Beans with Red Swiss Chard
Sometimes--quite often, in fact--the dishes you make in a hurry are among the best ever. I think it has to do with being in what Japanese martial artists refer to as mushin, or "no mind," an uncontrived state of awareness in action that doesn't rely on form or artifice, but on flow and muscle memory. You're too in the moment to stop and analyze, so instead of thinking about it, you just do it.

To be honest, I did think a little. I picked a bunch of red Swiss chard, and decided how I would use it. After that, it was just playtime. I sautéed a diced onion in a little EVOO, then added the stems of the Swiss chard, also diced, and a couple of cloves of garlic, minced. I let them cook for a few minutes, stirring just a bit to keep them from sticking. Once the vegetables were glistening and very fragrant, I added the leaves, coarsely chopped, and stirred until they wilted. Then I added about a cup of cooking liquid from a batch of black beans, a little salt, Spanish smoked paprika, ground chile pasilla, and chipotle chile puree.

As soon as I got it bubbling happily over a moderate heat, I went about preparing the rest of the meal, which consisted of leftover quinoa with corn and zucchini (yum!) and steamed beets, broccoli stems, kabocha squash, and broccoli tops (the latter added for the last seven minutes of steaming). I had actually started the beets beforehand, because they take a bit of time to cook, so by the time I had all this sorted out, the Swiss chard mixture was tender and ready for the last step. I added about two cups of cooked black beans, warmed them through, and that was that.

This was a very hearty, satisfying little concoction--mouth-wateringly spicy, nicely complex. Beans bring with them a profound sense of "home" for me, probably because I grew up in Mexico, a nation where beans are central to both diet and culture. And greens, well, greens are just what my body loves most. The chile is gratuitous, completing the bean experience, sparking up the endorphins, and filling my mouth, mind, and heart with joy.


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