Some days you have the time to leisurely cook a sack of dried beans the way they did in the olden days, linen apron blowing in the gentle breeze, the faraway shout of children tumbling down the heather-topped hill echoing faintly back to your gorgeously rustic, yet well-appointed kitchen; other days, you are so frantic and stressed that even the MERE IDEA of turning on the flame to get dinner started is enough to give you a nervous breakdown. On those days, you need this cheesy black bean bake in your repertoire, because it barely counts as cooking and yet delivers a pretty bang-up meal in basically seconds, PLUS you get to eat it with rice if it's not the worst absolute day of your week OR tortilla chips if it is the worst absolute day of your week. And it is so satisfying and delicious that it'll make you feel just fine about dialing it in.
You probably have all the ingredients for it in your pantry/fridge as we speak, but truly the most essential ingredient is one that isn't listed here and that is the cold beer that you must must must have on hand to drink with dinner. It makes the bean bake all the more delicious, PLUS if you're having the kind of day that warrants this meal for dinner, then the cold beer is even more important. (Alternatively, a margarita; I don't know your life.)
Hugo, as I may have mentioned in the past—and forgive me if I continue to harp on it in the future, but I reserve the right to complain about certain aspects of my children's characters and disliking melted cheese DEFINITELY counts as a (slight) character flaw in my book—dislikes melted cheese. The melted cheese on top of these beans is absolutely crucial, I find, but if you simply scoop the beans out from under the cheese, you can procure cheeseless beans for these kinds of picky eaters, as well as having extra cheese for the rest of you who are sane enough to realize that melted and burnished cheddar should be its own food group.
If you're organized enough to have a ripe avocado on hand, you could do worse than slicing it up and serving it with the beans and chips or beans and rice. Pickled onions would also be a lovely touch! Neither of them ever happen in my house, because I reserve this bake for the days when I AM LOSING MY MIND and those days do not include the possibility of pickled onions or cubed avocado. But maybe you are more capable than me.
As I write this, International Women's Day is drawing slowly to a close. A couple years ago, Berlin's government declared this day a holiday and I am still not over how furious this makes me. As my bestie Marguerite Joly succinctly puts it:
"My wish list for International Women's Day is so long and does not feature a state-mandated holiday. How about equal pay, legal access to abortion, tax-free hygiene products and a side of acknowledgment of women's mental load for starters?!! I do not want [gratitude] or flowers or a gd holiday; I want immediate inclusion and equality, justice and equity for all women of all colors, socio-economic backgrounds and all sexual orientations and abilities."
Amen, sister. With that I leave you to go chill my beer for tonight's viewing of an American actress and Diana's heir taking down the British monarchy.
Ali Slagle's Cheesy Black Bean Bake
Serves 3 to 4
Print this recipe!
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
5 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
4 tablespoons tomato paste
1 ½ teaspoons smoked paprika
¼ teaspoon red-pepper flakes (can be left out if you're cooking for heat-sensitive palates)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 (14-ounce/400 gram) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
½ cup/120ml boiling water
Salt and black pepper
1 ½ cups/170 grams grated Cheddar cheese
1. Heat the oven to 475°F/245°C. In a 10-inch ovenproof skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high. Fry the garlic until lightly golden, about 1 minute. Stir in the tomato paste, paprika, red-pepper flakes and cumin (be careful of splattering), and fry for 30 seconds, reducing the heat as needed to prevent the garlic from burning.
2. Add the beans, water and generous pinches of salt and pepper, and stir to combine. Sprinkle the cheese evenly over the top then bake until the cheese has melted, 5 to 10 minutes. If the top is not as browned as you’d like, run the skillet under the broiler for 1 or 2 minutes. Serve immediately.