What to Do With All Those Canned Black Beans You’ve Inadvertently Stockpiled

June 6, 2024
Dining & Wine
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A couple of weeks ago, the hoarder in me sought empathy from the hoarder in you with a newsletter about “chickpea anxiety” — that impulse to grab an insurance can every time you grocery shop for fear of running out of chickpeas. From the looks of my inbox, suffice to say many of us struggle to fight our stockpiling instincts.

“You might be interested to know that this is a known phenomenon,” Claire, a reader, wrote in an email. “A friend of mine, a market researcher who ran a lot of focus groups, told me about it years ago. It comes up again and again; she called it a ‘cupboard blind spot.’ Everyone’s got one and it’s always different, but always some random pantry staple.”

For quite some time, Claire’s blind spot was red lentils: “Bags and bags of the things.” And a few other pantry staples came up again and again in your emails and Instagram comments: canned tomatoes and tomato paste, coconut milk and black beans, black beans, black beans.

Here’s what to do with all sorts of canned tomatoes, how to use up that tomato paste and a few ways to make a dent in your canned coconut milk reserves.

But you need black bean recipes. Ali Slagle’s vegan coconut-ginger black beans, topped with a handful of crushed plantain chips and lots of lime zest, will pull several canned goods out of the pantry to make room for your latest purchases. You don’t need me to tell you to make rice and beans, but maybe you need me to tell you to make Ali’s one-pot rice and beans?

Sarah Copeland’s five-star recipe for cheese grits with saucy black beans, avocado and radish (above), complete with vegan substitutes, is exactly what I’d like to eat for breakfast when I’m egged-out. And get a load of Ali’s weeknight-friendly bean and cheese enchiladas, which call for canned black beans and canned fire-roasted tomatoes and canned chipotles in adobo. Your pantry won’t know what hit it.


View this recipe.


A recipe doesn’t have to call for black beans explicitly for you to toss ’em in. Yewande Komolafe’s caramelized plantains with beans, scallions and lemon is ripe for riffing. While she suggests navy, cannellini, black-eyed peas or butter beans, I’d gently heat canned black beans through on the stove with the onion and cayenne and olive oil in Step 3, then let them cool slightly before tossing them with lime juice and zest (instead of lemon) and proceeding with the rest of the recipe.

Speaking of the banana family: I leave you with one last reader note, from Laura, who had me in stitches with what she calls “banana insecurity” — she must have two fresh bananas in the house at all times.

“Chickpea anxiety, banana insecurity — let us embrace our quirks when it comes to making sure we always have (or can never remember if we have) certain ingredients in our homes!”

View this recipe.


I’m a huge fan of the “Letter of Recommendations” essays published in The New York Times Magazine, tiny celebrations of mundane fixations and relatable oddities alike. Every now and then, they take readers into the kitchen. Just this week, Sarah Khan wrote of divorce and the cookbook “Indian Delights,” “considered the definitive directory of South African Indian cookery for six decades.” In April, Iva Dixit wrote in defense of never learning how to cook. And last year, Raksha Vasudevan wrote of the ubiquity of the Danish Butter Cookie tin in immigrant households.

But I’d missed Sam Anderson’s essay, “I Recommend Eating Chips,” when it published in 2021. My colleague Krysten Chambrot sent it to me the other day, and I’ve read it several times since. It captures pandemic-era ennui — and the unbridled joy of eating Cool Ranch Doritos — beautifully: “Lean in, inhale that unmistakable bouquet: toasted corn, dopamine, America, grief!”

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