How often do you get invited to a party and have no idea what to bring? I often find myself standing in the kitchen, staring at my refrigerator, wondering what I should make. I think of friends who will be attending the party and their dietary needs. One has a nut allergy. One has a severe gluten allergy. Another is a vegetarian and also allergic to mushrooms. Several are on high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets.
I want to be sure all my friends are happy and can eat the things I make. Many times, this leads me to making black bean recipes. Why?
- They're packed with protein and fiber. Meat is great, but with no fiber, it's digested quickly, leaving you hungry later. Black beans contain a good amount of protein and fiber, plus most canned black beans are vegetarian, making them great for the high-protein friend and the friend who doesn't eat meat. When you're cooking with black beans, nutrition is one less worry.
- They're versatile. You might call black beans the little black dress of the food world. The can be served simply on their own or dressed up in a gourmet dish. They pair with flavors as far-ranging as Mediterranean, Hispanic, Italian and African cuisines. Cooking black beans is easy – they're hearty in soups and stews in the winter and light in salads in the summer. Simmer them with spices for a savory side dish in the cooler months or mix them with fresh summer vegetables.
- Canned black beans are less time-intensive. Canned black beans make life easier, especially when you're in a hurry. Instead of soaking beans and switching water multiple times, then cooking them, they're ready to go. Most canned black beans also come pre-salted, adding extra flavor to your dish.
- They are great for many dietary needs. It's pretty hard these days to come up with a dish that everyone can eat, but black beans — paired with vegetables and seasoning, like black bean salad, salsa, dip, soup or chili — can be something everyone can share. There are even reduced-sodium varieties of black beans for those watching their salt levels.
- They're fun. It's fun to step out of the tried and true every once in a while. Do you always bring the same pasta salad to picnics or the same guacamole dip to the Super Bowl? Try something different: add black beans to your chili or to your favorite salsa recipe for some extra protein and texture. Normally do bruschetta with tomatoes, basil and onions? Black beans go well in that mix, too. Grilling out? Make your black bean burgers instead of the usual hamburgers or hot dogs.
Whether you're accommodating dietary needs or just trying to eat a bit more healthfully, black beans add protein, variety and fun to any savory dish.