Healthy Refried Beans
1 pound dried black or red beans, picked over*
1 small onion, quartered
2 cloves garlic
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons canola oil
½ medium onion, grated
1 small jalapeno, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, smashed
Cooked beans (from above)
2 cups reserved bean cooking liquid
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
Kosher salt and pepper
Cotija or queso fresco, crumbled
¼ cup cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
For the Cooked Beans:
1. Put the beans in a large saucepan, cover with cold water by 2 inches, and bring to a boil over high heat. When the water boils, remove the saucepan from the heat, cover, and let sit for 1 hour. Drain the beans in a colander, rinse and drain again, and return to the pot. (Alternately, cover dried beans with 2 inches of cold water and let soak overnight before draining and rinsing.)
2. Add enough water to cover the beans (again) by 2 inches, and add the onion, garlic and bay leaves. Using a paring knife, make a small slit on the side of the jalapeño and add to the pot. Bring the beans to a boil over high heat then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the beans are tender, anywhere between 1½ and 2 hours (depending on the dryness of the beans), adding more water if needed.
3. Halfway through the cooking time, add the salt. When the beans are softened, remove 2 cups of the cooking liquid from the beans and set aside. Drain the beans in a colander and discard the onion, garlic, bay and chile. Let the beans cool slightly, about 15 minutes.
For the Refried Beans:
Heat the oil in a large nonstick pan or cast iron skillet over medium heat, until it begins to shimmer. Add the onion, jalapeño and garlic cloves and cook until soft, about 2 minutes. Remove and discard garlic cloves. Add the beans and ¼ cup of the cooking liquid, and start to mash them (using a potato masher) into a coarse puree. Continue cooking until heated through, adding more of the reserved cooking liquid if the mixture becomes too dry. Season the beans with cumin, salt and pepper. Serve topped with cheese and chopped cilantro leaves.
*Small stones or pebbles often make their way into dried beans – they do grow in the ground, after all, and the two can be hard to distinguish from one another! Biting down on a pebble is not a pleasant experience, so don’t skip this step. Pour the beans out on a sheet pan and pick out any stones, pebbles, or wrinkled and/or shriveled beans before rinsing, draining, and proceeding with the recipe.