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Black Bean Pilaf with Cilantro Lime Dressing

Let it be known, I am a bean freak! I have never met a bean I didn’t love (though I’ve met a few who did not love me). I eat some sort of bean or legume every day (told you I was a freak) whether in soups, salads, sautes or casseroles. Beside their fantastic flavor, beans always make the Top 10 Healthiest foods list with their high protein and fiber content. These scrumptious staples can be put into almost any dish and yet many people suffer from what I call “bean bashfulness”. That is, they deem beans too difficult to cook and therefore are bashful and subsequently unfamiliar with the beautiful bean’s many uses.

I say this coming from a place of empathy because about 5 years ago I was in a full “bean bashfulness” flare-up. At the time I was 95% vegan (I ate fish twice a month) and used only tofu as my main source of protein. “Beans take too long,” I complained. “First you soak them then cook them and when done, you’re stuck with a giant pot of beans. What do you do with that?” Oh, naive little Jamie! But heck, what did I know about beans? The only beans I grew up eating were hidden in hummus and split pea soup or lovingly refried in lard and served up with menudo by my Mexican neighbors. (Who, by the way, called me skinny-bone Jones and claimed my mother was starving me to death!) The point is, I was at a bean loss and perfectly happy to stay there. As a side note, while eating countless blocks of processed tofu, I experienced uncomfortable stomach aches and flatulence. “Couldn’t be the tofu”, I blindly decided. “The stuff is WAY too healthy.” Then one day I ran out of tofu and was forced to make lentils for my lunch and dinner. I had bought the lentils a few months prior at an attempt to branch out, which never happened.

The outcome was astonishing. Besides realizing how easy and delicious lentils were to make, I had no stomach distress all day. Unbelievable! After that I cut out processed tofu and replaced it with every type of whole bean and lentil I could find. My favorite beans now are heirloom varietals that have a rich smoky flavor and creamy texture I’ve never experienced with any other type of bean. Yes, standard black, pinto, and garbanzo are good too. Heirlooms just make the dish a bit more special.

I recently made this dish for a pot luck where all the guests were parents. I could barely make out the oohs and aahs from the satisfied tasters over the cacophonous noise of children’s screams, grunts, and I think, a few howls. Though I had liberated these “bean bashfulness” sufferers with my pilaf I couldn’t help but notice my own “conceiving cowardice” begin to grow. However, that’s for another entry!

Black Bean Pilaf with Cilantro Lime Dressing

Feel free to used alternative grains that you like. Mixing in brown rice with the quinoa works wells and adds a nice texture.

Serves 4 as a side dish

  • 1 1/2 cups quinoa, picked over, rinsed and drained
  • 3 cups of water
  • 1 1/2 cups Eden canned black beans, rinsed, drained and quickly blanched for 1 minute (If experimenting with heirloom beans, go for the Midnight Black Beans)
  • 1 1/2 cups leftover cooked dino kale (you can also use broccoli, green beans, or swiss chard)
  • 4 scallions, chopped
  • 1/3 cup tamari roasted pumpkin seeds

Cilantro Lime Dressing

  • 5 tbsp. fresh lime juice
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 1/4 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

In a medium pot, add in quinoa, water, and a pinch of sea salt. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook for 16 minutes. Transfer the quinoa to a ceramic/glass bowl and let cool for a few minutes. Add in the beans, greens, and scallions.

For the dressing, use a small bowl and whisk together the lime juice, salt, cumin, and cilantro. Then add the oil in a continuous stream, making sure to continue whisking. Drizzle the dressing over the pilaf and mix well. Add in a bit more salt to taste in you desire. Top with pumpkin seeds and serve. Enjoy!

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