2-4-6-8 : 3-6

A recipe. Yes, the title of this post is a bunch of numbers, but it's also a recipe--a formula for success with black beans, specifically, a black bean salad. And that's not where the recipe ends. This is the first in a series of posts designed to help you cook one dish and show you how to use the leftovers in future meals. Ready? Here we go.

For a printable copy of this recipe, click here.

1 1/2 cups dry black beans
8-10 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt

Soak overnight, drain and fill the pot again with beans and 8-10 cups of fresh water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to medium or medium-high with the lid on the pot but somewhat slanted so that there's a place for the steam to escape. No salt yet, or the beans will harden and take longer to cook. They already take too long! Cooking black bean until they are al-dente tender will take anywhere from 1 1/2 hours to two and maybe even three hours. You just have to keep an eye on them and keep adding fresh water if there's not enough in the pot due to evaporation.

When the beans are done, scoop out one cup of cooking liquid and set aside. Drain the beans and pour them back into the pot along with the reserved liquid and the salt. Stir to season fully. Set aside to cool. The beans may be cooked ahead and stored in the refrigerator.

Black Bean Salad Extras and Dressing, a.k.a. 2-4-6-8: 3-6
The Extras:
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
4 tablespoons diced green pepper
6 tablespoons diced red onion
8 tablespoons diced tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Pour the beans and liquid into a bowl, top with all of the ingredients saving the tomatoes for the end. Set the tomatoes on top and sprinkle with the salt. This will draw out some of the tomato juice to help flavor the dressing. Set aside without mixing.

The Dressing:
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
6 tablespoons olive oil

Toss the beans with all of the extras. Pour the dressing ingredients directly on top of the beans and give one final toss. That's it! All on its own, this is a refreshing salad. Served it over hard boiled eggs, a piece of grilled fish or chicken and you have a perfectly delicious and nutritious dinner. Combine it with sliced avocado and your favorite lettuce and you've got another salad that's good enough to serve as a weeknight dinner.

This salad is so versatile that you could put it into a skillet with a bit of chicken or vegetable broth and cook it for about five minutes and then puree it with an immersion blender and ladle out a delicious black bean soup. Top with two tablespoons of queso fresco (easy to find, even in Wal Mart) and a few crumbled tortilla chips for a bit of contrast and there's your fast food after a long day at work!

This salad holds up really well. You can keep it in the refrigerator for up to a week.

My next post in this series will combine this salad with shrimp and soup.