Julia Turshen’s New Cookbook, Best Black Beans with Avocado Salad Recipe & a List of Tips and Tools

Julia Turshen’s new cookbook just came out- Simply Julia: 110 Easy Recipes for Healthy Comfort Food.  I love her book, Small Victories and have used many of the recipes on repeat in my kitchen. I wrote about her perfect eggs HERE. Julia is a very accomplished cook and recipe writer. She is also a very kindhearted and approachable guide in the kitchen. Her new book has a lot of hearty meals and nods to foods from her family, friends and history, along with advice and her famous lists. I have made 3 recipes so far and they have all been winners.

This one exceeded my expectations, and I can’t wait to make it again.  A pot of black beans may sound fairly mundane, but the seasoning, and garlic makes these special.

I made a list, as I was making these, of some tips and tools for you to consider. I’m following Julia’s lead with her Simple Victories cookbook, where she shares simple ideas and techniques that make a big difference. She likes lists and so do I!

A list of tips and tools to consider:

  • An Instant Pot can make a bag of less than $2 black beans into 5 cups of beans with hardly any work and less than an hour of cook time start to finish. (I cooked the beans while we got ready for work/school and that part was done.) If you are on the fence about adding another large, costly trendy appliance to your kitchen, I would suggest you think about getting an Instant Pot. We make steel cut oats, this soup, and beans in it regularly.
  • A trash bowl is one of our new habits in the kitchen, inspired by Bri McCoy who was inspired by Rachel Ray. You may already do this, but we haven’t until recently. In recipes where you are prepping lots of produce, put a bowl on your counter to dump all of your peelings, seeds, cores, trash. If you compost, you can dump the bowl in your compost, if you don’t (we currently aren’t) then dump it in the trash. It’s stupid simple but makes a difference in prepping.
the Trash Bowl in action
  • Trader Joe’s Elote Corn Chips If you live near a Trader Joe’s and haven’t tried these, and you like fritos and some kick, they are just so delicious. And gluten free.
  • Neoprene for peeling garlic  I personally don’t have a tool for this, but having seen people use a neoprene tool for peeling garlic (the worst part of using fresh garlic in my opinion), I thought I would try using my neoprene oven mitt. It worked like a charm, peeling 20 cloves of garlic for my doubling of this recipe. Here is one from Crate and Barrel if you don’t already have something made of neoprene rubber that you could use instead.
  • Deep bowls My family teases me because I love these bowls so much. It’s a long story that I won’t bore you with, but these bowls from Crate and Barrel are used most days in my house. We have the low, salad bowls and these 8 inch ones. They are clean, simple and classic. They make serving food easy, and they are big enough to hold a lot, but don’t look oversized if your bowl is not filled. (And they are affordable!)

Best Black Beans with Avocado Salad

These beans are Puerto Rican inspired with a sofrito giving them all the flavor. (I talked about different cultures having their sofrito equivalent HERE). Julia has them paired with a fresh, simple avocado salad- somewhere between garnish and salad. A very nice addition! The first night I served them over rice. For lunch the next day, I included some shredded lettuce and Elote Corn Chips from Trader Joe’s to scoop it up.

Best Black Beans with Avocado Salad

For the Beans:

1 ½ cups dried black beans

2 bay leaves

For the Sofrito:

1 large yellow onion, roughly chopped

1 green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and roughly chopped

10 garlic cloves, peeled (YES…10!)

2 tsp. ground cumin

2 tsp. dried oregano

2 tsp. smoked paprika (Pimentón)

Kosher salt

¼ cup olive oil

For the Salad:

2 ripe avocados, peeled, pitted and thinly sliced

Kosher salt (or I served it with my fancy Maldon Sea Salt flakes for fun)

2 medium ripe tomatoes cut into wedges (or I sliced grape tomatoes)

½ small red onion, thinly sliced into half moons

2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar

2 Tbsp. olive oil

Make the Beans- you can do this on the stove top or if you have an instant pot, use it!

If stove top:

Place the black beans and bay leaves in a large heavy pot (such as a Dutch Oven) and cover with cold water. Bring the mixture to a boil and then immediately turn the heat to low so that it gently simmers.  Simmer the beans, stirring them every so often and adding water if needed to keep them covered, until they are very tender, anywhere from 1-3 hours (the exact time depends on how old your beans are).

Once the beans are tender, drain the beans, reserving 1 cup of their liquid and drain the rest. Discard the bay leaves. Wipe the pot dry and hang onto it as you are about to cook the sofrito in it.

If using an Instant Pot:

Add beans, 4 1/2 cups water and bay leaves to Instant Pot.

Secure lid, press Pressure Cook on High setting, and set time for 30 minutes. Make sure the pressure valve is closed. It will take ~8 minutes to pressurize and then the cooking will begin.

When the Instant Pot timer goes off, set a separate timer for 20 minutes and allow the steam to release naturally. (The timer on the pot will begin to count up, but won’t alert you when it reaches 20 minutes of natural release, thus setting a timer, or keeping your eye on the pot.)

Carefully remove lid.

Once the beans are tender, drain the beans, reserving 1 cup of their liquid and drain the rest. Discard the bay leaves.

Meanwhile, make the sofrito

Place the onion, bell pepper, garlic, cumin, oregano, Spanish paprika, and 1 tsp. salt in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped (you’re not looking for a smoothie, you’re just making life easier for yourself by not finely chopping everything by hand).  Though if you don’t have a food processor, you can finely chop by hand.

Place the olive oil in a large heavy pot (the one you used to make the beans if you cooked them on the stove top).  Add the chopped veggies and cook, stirring now and then, until the vegetables almost melt into each other and the whole mixture is thick and rich, about 12 minutes.  Stir in the beans and cup of reserved cooking liquid. Season to taste with additional salt as needed.

Next, make the salad

Place the avocado slices on a platter, season with a big pinch of salt, top with sliced tomatoes and red onion. Season those with salt. Drizzle with the vinegar and oil.  [When I served it, I made it more of a side by side platter and had people build their own salad on top or beside their bowl of rice and beans.]

You can serve this dish with rice, tortillas, or corn chips.

The beans keep well and easily double. We doubled the recipe and ate them all week!

Next on my list to try from this cookbook are her White Pizza-Style Kale- a roasted Kale dish with ricotta cheese dollops and flavors of white pizza and Everything Bagel Hand Pies– like a breakfast calzone meets an everything bagel.

P.S. I found this handy conversion chart when I was trying to get my head around dry beans-> cooked beans and how they compare with canned beans.

2 cups dried beans = 5 cups cooked beans

1 (15-ounce) can = 1 ½ cups cooked beans

3 thoughts on “Julia Turshen’s New Cookbook, Best Black Beans with Avocado Salad Recipe & a List of Tips and Tools

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