Peruvian beans with feta and roasted red peppers

It seems like a lot of people complain about vegetarian food because most of it feels like it should be a side dish. I guess I can kind of see where they’re coming from, but since side dishes have always been my favorite part of the meal anyway, I don’t mind. A bowl of beans may not seem like a solid dinner, but add in a salad and serve them over grains (to make a complete protein – score!) and it works pretty well.

Mike found Peruvian beans at Mexican grocery store in the Bay Area, and brought them home because he knew I’d figure out something to do with them (I like those challenges). They are pale yellow and about the size of kidney beans before cooking, and they look a lot like large navy beans after cooking. I just put these in the slow cooker with a bay leaf in the morning, and stirred in a little salt after I got home in the afternoon. Then I mixed up this ridiculously simple recipe, which is even quicker if you make the roasted red pepper ahead of time.

If you can’t find Peruvian beans or don’t want to deal with cooking dried beans, 2 cans of white beans would be fine here.

(adapted from Seasonal Cuisine)

1 1/2 cups dried Peruvian beans
8 cups water
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 red bell pepper
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced
3 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

Put the beans, water, and bay leaf in the slow cooker and cook on low for 6 hours, or until beans are tender. Stir in the salt, then set aside to cool (or refrigerate, if you won’t be cooking for an hour or more).

Preheat the broiler.

Cut the bell pepper in half, removing the seeds. Place on a greased baking sheet cut side down, and heat under the broiler until black and blistered. Remove the sheet from the oven and move the peppers to a plate. Cover with foil and let stand 10 minutes or until the peppers are cool enough to handle. Scrape off the skin and cut crosswise into strips. Set aside

Heat the oil in a large skillet, then add the onion. Saute until soft, 3-4 minutes. Stir in the beans, bell pepper, and 1/2 cup of cooking liquid from the beans. Cook until most of the liquid has evaporated, then salt to taste. Remove the pan from heat and stir in the feta and cilantro. Serve with tortillas or rice.

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