black bean and farro tacos

Black Beans and Farro Tacos, to celebrate The International Year of Pulses

The United Nations declared 2016 “The International Year of Pulses“, and I learned that dried beans, peas and lentils are called pulses.

Beans, peas and lentils are the back bone of a Colombian diet. Each of my aunts and my mother have claimed fame to one of them as the best lentil maker, or the best pinto bean maker, in the family. I learned to make lentil soup from my mother, as she was crowned queen of lentils long before I could walk.

So, it was only fair that I carried that with me into my married life, something my anglo-saxon husband hesitated to accept the first time I cooked lentils. “Lentils? why?” was his reaction, all I could think was “who doesn’t like lentils?” A similar question when I bought our first pressure cooker, “What for?” he asked, “For beans to cook quicker?” For me, it was incomprehensible a kitchen without one, a pressure cooker that is.

The choo choo of a pressure cooker meant a kitchen in action. Yes, I did eventually break my cooker and used canned beans for years. To my defense, I was trying not to be “too Colombian” on my poor boy. Unfortunately, some things never change and the pressure cooker is back in the kitchen. A new version {a bit fancy, I must admit} I’m still trying to figure out.

The vast variety of pulses found at the food store is more than I’d ever seen, even my mother was astounded when I took her there and showed her mung beans, adzuki beans, black “caviar” lentils, and more, much more.

vegetarian bean and farro tacos

All those varieties are more reasons to keep cooking and experimenting with new recipes and meat-less ideas of casual favorites like burritos, tacos or nachos, even though I’m not a spicy food lover {I use spices for flavor, but not for heat}, I like to make variations of what we call here Mexican food.

For this recipe, I used black beans, which I soaked overnight and pressure cooked for 35-40 minutes, because I love their flavor and creamy texture; and quick cooking farro because of its chewy “meaty” texture and its chameleon ability to absorb any flavors. You can substitute for quick cooking barley or even wheat berries, all three are similar and taste and texture.

cooking farro

Smoked paprika and roasted red peppers added that something that makes meat meals extra rich. The charred smokiness of an open flame.
Roasting peppers at home is a quick endeavor, as my dandy hand model shows us below.

Roasted red peppers at home:
1- Char pepper over the stove’s open flame, turning it around to get all sides. It might spark here and there because of the juice drippings, but they pose no harm.
2- Once charred all around, place in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap (not pictured) and let it rest for 5-10 minutes. This steams the pepper and makes for easy peeling

roasting red peppers

3- Peel and rinse the pepper, remove the top and with it the ribs and seeds. The pepper is now ready to slice or dice

roasted red pepper

cleaning roasted red peppers

home roasted red peppers

Another layer of flavor came with the help of caramelized onions, I know what you’re thinking “more steps for some tacos?”, but I’m telling you it’s worth it. The cooked onions bring the spicy sweetness that makes sausage with peppers and onions so delicious.
Cook the onions at medium-low heat so they ‘sweat’ and become sweet, rather than fry and burn, with a sprinkle of salt and black pepper.

caramelized onions

Root vegetables make the perfect topping this time of the year. Their bright colors add a festive hue to the rather brown meal, plus a textural level of crunch, sweetness and spice that enlightens the spices in the beans.

radishes and beets

Celebrating beans, peas and lentils is the most exciting food news I’ve heard in a while. They’re inexpensive; good for the environment by infusing nitrogen to the soil; full of healthful proteins, antioxidants, low in fats, high in fiber; and they’re delicious and versatile; plus now I’m not the only weird kid who loves to cook them at least three times a week.

Here are some other recipes with pulses

Black Beans and Farro Tacos and Nachos

This recipe is hearty and full of flavor thanks to the spices, the roasted red pepper and the caramelized onions. Beans and grains benefit greatly from flavorful broths, as they are sponges ready to absorb anything from cumin, to curry to smoked paprika or chili powder. Beans are simple to cook, despite the time the take to soften, which is reduced if they’re soaked a few hours or overnight and pressured cooked.

1 cup dried beans, soaked for 8 hours or overnight in 4 cups of water
1 cup pearl quick cooking farro
1 red pepper, roasted
1 sweet onion
2 garlic cloves, 1 cut in half and mashed, 1 minced
1 bay leaf, broken in half – divided to add to the beans and farro
1 1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika – or substitute for chili powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Cilantro, green onions and root vegetables for topping

Cook the soaked beans in 3 cups of water with 1/4 of the onion, 1/2 garlic clove smashed, 1/2 teaspoon salt, black pepper and cumin; and 1/2 bay leaf, until tender – let cool and strain, save the liquid.

Cook the farro in 2 cups of water with t1/4 of the onion, 1/2 garlic clove, salt and pepper, bay leaf, let cool and strain

Roast the pepper, and slice

Slice and caramelized the rest of the onion in 1 1/2 tablespoon of oil, for 8-10 minutes over medium-low heat

Add the strained beans and farro to the onions, add the sliced red pepper, minced garlic, 1 teaspoon cumin, both paprikas, turmeric, oregano, black pepper and salt.

Add 1 cup of the bean cooking liquid and bring the mixture to a gentle simmer. Cook for 8-10 minutes to incorporate the flavor.

Meanwhile, cut the yellow beet and radish into matchsticks and toss with 1 teaspoon of fresh cilantro, a sprinkle of salt and pepper and a squeeze of lime juice.

Serve the filling over tortillas or taco shells with the beet and radish salad and avocado (if available)

The chefs over at America’s Test Kitchen have a great article on cooking beans and the possible problems and solutions.

~ Paulavegetarian bean tacos

2 thoughts on “Black Beans and Farro Tacos, to celebrate The International Year of Pulses”

  1. love the colors of your pictures.
    Paula I can see you put so much time and effort and passion in doing your blog. I want to thank you for doing this. It means a lot for me every week to receive this generous gift of yoru self and the sharing of many years of chefing.

    This recipe is my project this weekend. I will do some pastels , relax and cook your recipe. Merci

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