• Beans with a Latin Beat

    Some of the trendiest flavors on contemporary tables are coming from Latin America. And not just from Mexico, which has long influenced north-of-the-border menus, but from Peru, Brazil, Argentina and the Caribbean. Think mojitos and caipirinhasceviche and chimichurrisauce. Argentine steak restaurants, or churrascarias, are opening in major cities, and Chilean wines are riding high.

    Trend watchers say we have not seen the crest of this wave. To participate without much risk or expense, look to beans. They can provide the Latin accent to a roast chicken or pork chop, giving your customers the chance to explore within their comfort zone.

    For inspiration, let's take a Latin American tour, looking at a few of the principal bean dishes.

    From Mexico:

    • Frijoles borrachos: "drunken" pinto beans cooked with bacon, oregano and dark beer.
    • Sopa tarasca: Creamy pink bean or pinto bean soup garnished with fried tortilla strips and cubes of cheese.

    From Peru:

    • Tacu-tacu: a thick pan-fried cake of rice and beans, often topped with a fried egg.

    From Venezuela:

    • Mashed black beans served with arepas (thick corn cakes).

    From Chile:

    • Porotos granados: Cranberry beans stewed with tomato, winter squash, corn and paprika.

    From Brazil:

    • Feijoada: Black beans with smoked pork, sausages and pig's feet, served with rice and kale.
    • Feijão com Leite de Coco: pureed black beans with coconut milk anddendê oil.
    • Feijão em Salada: Great Northern beans, cooked and cooled, then dressed with tomato, bell pepper, onion, cilantro and vinaigrette.

    From Colombia:

    • Frijoles rojos: Pink beans cooked with ham, tomato, onions, and diced plantains.

    From Cuba:

    • Frijoles negros: Cubans rarely have a meal without black beans simmered with onion, bell pepper, cumin and oregano.
    • Moros y cristianos: Black beans simmered pilaf-style with white rice and cumin.