This is one of those dishes that once you know how to make it, you can't imagine ever using a recipe. But for those of you who haven't started your lifetime of beans yet, let's begin!
Bag of beans (pinto, black, red, brown, etc.)
Meat, if you want (kielbasa, chorizo, ground beef, ham, etc.)
The night before, put your beans in the pot and cover with water to 2 inches above beans. Shake in a little baking soda, and let them soak overnight.
The next day drain and rinse your beans and again add water to 2 inches above the beans. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Add 1 or 2 bay leaves and a teaspoon of salt. When they've been cooking for a while, cut up and brown your meat in another pan with a quarter of an onion, chopped. If it's not a fatty meat, add some oil. Put as much pepper as you want into this mix (1 teaspoon makes very spicy beans!), and let the pepper work into the fat or oil. Add the whole thing to your pot of beans. Adding the pepper this way really works it in- otherwise it will float on top, and get stuck to the sides of the pan. In Brazil, this is called a refogado.
Let beans simmer for a few hours- usually 4 or 5. I normally start the rinsing process around noon. If you run out of time, you can start these the same day by bringing to a boil and boiling for a few minutes and then letting them soak. Draining the rinse water off is a personal preference- I normally do it if I add the baking soda, but I find that if I don't drain it off it makes a heartier pot of beans. Your call. If you want the pot of beans thicker, take out a cup of beans once they're soft and mash them into a paste, and stir back in.
Serve with cornbread, or our favorite, pao de queijo (a Brazilian cheese bread.) Recipe to follow. Now go enjoy! And remember- if you don't start eating this stuff now, when the Big One hits (whatever it is) and you need to live off your food storage, you'll be one sad person! We serve it once a week, and it's my favorite night of the week! It's delicious, economical, and a complete no-brainer.