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  (African Fried Beans)

As far back as ancient Mesopotamia, onions were considered to be virtually a panacea. Well, they weren't too far from being right — onions are antibiotic, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, contain a powerful antioxidant (quercetin) which also acts as a sedative, and can lower your cholesterol. (Unfortunately, for some people, they can also aggravate heartburn or cause gas.) The greatest benefit is to be gained from raw onions, but even cooked onions have most of these beneficial properties to some degree.

Onions probably got into Central Africa by way of Egypt. As early as 3000 BC, Egyptian traders were bartering seeds, tools, agricultural knowledge and domesticated animals with tribes in Eritrea and Somalia, in exchange for frankincense and myrrh.

Africa would have to wait another 4,500 years for the hot red peppers used in this recipe, since all chilies/peppers come from the New World, but almost everyone on the continent enthusiastically embraced the "violent fruit," as Columbus called it, once it was introduced there.

So African cuisine combines both ancient and relatively modern ingredients. This recipe for fried beans is from Burundi, in Central Africa, and I think it's about the easiest thing you can do with beans and still have them taste really great.

(African Fried Beans)

2 cups dry white beans

boiling water

1 tsp. chicken or vegetable bouillon

½ cup cooking oil

3 large onions, sliced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp. salt

dried hot red pepper to taste (at least ¼ tsp; crushed)

Wash and sort the beans. Put beans in large saucepan and cover with 4-6 cups boiling water. Boil 2 minutes, then remove from heat and let soak 1 hour or more. Return beans to stove. (As always, if beans cause you intestinal distress, you can drain and rinse beans after they soak, which will reduce "side effects" of bean consumption. Then replace soaking water with fresh.) Add bouillon to water, and simmer beans until tender, about 1½ hours.

Heat oil in a 12-inch saucepan. Add onions and garlic to hot oil and cook until onions are transparent and soft. Drain cooked beans and add to onions; cook for 5 minutes. Add salt and hot pepper to taste. Mix well.

Serves 8‑10 as a side dish, 6‑8 as a main course.

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