IF EVER THERE'S a time when one would appreciate a good cookbook devoted to quantity recipes, it's when one is planning for holiday-weekend meals. Doubling and tripling ordinary recipes to serve a crowd can be tricky at times, so a volume filled with menus and recipes designed to feed a large group is worthy of a spot on every cookbook shelf.
Susan Wyler's "Cooking for a Crowd" (Harmon Books: $24.95) is just such a book. Wyler, food editor for Food and Wine magazine, includes the following recipe for a black-bean salad in a suggested back-yard barbecue menu for 16.
Besides being a colorful and delicious version of the ever-popular bean salad, this offering has the added attribute of tasting better if it's readied at least a day ahead. Preparation in advance allows the flavorings, which are added while the beans are warm, ample opportunity to mellow pleasingly.
BLACK-BEAN SALAD WITH TOASTED CUMIN AND JALAPENO PEPPERS
2 pounds black beans
1large bay leaf
1 1/2 tablespoons cumin seeds
1/2 cup sherry wine vinegar
cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, finely diced
2 medium green peppers, finely diced
2 medium sweet red peppers, finely diced
1 large yellow pepper, diced
1 to 2 jalapeno chiles, seeded and minced
2 garlic cloves, crushed through press
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Rinse beans well, and pick over to remove any grit. Place beans in large, heavy pot with enough cold water to cover at least 2 inches. Let stand overnight.
Drain beans into colander. Return beans to pot with bay leaf and fresh water to cover 2 inches. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer until beans are tender but still firm enough to hold their shape, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Drain beans and discard bay leaf.
Meanwhile, in small skillet toast cumin seeds over moderately high heat, tossing by shaking pan frequently, until toasted and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Pour into small bowl and set aside.
In large bowl, combine warm beans with vinegar and oil. Toss to coat. Add onion, peppers, jalapenos, garlic, toasted cumin seeds and salt. Toss to mix. Let stand, tossing occasionally as salad cools. Season with additional salt and black pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate. Let return to room temperature before serving. Makes 16 to 20 servings.
Food styled by Norman Stewart; prop styling by Stacey Anne for A La Mode/ L.A.; fork and plate courtesy of Lynn Deutch, Ltd.; tile courtesy of Tugend Tile.