The "bowl" concept is an ingenious way to reframe dinner. Start with a rather plain, starchy base (rice and beans or noodles), and each person adds toppings to customize, whatever you have on hand. Kind of like a taco salad concept. Or sometimes, I pour hot stock over the top and we go in an Asian direction, like that always-delicious pho.
Our latest version of rice and beans is very popular. Our current favorite toppings are garden spinach, guacamole with lemon and scallions, spicy homemade salsa, cilantro, and grated smoked cheese. I thought I'd tell you how I make the tasty beans.
Thrift at Home Black Beans
Cook some dry black beans in twice as much water in slow cooker on low or high until soft. Depending on the age of the beans, this could take 2-5 hours. You can soak them ahead of time if you remember. The average amount of dry beans I use is 2 cups. Once they're soft, they can sit in their liquid for hours until you need them. May divide into containers with the liquid and freeze.
In a heavy pan (I use my cast iron Dutch oven), saute an onion in at least a tablespoon or more bacon grease or another fat. Add these seasonings as it's sauteeing (I guessed on the measurements, but at least it gives you some idea of ratio): 1 1/2 tsp. dried oregano, 1 tsp. chili powder, 1/2 tsp. cumin, 1 tsp. salt, 2 tsp. sugar, some ground black pepper. Turn down the heat and pour in the beans WITH their liquid. Use a potato masher to mash roughly - I guess I aim to crush about half the beans. Now let the whole business simmer uncovered until the liquid is reduced. Taste occasionally and add more oregano, cumin, or chili powder, but do not add more salt until the very end because the beans are getting concentrated and it's easy to oversalt at this point. We like to add hot sauce to our individual taste at the table. Cook the beans down as soupy or dry as you like them or as much time as you have. Can be made ahead and set aside at room temperature for hours. Serve hot or room temperature over hot rice. Leftovers freeze beautifully.