Cinco de Mayo provides a great excuse to indulge in a few of my favorite things:  beer and margaritas, rice and beans, grilled steak and roasted chiles – what else do you need? Maybe just some warm  tortillas and Cotija cheese.

     If you’re not much of a cook, you can stop by Jacinto’s Kitchen  in Oakmont, a new restaurant owned by  long-time Napa Valley chef Erasto Jacinto, who worked for 24 years with Cindy Pawlcyn of Mustards Grill in St. Helena.

    In his first restaurant,  which opened four months ago, Jacinto wanted to showcase the simple,  homegrown flavors of his native Oaxaca while giving  traditional, Mexican dishes a modern twist.      Popular menu items include Erasto’s Sweet Corn Tamales with a guajillo-tomatillo sauce, Chicken & Mole  with white beans and Cotija cheese, and Guajillo Braised Lamb Tostadas with refried beans and creamy avocado sauce.

   This Saturday, Jacinto will also be cooking up some special dishes, including  Tortilla Soup,  Halibut Ceviche and the ever-popular Pork Carnitas. Jacinto lightens up his dishes with healthy oils instead of lard, so you may not need a siesta afterwards.

    If you’re headed out to a potluck this weekend, here’s my favorite black bean recipe from  Pawlcyn’s “Mustards Grill”  cookbook,   created by none other than Erasto Jacinto. It doesn’t use any meat, so  the vegetarians in the crowd can enjoy it with steamed rice, salsa and corn tortillas.

     To roast the cumin seeds, shake them over a hot fire in a dry, cast-iron skillet until lightly toasted. You can find fresh and dried epazote at Mexican markets.  I usually make this in a big clay pot in a 300 degree  oven with beans that I’ve soaked overnight.    

Erasto’s Chile and Orange Black Beans

Serves 6

1 pound black beans (2 cups), picked over and well washed

2 to 3 bay leaves

1 epazote sprig (2 to 3 inches) or 1 tablespoon dried epazote leaves or dried Mexican oregano

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 ¼ cups diced onion

3 or 4 cloves garlic, minced

1 pasilla chile or 1 Anaheim chile (if you prefer less heat), diced

1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced

Grated zest and juice or 1 orange

Grated zest and juice of ½ lemon or lime

½ teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted and ground

1 ½ teaspoons red chile flakes

½  teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Salt

Put the beans in a large pot and add water to cover by 3 times their depth. Add the bay leaves and epazote and bring to a boil. Skim the surface of any foam that rises and reduce the heat to low. Cover and cook for about 1 hour, until tender.  Drain, reserving half of the liquid for the finished dish and discarding the rest.

Select a pot large enough to hold everything. Heat the olive oil in the pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes, until translucent. Add the diced chile and bell pepper, and cook, stirring, for 5 to 8 minutes, until tender. Stir in the citrus zests, cumin, chile flakes, black pepper and salt to taste. Add the beans and the reserved cooking liquid, stir well, and simmer for 15 or 20 minutes, adding more water as needed to keep the beans moist, tender and slightly saucy, but not watery. Add the citrus juices, taste for seasoning, and add salt if needed.