cuban black beans

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My name is Zoe, and I’m roommate number 3 to post. The challenge is to keep us all straight! But even if you can’t, you’ll read some great recipes. I grew up in a mostly Greek family in Washington D.C., with parents who both worked a lot and cooked a lot. That’s pretty descriptive of my cooking style now, I think. Feeding the people around my apartment is important to me, as are big pots of things that get better as leftovers. Here’s one now.

The weekend-long sugar high is wearing off, and this week, I’m keeping my distance from the oven. I want savory food, filling, but food that has some complexity of flavor. Lucky for me, this recipe is also uniquely comforting: I’ve known how to spot the tell-tale bean soak that precedes this recipe since I could see above a counter top.

We aren’t cuban, but as far as I’m concerned, these are my mother’s black beans. She makes big batches on a rainy weekend and we would eat them with rice and salad once a week for a few weeks afterwards. When I started cooking for myself a few years ago, this was the very first recipe she sent me. Now that I’m thinking about it … I’d love to know where she got the recipe to begin with. Last week, all four of the roommates were still home for the holidays so I made myself a big batch. I was in New York studying for my last big project of college feeling a little lonely. The beans in my fridge attracted several friends for dinner and accompanied me around the city packed as lunch for days. I love the vinegar and sugar and the infusion of green peppers.

CUBAN BLACK BEAN “SOUP”


1 lb. dried black beans
10 c. water
1 tsp. salt
1 lg. green bell pepper, cut up in chunks
3 tbsp Vegetable oil
1 lg. yellow onion, peeled and sliced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 sm. green hot pepper, cut in half, seeds removed
(if you don’t have this, use another bell pepper)
3 tsp. salt or to taste
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1 bay leaf
1/4 tsp. whole cumin seed
1 tsp. to 3 tsp. sugar
2 1/2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
2 1/2 tbsp. olive oil


Rinse black beans and soak overnight in the 10 cups of water, with 1 teaspoon salt and the green bell pepper.

In a large heavy-bottom soup kettle, bring the beans, soaking water and pepper to a boil. Simmer until tender, about 45 minutes. Remove the green pepper and discard.

Heat vegetable oil in a deep frying pan. Saute the onion, garlic and green hot pepper until soft. Remove 1 cup of the beans and add it to the frying pan. Mash up beans and simmer this mixture for 10 minutes. Remove green hot pepper and discard.

Add the stuff from the pan to the soup pot. Add salt, pepper, bay leaf, cumin, and 1 tsp sugar. Taste to see if you like it sweeter, if so add more sugar up to 3 tsp.  Bring to a boil and simmer, covered, for about 1 1/2 hours, or until it thickens. You may have to add more water if too much of the liquid cooks away.

Before serving (with rice, in tacos, salad, plain …) add the vinegar and olive oil. Mix well.

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2 Responses to “cuban black beans”

  1. YLM Says:

    This recipe comes from a Cuban American lawyer who lives in Miami and prosecutes complicated drug cases when not cooking. She and I worked together on some Supreme Court briefs but as you can see, sharing recipes had a far more lasting impact. I am not sure why such a simple combination tastes so delicious but it is always a big hit. Also, other Cubans say it is very genuine.

    YLM ( Zoe’s Mom)

  2. Max Kennedy Says:

    This looks delicious.

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