The first time I made black beans, they were a disaster. I added salt, before they were soft – they never got soft. It was my first dinner party, in my first apartment, and I had invited three guests, who were all Cuban. Fortunately, I had also made lasagna, but God bless them, they all ate those beans, which were hard as rocks. Do not add salt to beans until they are tender.
1 package dried Black Beans or 2 large cans – I prefer Goya
2 tablespoon White Vinegar
2-3 Bay Leaves – always remove Bay Leaves before serving food
2-4 pieces of chopped Bacon – may be omitted
3 tablespoons Olive Oil
1 large Onion, chopped
2 tablespoons of chopped or crushed Garlic
1 small Green Bell Pepper, chopped
1 small Hot Pepper or piece of pepper, like a Jalapeno, depending on taste
1 small can of Tomato Sauce
2 whole Tomatoes chopped
1 teaspoon of Sugar
2 tablespoon of Oregano
3 tablespoon of Cumin
Green Olives – according to taste, about ¼ of a cup
Coriander – ½ a bunch chopped
1 cup of Red Wine
Salt and Pepper to taste
If you are using dry beans, cook them, without any seasoning except bay leaves and vinegar, until they are tender. Do not overcook the beans; you do not want them to turn into mushy paste. I think the slow cooker is good way to make beans. If you cook them on the stove top, go ahead and skim the white foam that comes to the top, as they cook.
If you are using canned beans, just add them to the sofrito, and simmer for about 30 minutes for them to absorb the flavor. The sofrito is the key to all Cuban cooking.
For the Sofrito: Fry 2-4 pieces of chopped bacon. If you omit the bacon, then start your sofrito with onions. Sauté onion until it is translucent. (If you are using bacon, sauté onion in the bacon grease, adding a little oil, so that it will not burn. Once onion is ready, add garlic, in the middle of the pan, and sauté for a few more minutes. If you use garlic powder, add it after tomato. Add chopped bell pepper, and then either a dash of hot sauce or a half of hot pepper, if you like a little kick.
When this has sautéed for a few minutes, add a small can of tomato sauce and two fresh tomatoes. (Any time you add tomato products; add a half-teaspoon of sugar, to cut the acid.) You will then add garlic powder, if you did not have fresh garlic. Add oregano and cumin, I often add even more than the two tablespoons, as I think more is almost always better. Let this all cook at low heat; add salt, pepper, and green olives. If you have it, I would add about a half of cup of red wine, and then about a quarter of a cup, to a half a cup of fresh, chopped coriander.
After all of the flavors have been incorporated, in the sofrito, and the beans are soft, add the sofrito to the beans. Bring the beans to a boil, skimming off any foam that comes to the top, and then quickly lower the heat. Let the beans cook on low heat for at least a half hour, until they absorb the flavor of the sofrito. Taste them periodically, to see if they need more salt, or some other flavor. The more you cook these beans, the more you will get to know how you like them, and anything else you make.
Always serve with white rice, or if you like, it can be a first course, as a bean soup – but never serve with yellow rice. Pork is the natural accompaniment, but not mandatory. For Cubans, black beans, white rice, roasted pork, yucca, and fried plantains is the sacrosanct meal. That is the meal for Christmas Eve, the most important holiday for Cubans in exile, and it is the meal for special company or occasions.
You could also add a potato, chopped very fine, if you want to stretch the beans, or if they are over salted, as the potato will soak up the salt.
If you doubled the sofrito recipe, you could take half, pour it over chicken or fish, pop it in the oven, 350 degree, for a half hour for fish, and at least twice that for chicken, and have a great dish to serve with the beans.
Moros y Cristianos
This dish literally means Moors and Christians, a reference to the 700 year occupation of Spain, by the Moors. It is basically black beans and white rice that have been cooked together, in one large pan. You want a pan with a tight seal, use tinfoil if you have to, and you want a wide pan, not a stock pot. Make the recipe above. Add two cups of the prepared beans to a large pan, then two cups of uncooked rice, and stir well. You will need about 4 cups of liquid, water is fine, add liquid to pot, bring to boil, lower heat and cook till rice is tender, about 30 minutes. Serve with fish or meat, or top with a fried egg!