There is still a great deal of uncertainty surrounding the United States’ relationship with Cuba. But this island country’s mystique and beauty are nonetheless making their way into our lives.
The vintage cars, colorful architecture, sights and sounds take you back in time and on a beautiful journey. The one thing the Internet hasn’t been able to capture, however, is the smell of Cuban cuisine. Like most good dishes, Cuban ones begin with aromatics — onions, peppers, garlic and the like. Sofrito, the Cuban equivalent to our “holy trinity” starts the process. Pan-frying these fragrant ingredients releases their natural flavor and creates a solid foundation for a variety of wonderful dishes.
At a Cuban restaurant, whether you’re enjoying ropa vieja (my personal favorite shredded beef dish) or a pickle-laden Cuban sandwich, you will most likely also experience the country’s most popular dish — black beans and rice. This combination of legumes/beans and a grain like rice creates a complete protein, making it not only delicious, but nutritious, as a side dish or as the main event. Here’s my take on this classic.
1 pound dry black beans
6 cups water or broth — I used equal parts vegetable broth and water
2 bay leaves
1 sprig of oregano
1 tablespoon cumin
1 cup onion, chopped
1 cup bell pepper, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1/8 cup + 1/8 cup olive oil
salt & pepper to taste
steamed white rice
cilantro for garnish
Add the sorted and rinsed beans to a large stock pot and cover with half of the liquid, boil on high for 2 minutes
Add remaining liquid, bay leaf, cumin, and oregano and reduce to a simmer for 2 hours, or until tender
Meanwhile, prepare the sofrito — in 1/8 cup of olive oil, pan fry the onions, bell peppers and garlic until golden (5-10 minutes)
Add the sofrito and the second 1/8 cup of olive oil to the pot with the beans and stir to incorporate, season to taste
When the beans are tender, remove the oregano and bay leaf and adjust seasoning as necessary
Using a slotted spoon, top steamed white rice with the beans, a little of the cooking liquid, and fresh cilantro — I put mine on top grilled veggies, too!
These beans make a great start to a thin bean soup or can be mashed with some of the cooking liquid for a creamy side.
Anne Falgout, The Daily Advertiser
February 13, 2017