Sunday, May 9, 2010

Frijoles Negros: Black Beans

Black beans are a Cuban household staple. We all grew up on black beans.

I was always afraid to make black beans because both my mother and my grandmother would make them in a pressure cooker, and as a child I was told to stay away because they were very dangerous. Then in my twenties, a relative of mine broke her arm making black beans in a pressure cooker (long story).  For many years I would buy canned black beans, which really do not compare.

Finally, my aunt from California who makes really tasty black beans, gave me her recipe and no, it doesn't require a pressure cooker. My slightly varied recipe follows:

1 lb dry black beans
1 large onion, diced
4-5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 large green bell pepper, sliced
2 tsps cumin
1 tbsp salt
1 bay leaf
5 slices of bacon
large green olives
olive oil

Soak your black beans overnight in enough water to cover by 2 inches. Discard those that float to the top. The next day, pour your soaked black beans into a large pot with enough water to cover about 3 inches. Add your bay leaf, salt and 1 tbsp olive oil. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to low.

Cut up your bacon slices into smaller pieces and cook them until they have rendered enough fat to satuee your onions, garlic and peppers until the onions are translucent. Pour all of this into your pot of beans. Stir, cover and let simmer on low for about 2 hours or until your beans are tender.

At this point you can remove your bacon pieces and the bay leaf. Cubans like their black beans rich and thick usually over rice. Check the consistency of your beans. If you prefer a black bean soup you may have to add water, if you want them thicker then heat uncovered for another half hour or so to reduce.

The quality and freshness of beans will vary the cooking time needed and the amount of liquid they will absorb, so adjust accordingly.

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