My favorite meal is black beans over white rice, a side of cabbage salad, fried plantains, a strong freshly brewed cup of coffee (black) and Buena Vista Social Club playing in the background. Indulge with me in the simplicity of this meal.
There are many variations of black bean soup, today, I am sharing a recipe that I had forgotten about! This black bean stew has a secret and powerful ingredient, coffee. I start enjoying this meal the minute I decide to prepare it! Let’s begin.
The Day Before
Rinse the beans ensuring you remove any tiny that are sometimes found. Rinse a few more times. Soak overnight with just enough water to cover and add 1/4 cup of coffee. Stir to incorporate, let soak overnight. Prepare four to six cups of vegetable broth and store in the refrigerator.
Day of Meal
The music plays as I start cooking. All the ingredients are washed and the sharp, clean knife awaits my command. The onion, succulent and remarkable for its pungent odor and taste, sits on the table as if daring me to cut it open, and as I begin to chop it finely I fight back the tears that are rushing to my eyes; but the onion always wins, I cry. The onion has given me a reason to cry and I indulge it. I cry for my loved ones that are far away and who I miss deeply, I cry for my father and my grandmother who died. And, of course, I cry for this onion.
Sit with me and enjoy your favorite drink, sit back and hum along with the music. Cooking is the perfect time to share stories. I remember the days when Abuelita would sit at the table in the kitchen, peeling and cutting onions and garlic and telling stories of times past; and I, too, enjoy sharing my stories when I cook. Once all of the vegetables are cut for all the dishes, I am ready to begin cooking.
4 cups dried black beans; 1 small onion; 1/4 large green bellpepper; 3 cloves garlic; 2 bay leaves; 1/4 cup of olive oil; 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar or red wine; 1 tablespoon of sugar; veggie or chicken broth.
In cooking for ourselves and others, we share a part of who we are. The dishes we choose to share and the care that we take when preparing a meal is one of the most simple and strong bonds that we create in our home and with friends.
In a soup pot (I like using the red dutch oven that Mary gifted me), heat the oil over low heat. Add the onion and saute until soft but not browned, about ten minutes. Add the garlic, oregano, thyme, cumin and the bellpepper and saute five minutes longer. Add the beans, bay leaves, sugar, vinegar, and stock or water. Bring to a boil, keep heat on low, cover and simmer one hour. Add salt and pepper to taste, cover and simmer until the beans are tender, about 20 minutes; add more broth if needed to keep the beans covered during cooking. Before serving, add a lemon wedge on the side of the bowl.
1 small cabbage; 2 large tomatoes; salt; lemon
While the beans are cooking, I make the cabbage salad. Cabbage is one of those vegetables that is overlooked. There are so many ways to cook cabbage, but if you over-cook it, it tastes awful! I am using the cabbage raw. Take the outer layers off and give to Bleu to eat (she loves cabbage), remove the core and as thinly as you possibly can, slice the cabbage and tomatoes. Mix well. Add the juice of one small lemon and one lime, add salt to taste. If you like, you can also add thinly sliced carrot. I usually prepare mine without. This is such a simple and refreshing salad and it complements the beans and rice so nicely. It brightens the meal.
Two cups of jasmine rice; two cups of water; 1/4 slice of greenbell pepper; 1/4 slice of onion.
I start by rinsing the rice, not because it’s necessary, but because I enjoy the feel of the rice and water on my hands and it reminds me of sitting at the dinner table doing homework and listening to Abuelita cooking. I remember the sound of the rice swishing in the strainer, back and forth it moved, swish, swish. On occasion Abuelita would ask me to help and my hands would dive into the rice as the water flowed through, my eyes closed enjoying the sound and the coolness of the water on my skin.
Pat dry the rice. Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until soft but not browned, about five minutes, add the bellpepper. Stir in the drained rice and saute until all the grains are coated with oil, about two minutes. Add broth or water, and salt. Stir once. Reduce the heat to low; cover tightly and simmer, about 20 minutes. Remove pan from heat and let stand covered five minutes. Fluff the rice with a fork prior to serving.
I grew up with coffee made in a cooking pot (cafe de olla) or in a percolator. Today, I use the cone or french press. If you are inspired to make cafe de olla, here is a simple recipe.
one once dark brown sugar (or piloncillo); 3/4 ounce dark roasted, medium ground coffee; 1 small cinnamon stick. In a medium pot, add 4 cups of cold water and sugar, coffee, and cinnamon. Set over medium head and cook, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Bring to just below boil, then remove from heat and let steep for 5 minutes. Pour in a heat-resistant pot using a strainer, serve.
2 large ripe plantains; coconut oil; salt
You can fry plantains when they are green or very ripe (skin is almost all black). Green plantains are crispy like chips and ripe plantains are soft, sweet and salty. For this recipe, I like to use ripe plantains. Open the plantain and use the skin as the cutting board, slice as rounds or at a 30 degree angle. Heat coconut oil on a large skillet, once hot, add plantains and sprinkle salt. Cook until golden brown on both sides. Set on a plate with paper towels.
You are ready to serve! I like to serve in a shallow large bowl; rice first, beans on top, and cabbage salad with plantains on the side. Serve with lime or lemon wedges, sprinkle with farmer’s cheese, avocados are also a nice side dish. Coffee in your favorite mug.