This is my mother’s black bean recipe. She let me tinker with it a little when I grew up and we would cook Christmas Eve dinner together. She used to use Goya beans and one day I brought organic beans and after that she never wanted to see another Goya bean again. She used to put in a splash of wine for the acidity and one day I asked if we could try balsamic vinegar and she liked it much better. Beans do not photograph well, so there are photos of the cook instead.
Always use organic beans. Not only do they taste better, they also cook up faster. Since beans take hours to cook, I always cook 2lbs at one time and freeze half in smaller containers to defrost later for easy weekday meals. These beans are very healthy as they are vegetarian and have almost no fat (only a bit of olive oil which is good for you).
Olga and her dog Belinda
Olga before she knew how to cook black beans
1st step – make sofrito, which is a tomatoey base used in Latin American cooking that is inherited from Spain. There are different versions of sofrito by country. What I outline here is the Cuban version. I cook up a batch and then freeze in small containers holding about 3 or 4 tablespoons each or wrap in plastic and put the little bundles in a freezer bag to pull out one by one as needed for future bean cooking. It is truly a base for many dishes. You can add the sofrito to chicken, meat, fish, or starchy veggies such as potatoes or eggplant, or as a topping to polenta to add flavor.
Splash of olive oil in a sauté pan
1 med to large yellow onion
1 med green pepper
1 med red pepper
2 to 5 crushed garlic cloves
1 large can crushed tomatoes – try to get the ones from Italy
Fresh or very good quality dried oregano (I use the Dominican oregano found in Latin American groceries)
Salt and black pepper
Sauté the garlic, onions, peppers until soft. Add the crushed tomato and spice. Stir and cook till tomato thickens and is no longer soupy. It should be very fragrant and turn from a red color to an orangey red color. Cool then freeze in 3 – 4 tbs portions.
OLGA’S BLACK BEANS
2 lbs organic black (turtle) beans
Balsamic vinegar (2 tbs)
Sugar (2 tbs)
Olive oil to taste
Salt and pepper
3 tbs sofrito
Soak the beans overnight if you want to save cooking time but organic beans cook up pretty fast. Cover the beans with 2 inches of water (do not add salt till they are fully cooked). Boil the beans medium heat till soft – about 2 hours. Stir periodically to make sure they don’t stick to the bottom of the pot. Add more water if needed.
When the beans are fully cooked add the sofrito, sugar, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. You can add a little splash of red wine for flavor too and if you wish, a bit more olive oil. Simmer for at least 2 hours stirring every once in a while to make sure they don’t stick. When the broth is thickened and no longer soupy and thin, they are done. You can speed up the thickening by spooning out about a half cup of beans and mashing them with a fork and putting them back in. Adjust salt and pepper seasoning.