Cuban black beans

Cuban black beans

Cooking beans for dinner is an inexpensive way to serve a protein meal when the prices of eggs, meat and fish are high.

Cuban black beans (Photo by Jessica Grann)
Cuban black beans (Photo by Jessica Grann)

Cuban black beans with rice is one of my favorite vegetarian meals. It’s flavorful, filling and affordable. Cooking beans for dinner is a wonderful way to serve an inexpensive protein meal when the prices of eggs, meat and fish are high and continue to rise.

I happily take a shortcut by using canned beans, and this is a very simple recipe to whip up after work.

This dish is savory but not at all spicy. The recipe by itself is vegan, but I love to add a dollop of sour cream.

Ingredients for Cuban black beans (Photo by Jessica Grann)
Serves 4

3 cans of black beans
½ of a large onion, diced
1 green pepper, stemmed and diced
2 stalks of celery, diced — you can use the leaves
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, sliced
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
About 10 stems of washed cilantro
You can add shredded cheese, sour cream, cilantro, avocado, spring onions or sliced jalapeno for a garnish

Rinse and drain the black beans.

Chop the onion, green pepper and celery. Celery is not traditionally added to Cuban beans, but I like to add it for extra substance.

Heat the olive oil over medium-low heat for about a minute, then add the vegetables to the pot. Sauté for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent but still firm.

Add the garlic, salt and pepper, and sauté for another minute or so until the garlic is fragrant.

Stir the beans into the pot, adding just enough water to cover the beans.

Place a bay leaf and about 10 stems of washed cilantro on top of the beans.

Raise the heat to medium-high to allow the beans to come to a boil, then reduce the heat to simmer.

Cover the beans and cook for about 1 hour.

Remove the cilantro stems and the bay leaf.

At this point, the beans will be cooked well but still whole. My preference is to mash about half of them so that there are small chunks of beans in the mixture. They can be mashed with a potato masher or with a hand-held immersion blender. This completely changes the consistency of the beans so that you can ladle them onto the rice the way you would a soup. I serve the beans on cooked rice and then add the garnishes.

Some people prefer to cook the rice with the beans. To do this, add half of a cup of rinsed white rice halfway through the cook time at the 30-minute point, cover and continue to cook for another half hour on low heat. Be sure there is enough water in the pot if adding rice so that it cooks well and does not become gummy. You may need to add half a cup of hot water when you add the rice to have enough liquid for a proper result.

If you are adding rice, skip the mashing process so you can see whole beans and chunks of vegetables in the rice.

This recipe takes about 10 minutes of prep and another hour or so to cook on the stovetop. Enjoy and bless your hands! PJC

Jessica Grann is a home chef living in Pittsburgh.

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