Cuban black beans

October 1, 2011 at 8:26 am (Beans, B_, Fall recipes, Mexican & S. American, Website / blog, Winter recipes)


My sister told me she has a recipe for Cuban black beans that are out of this world. Unfortunately she still hasn’t sent me the recipe, so I found one on the internet instead. The author of the Eat, Live, Run blog says she was a black bean virgin until she tried Cuban black beans, “inky beans simmered with garlic and spices that literally melt in your mouth.” She says that the recipe is lifechanging.

I tried her recipe and it was quite good.  But I wanted something a little spicier so I doctored the recipe at the end.  Here’s my version (doubled, since I was cooking for a crowd), with more seasoning, a bit less salt, and a few other changes.

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds black beans
  • 2 Tbs olive or coconut oil (or more if you’re not going to serve the beans with avocado or cheese or some other fat)
  • 2 yellow onions, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced (optional)
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced (half towards the beginning and the other half after the beans are mostly cooked)
  • water or vegetable broth to cook the beans in (about 6? cups)
  • 2 – 3 tsp. sea salt [original recipe calls for 2 tsp. for one pound of beans]
  • 1 tsp. chipotle powder or 2 chipotle peppers in adobo, chopped (optional, or more if you like your beans really spicy)
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground cumin (optional, maybe up to 2 tsp?)
  • 2 Tbs. tomato paste (optional)
  • 2 medium bunches cilantro, stems and leaves minced (about 1 packed cup)
  • zest and juice from one lime (about 2 Tbs. juice) + 1 Tbs. red wine vinegar
  • garnishes like minced white onion, fresh jalapenos, pickled jalapenos, bell pepper, cucumber, tomatoes, chives, feta cheese, shredded romaine, etc. (optional)

Directions:

  1. Soak the beans overnight in a large pot. In the morning, drain the water and set the beans aside.  (If you have a slow cooker or cook your beans in the oven then you can skip this step if you want.  Also, maybe it’s better not to drain the beans?)
  2. In a large dutch oven or heavy pot (5-6 quarts), heat the oil over medium high heat. Add the onion and carrots and saute for about six to ten minutes, until soft and translucent. Add four cloves of the garlic and continue cooking for another thirty seconds.
  3. Add the beans to the onion and garlic mixture and enough water to cover everything by an inch (but not more). Bring beans to a boil then cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for about one hour, or until not-quite-tender.  (The beans should be edible but not quite as tender as you would like.  Getting to this point may take longer than an hour—possibly 90 minutes or even longer if your beans are very old.)
  4. Once the beans are almost tender, stir the beans and add the salt, the remaining four cloves of garlic, the minced cilantro, chipotle powder, cumin, and tomato paste. Return to a simmer and cook another 30 minutes to an hour or until beans are tender and the cooking liquid is thick. Stir occasionally while cooking, since as the beans thicken the water rises to the top and the bottom will often start to burn.  (Alternatively, transfer the pot to the oven, where the heat will surround the pot uniformly.)
  5. Once cooked, add the red wine vinegar and lime juice, and additional minced cilantro if desired. I like the beans by themselves with garnishes, but you can also serve them over rice, or puree them and serve as a thick, creamy black bean soup.  Alternatively, you can thicken the liquid a bit simply by using a spoon to smash some of the beans against the side of the pot. This recipe serves 8 to 12, but it freezes well, so go ahead and make the whole thing.  (Or if you prefer just make one pound of beans in a three or four quart pot.)
My Notes:

I still don’t know what makes black beans Cuban.  If anyone knows please post a comment!

I served these at a barbecue (so there’d be more food for the vegetarians), and the ten of us (3 vegetarians and 10 meat eaters) almost polished the whole two pounds of beans off!  My beans weren’t quite as soft as I would have liked (but I had to cook them in a rush, with no pre-soaking and not enough simmering time).  But otherwise they were good.  I’d make this recipe again.

Rating: B/B+ (B for my beans, but B+ if the texture was better)

Derek: B+

Update Jan 2012:  

Scott shared some home-cooked black beans with me, and they were quite good so I asked for the recipe.  He said he had made a vegetarian version of the homesick Texan’s recipe.  When I took a look at it I saw that it was quite similar to my recipe (the original one plus my modifications) above.  The only difference in ingredients were that instead of 1 tsp. of chipotle powder she calls for 8! chipotle peppers in adobo, chopped.  She also adds she adds 1 Tbs. of epazote and 2 Tbs. of tomato paste.  Finally, instead of 2 Tbs. of lime juice and 1 of red wine vinegar she calls for 1/2 cup (8 Tbs.) of lime juice, which she adds 30 minutes before the beans are done cooking.  I wonder what that does?  Is it supposed to help the beans hold together?  I’m pretty sure 1/2 cup of lime juice added at the end would make the beans way too acidic, as just 3 Tbs. of acid is quite noticeable.  But maybe cooking the lime juice for 30 minutes tones it down?  Maybe she’s trying to add vitamin C without adding too much acidity? I’m going to have to test it next time. Finally,  In terms of technique, she adds all the garlic at the beginning.  I imagine that adding half at the beginning and half towards the end yields more of a mix of flavors—some mellow and pungent and some sharp and biting?

This time I made a mix of the two recipes.  I used two chipotle peppers, and the beans were spicy enough for me.   I don’t think I’d be able to eat them if I’d have put in 8 peppers.  I let people add lime juice to taste and forgot to add the tomato paste.  I didn’t have any epazote.

I served this for dinner for six people, along with a salad and Berley’s orange-ginger sweet potato.  I think this recipe makes about 4 quarts, and we had about 1.5 quarts left after dinner.  So as part of a multi-course meal I’d say this recipe serves about ten.

Derek really liked the beans this time, especially with leftover adobo sauce from the chipotle peppers.

I’ve updated the recipe above to reflect some of the homesick Texan’s suggestions.

I also finally got my sister’s recipe for Cuban black beans:

Ingredients:

  • 2.5 lbs of black beans [or for a slightly smaller version, 2 pounds]
  • 3 cups green bell peepers chopped [about 2.5 cups]
  • 3 cups yellow onions, chopped [about 2.5 cups]
  • 2 cups olive oil (my sister uses 2/3 cup?) [about 1/2 cup]
  • 2 tsp sugar [about 1.5 tsp.]
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/3 cup white vinegar [about 1/4 cup]
Instructions:
  1. Cook beans.
  2. Process peppers and onions in food processor until fine.
  3. Heat 1 cup olive oil add onions and saute 10 minutes.  Add peppers and saute again
  4. Remove  1 cup of beans from pot and mash them. (My sister mashes all of the beans.)
  5. Add sauteed mixture to beans. Add sugar, salt and pepper and stir.
  6. Simmer for 1 hr on low, uncovered
  7. Add rest of olive oil and vinegar and stir.
  8. Simmer until thick. I hour?
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