Cuban Black Beans and Rice

I sometimes think that by having a food blog I’ve turned myself into some form of evangelist.  As if I’m thinking “these noodles are soooooo good.  I must share them – with the world!  Everyone!  To your kitchens!”  But I haven’t been taking mission trips to Africa, nor am I buying Google AdSpace.  Marketing of Oh, Sustenance! has been limited to my Facebook and Twitter profiles and a line in my email signature that follows my international phone number.  I’m comfortable for it to remain that way until I am confident that my ways of preparing food are undoubtedly superior than those of my readers.

But sometimes my food is better yours.  And if you ever were to find me standing on a soapbox outside a Minnesota Twins baseball game shouting unintelligible nonsense to the innocent passersby who just want to have a pleasant evening with their grandchildren, I would most likely be trying to share with them the story of black beans and rice.

Ask anyone who has lived with me in the past year and a half.  I love making black beans and rice.  It was my college staple.  Open up a can of beans, chuck in every aging vegetable you have left in the pantry, put on warm rice, and within 30 minutes you are feasting like a Cuban king.

Since moving to Argentina, I had to make some culinary adjustments.  Usually the adjustments follow the thought, “What?  They call this a civilized city and they don’t have _____?” where the blank is interchangeably filled in with the words: spices, cream cheese, peanut butter, salsa, bagels, maple syrup, spicy food.  Add canned black beans to the list.  But I would not be defeated, and I learned how to make black beans and rice from real black beans.

I found a good recipe and made it bigger.  It gives six sizeable portions; we’re talking full lunches, and it keeps for a week in the fridge.  It’s dirt cheap, tasty, and hearty.  For students entering finals period, listen up.   Let’s get to the recipe.

Make your black beans and rice with:

1 lb black beans.  The real deal.

2 cups rice

2/3 lb of a nice beef cut.  It’s optional if you’re veg or trying to save some cash.  This amount makes the dish moderately meaty.

2 medium onions

1 – 2 red bell peppers.  These are the only two required vegetables in my mind.  Add what you want to the rest.  The vegetables below are suggestions that worked out well for me.

4 Tomatoes

1 can corn.  They have those here.

3 carrots.  The sugar in the carrots really come out in the dish, almost too much.  So these are cautiously recommended.

6 – 8 garlic cloves

Olive or other cooking oil

Salt, pepper, a lot of cilantro, and any other spices you want to add.  I used red pepper flakes, paprika, and a bit of Sriracha pepper sauce to give it that kick that food writers like to write about.

How to make it:

  1. Soak the black beans overnight.  I know, this takes planning, but it makes cooking the beans way easier.  So plan one day in advance.  If you need something quick for tonight, cover your beans with water in the largest pot you have and make Egg Drop Soup for tonight.  Leave a good four inches of water above the beans so they water to absorb.
  2. Good morning!  Let’s check on those beans, shall we?  Drain them, cover them with water again, adding the garlic, half of a pepper, and some of your spices.  Bring to a rolling boil, then down to a simmer and let it sit for about 1 ½ hours, or until the beans are tender.  It will depend on how long you soaked them.  You soaked them, right?  Add salt when about 15 minutes remain.
  3. Cook the meat in a frying pan and vegetables in another large pot.  Save the biggest pot for these vegetables.  Cook the onions in the oil first, then add the pepper and other vegetables you want to cook.  Salt and pepper them and add up to a cup of cilantro.  Yes, that much.  Add your other spices.
  4. Add the meat, then the beans, then the rice to your gigantic pot of ever-increasing goodness.  Continually stir until it is evenly distributed.

By giving this recipe a shot you will have the quintessential Oh, Sustenance! cooking experience.  All four burners going at once, and it all ends up in one big pot.   Someday I’ll learn how to bake, and when that day comes I promise to share with you plenty of delicious recipes for cookies, breads, and whatever else people use the oven for.  Until then, I’ll help you get to know your stove better with recipes like this.

Bonus material!  The first of many.  And get this, it’s a video.  How to chop onions, from a master chef.  It’s brilliant.  And since I haven’t figured out how to embed videos yet, here’s the link. Honestly, you should be the ones sending me stuff like this, after all the posts I write for you.  But this is the Information Age, and I have to compete for your attention with videos of hidden cats.  So thanks for sticking with me thus far, and enjoy the video.

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