Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Stolen from Cuba! Frijoles Negros - Cuban Black Beans

frijoles negros y
cuba libre,
te odio.

 No hay comida!

el rey... nadando en el oro de mi abuela.
ladrón ladrón ladrón
pero nunca me robarás el sabor di mi patria

A life altering experience in the kitchen. Two women on a hot Sunday afternoon, sipping icy lemonade and swapping stories and cooking secrets whilst a large pot of black Cuban beans simmers away. This wasn't a date with Emeril or an afternoon tea with the Queen. This was let's get down and dirty, nitty and gritty and spill the beans about real life in Cuba. There is a lot one can learn while listening to a beautiful Cuban woman tell you her story.

Food Rationing. Only your fair share.   
Cuba’s Ration Booklet: Every Cuban is entitled to the following food allowance each month: 3.5 kilos of rice (7.15 pounds) 2.5 kilos of sugar (5.5 pounds) Half a kilo of beans (1.1 pounds) 230 grams of cooking oil (8.10 ounces) 10 eggs 460 grams of spaghetti pasta (16.22 ounces) 230 grams of soy bean paste (8.10 ounces) 115 grams of coffee (4 ounces) 1 loaf of bread (125 grams) (daily) (4.4 ounces) In addition, adults are entitled to 460 of poultry (16.22 ounces) if available, and children under the age of 7 are entitled to 1 liter (34 ounces) of milk a day, distributed at school. - from

I guess we wouldn't be making omlettes -

Consider ourselves fortunate. I sat and listened as my friend shared the first 9 years of her life, before her family won the opportunity to finally leave and fly  in a US jet 90 miles west to Miami. A family that left behind the only life and all the possessions they ever knew. It was cruel, burdened with hardship and riddled with terror. As a nine year old girl, her memories were shaped and not forgotten. As the plane left the air strip in Cuba.... shouts and cries of joy rippled through the plane. They were going to a new home. Upon landing, dressed in their Sunday finest, many got down on their hands and knees to kiss the new land they would now call home. 

Even though everything was left behind, the recipes were held in their hearts and still survive today. These beans were made on a Sunday afternoon in honor of my friend's Grandmother, Ildefonsa.  This gracious woman left behind all that she knew, her home, her wedding ring, her clothing and her kitchen. I have never tasted such wonderful beans.

How to make Cuban Black Beans

1 lb. black beans
1 onion
1/2 a head of garlic
black pepper
bay leaves
5 slices raw bacon
1 smoked ham hock
  1. Begin soaking your 1 lb. of black beans at 6:00 the night before. Soak in a deep bowl and cover with lots of water. Throw in a handful of salt. I use about 1/4 cup course grey sea salt. Cover and let soak.
  2. The following morning, rinse beans, pick out any odd shaped ones, throw into your slow cooker. Cover with double the amount of water as you have beans. Throw in another 2 tsp. of salt and a smoked ham hock. Turn the cooker on high, get it simmering and let it simmer for the next 6 hours. (I know.....  go read yourself a section of  The Girl with a Dragon Tatoo, it takes a while to get into that book!)
  3. Out of the slow cooker and into a heavy bottomed braiser or some other large heavy bottomed pan. Turn your gas on low and let simmer.
  4. Time to add some more flavor. Take your onion, chop into small pieces and throw into the pot. Take your bacon, chop into small pieces and throw into the pot. Add your bay leaves, 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, and half a head of garlic, chopped finely (not minced). 
  5. Let beans simmer for another hour. Add in a good TBS of your favorite balsamic vinegar. Simmer for another 45 minutes. Turn off burner and let sit at least an hour before eating. Taste for salt. Take out ham bones, and larger chunks of meat. Separate the larger meat chunks and put back in the pot.
Beans just get better and better as they sit. By the third day they are at their peak of flavor. I served ours with fresh avocado, tomato and a bit of freshly chopped cilantro.


  1. The story touches me and the recipe looks fantastic!

  2. What an amazing story and how MUCH we take for granted...those fortunate enough to be born here! The recipe is one of my favorites. I have a Brazillian uncle and he makes his with smoked beef ribs. Either way...they are just plain delicious!

  3. Thank you both! Is is true.. we are really blessed when we look around at what we can choose from. I would love to hear how your Brazilian Uncle makes his...that sounds amazing -

  4. You have such a delightful way of expressing yourself! I make a lot of bean soups so I will definitely be trying this. Thanks!

  5. What colourful and striking photos! and a beautiful story. How we take for granted our blessings. tq for the reminder :) that bolw of beans look simply amazing.


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