Cuban Black Beans

… with rice and kale

The New York Times Magazine recipes are often hits, sometimes misses, sometimes rained out. Generally, I save them in my “to cook” file where they can lie in waiting for weeks or months or be deleted (rained out). But sometimes I see one that I just have to cook… right now. This is that.
I had the black beans on hand and I had a ham bone in the freezer from my Super Bowl Party spiral ham. I went out and got a green bell pepper and was good to go. I halved the recipe as we are, after all, two. Not to mention that my ham bone was smallish.
On this day, my car was in the shop and I had to pick it up around 5pm, so I cooked the beans in the afternoon, got the car, did some prep (chop onion, jalapeno, bacon, garlic), sat for a while in front of the evening news with a small Scotch (my normal routine) while waiting for Carol to get home on the bus. I started cooking seriously at 7pm.
The instructions are pretty step-by-step easy. I made the sofrito and got the bean pot going. The recipe said “serve over white rice.” How boring is that? My brilliant idea (I must say) was to cook the rice with kale, providing a hearty body and fiber to stand up and compliment the beans. I used the same spices and herbs as are in the beans in the rice dish (cumin, oregano, black pepper).

By the time the beans came to a boil, the rice was cooking, so they finished at the same time. While that was going on, I made a little side dish of beets and boiled egg. (Should have cut the beets in wedges, rather than slices, would have looked better.)
Dinner at 8. I served the beans and rice in a bowl side-by-side rather than beans-over-rice. Carol mixed hers all up and polished it off in fine style, while I portioned my beans and rice by the forkful. In any case, it made a hearty and tasty meal. That NYTM recipe is a keeper.

Cuban Black Beans
Serves 4 to 5. Adapted from NYT Magazine ‘Cooking with Dexter’ by Pete Wells, March 7, 2010 who adapted it from “Tastes Like Cuba,” by Eduardo Machado and Michael Domitrovich.

1 green pepper, stemmed and seeded
5 garlic cloves
1/2 pound dried black beans, rinsed and picked over to remove any stones
1 smoked ham hock [I used a spiral ham bone]
1 bay leaf
2 1/2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
1 ounce olive oil
2 slices thick bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 Spanish onion, diced
1/2 jalapeño, stemmed and finely chopped [I seeded, as well]
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1/2 tablespoon turbinado or other brown sugar.

1. Cut 1 green pepper into 1-inch squares. Smash and peel 2 of the garlic cloves. Put the green pepper and garlic into a large pot with the beans, ham hock, bay leaves and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Add 1 quart water and bring to a boil. Cover the pot and simmer until the beans are tender, an hour or more [see note].
2. Meanwhile, make a sofrito. Cut the remaining ½ green pepper into ¼-inch dice. Peel and finely chop the remaining garlic. Heat the olive oil in a very large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until it starts to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the green pepper and onion and cook, stirring, until slightly softened, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, jalapeño (leave out the seeds if you don’t want it too spicy), oregano, cumin, black pepper and 2 teaspoons salt and stir for another minute. Pour in the vinegar and scrape any browned bits from bottom of pan with a wooden spoon. This is your sofrito.
3. When the beans are cooked, discard the bay leaf. Remove and set aside the ham hock and let it cool. Transfer 1/2 cup of beans to small bowl, mash them into a paste with the back of a fork and return to the pot. Add the sofrito, then the sugar. Pull the meat from the ham hock, leaving behind any white sinew or gristle. Chop the ham into ½-inch pieces and return it to the bean pot.
Stir the beans well and bring to a boil over medium heat, then lower to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for 20 minutes or so, skimming any foam from the top. Taste for salt and serve with white rice. Yum!

The Burgers spiral ham bone was not as meaty nor as smokey as a ham hock, but it was good anyway and just the right size for half-pound of beans. I cooked the beans for 50 minutes after boil, then another 15 (65 minutes). Served with “Spicy Rice and Kale” [see]. Perfect combo. C mixed her’s all up and loved it. Sliced beet beet “salad” [wedges would have been better than slices].

Rice and Kale
Serves 4 Adapted from Bon Appétit February 1999

2 1/4 cups canned low-salt chicken broth [used homemade] or vegetable broth
1 1/2 teaspoons spice mixture of cumin, oregano and black pepper
1 cup long grain white rice
4 ounces kale (about 1/2 large bunch), stems and ribs removed, leaves coarsely chopped (2 cups packed)

Bring broth and seasoning to boil in heavy large saucepan. Stir in rice and kale and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes.

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