Saturday, March 1, 2014

The World's Most Amazing Vegetarian Cuban Black Beans

I was going to wax poetic for paragraphs about how wonderful these beans are, about how they have the potential to bring about world peace, about how they would delight even the most hardened serial murderer, and how, if there is ever a cure for cancer, it will likely involve this recipe in some way. But rather than ramble on at length about how good this is, I outsourced the job to Erin. Here's her take:

You might think "black beans, so what?" What's the point of spending time making beans from scratch when you can easily open a can? Who would ever know the difference? Wrong. Just...totally wrong. These are completely worth the time and I would challenge you to disagree once you've tried them. I have sampled black beans in almost every country in Central America, and these are seriously the most delicious I have ever tasted. The flavor is amazing, the sofrito is perfect. There is just enough kick to injure your enemy, but not cause any permanent damage. You'll probably want to put these on everything; don't let anyone try to stop you. Best beans ever. It doesn't hurt that the chef is pretty darn cute too.

Prep time: 2 cocktails

1 pound dry black beans
3 bay leaves
2 large bell peppers (green, red or one of each), coarsely chopped
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
1 bunch of cilantro, chopped
2 Jalapeños, coarsely chopped
¼ cup olive oil
1 tsp ground cumin
1 TBSP dried oregano
1 TBSP salt
2 tomatoes, finely chopped (optional)
¼ cup full-bodied red wine (shiraz, zinfandel, or cabernet sauvignon)
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
A few drops of liquid smoke (optional)

Soak the beans overnight. Drain and rinse well. Place beans in large Dutch oven with the bay leaves and top with water until beans are submerged. Bring the water to a boil on high heat. Reduce heat to maintain a gentle boil and cook the beans uncovered, stirring occasionally until beans soften—this can take all day, depending on your beans and elevation (you can prepare the beans in a pressure cooker to save a lot of time). As you cook, keep topping off the water when it drops below the beans.

While your beans are cooking, you want to make your sofrito. Sofrito is a simmered, fragrant sauce and a critical element in many Latin American cuisines. To whip it up, place the bell pepper, onion, cilantro and jalapeños in a food processor and process until everything’s broken down, but still a bit chunky—don’t make a smooth sauce. Next, over medium heat, warm up a large frying pan with the olive oil in it. When hot, add the bell pepper/onion mixture. Sauté, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes. Next stir in the cumin, oregano, salt, and tomato (if using). Continue stirring frequently another 5 minutes. Viola! You just made sofrito. Remove from heat and have a rewarding sip of the cocktail you're enjoying.

When beans are almost completely cooked in the pot, add your sofrito, red wine, and balsamic vinegar. Stir frequently and cook another 30 minutes until the beans are fully cooked, you have the desired amount of liquid, and the flavors have all mingled. Adjust any seasoning and add a little liquid smoke to taste (if using) before serving.

Smoked Haitian Rice

Rice with native mushrooms and smoked meat is common in Haiti. Instead of native mushrooms, I use shiitake; in place of pork, I chose liquid smoke; and rather than using the traditional white rice, I go with far awesomer Bhutanese red rice (available at most natural grocers). The result is a nutty, smoky, earthy flavor that as a great contrast to the spicy and sweet notes in other Caribbean dishes, especially Cuban Black Beans or Vegetarian Jamaican Curried Goat

Prep time: 1 cocktail

3 TBSP peanut or vegetable oil
¼ cup onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup Bhutanese red rice
1/2 cup shiitake mushrooms, chopped coarsely
16 drops liquid smoke
2 cups veggie stock
Several good grinds of pepper
¼ cup coarsely chopped pecans or macadamia nuts
1 scallion, chopped

Heat oil in a medium-size saucepan over medium heat. When warm, add onion and sauté for two minutes, or until they begin to turn just slightly transparent. Add garlic and sauté another minute. Stir in rice and continue to stir constantly until rice starts to change color and gives off a nice toasted aroma, about 3-4 minutes.

Add mushrooms, liquid smoke, veggie stock, and pepper. Stir well and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cover until the rice is fully cooked—about 45 minutes.

When it’s done, remove from heat, add nuts and scallion and fluff everything well with a fork. Adjust liquid smoke or salt as necessary.