***************RECIPE UPDATED 11/22/16***************
When I was first learning to cook, I used to follow my mom around the kitchen, writing down everything little thing she did. The difficulty of learning to cook from any seasoned Cuban chef is that they rarely measure anything. So, as she was about to toss a handful of something into the pot, I would grab her hand and pour whatever she held into a measuring cup. Believe it or not, these were the beginnings of my Cuban cuisine education. After years of learning through studying, cooking, and a lot of trial and error, I can at least say this: I finally understand my mom.
Admittedly, I have been delaying posting Cuban recipes – and this one in particular. It’s hard to explain, but the Cuban kitchen has a lot to do with learning how flavors complement each other and adjusting to your audience. It has very little to do with careful measurements. That being said, you will find over time that experience with Cuban cuisine will allow you to make your own adjustments.
Now, as this is a post about a black bean stew – let me start by saying this. I have known many people who claimed they didn’t eat beans – that they didn’t like them. To this day, I have never met a person who wasn’t converted by this dish. This recipe belonged to my grandmother. In Cuba, she was famous for her black beans. She passed it on to my mother, who passed it on to me. I am delighted to be able to share it with you. In Cuba, dishes vary by the region from which they originated. Some Cuban black bean stews include pork or other meats for flavoring, but this one (my favorite) is completely vegetarian and emphasizes the decadent taste of the actual bean without being boring like so many bean dishes are.
- 16 oz dried Goya Black Beans
- 1.5 Quarts / 6 cups water
- 4 bay leaves
- 2 medium onions, finely chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, seeded, white inner cavity removed, and finely chopped
- 1 green bell pepper, seeded, white inner cavity removed, and finely chopped
- 1 head of garlic (about 20 cloves) (fresh, not from a jar, if possible), minced
- 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil + 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
- ½ tsp oregano (small flakes, not ground)
- ¼ tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp cumin (maybe a pinch more if you like cumin)
- ½ lime (just the juice)
- ¾ - 1 tbsp salt
- 5 tsp sugar
- 1 leaf Cuban cilantro ("Culantro")
- Pour the beans and water into a pressure cooker and cover (the water should be more than double the height of the beans). Let the beans soak overnight, or at least 6 hours.
- Add four bay leaves to the pressure cooker, and close the lid. If you have an automatic pressure cooker, use the setting for beans. Set the timer to 20 minutes. If you have a stovetop pressure cooker, set the heat to high. Once the pressure regulator begins to rock back and forth, begin to measure 20 minutes.
- In a small bowl, mix and set aside 1 tsp garlic (or 2 cloves), 2 tbsp onion, and 1 tsp olive oil - you will use this just before the end of the recipe.
- Meanwhile, get to work on the "sofrito." In a large skillet, add your remaining olive oil and heat the pan to medium-high heat. Add in the remaining onion, remaining garlic, peppers, oregano, black pepper, and cumin. Stir and saute the vegetables until tender, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
- When the 20 minutes have elapsed, remove from heat and use the quick-release method described by your pressure cooker's manufacturer to unseal the pot. Please be very careful at this step!
- Using a slotted spoon, test a couple of the beans by removing them and pressing them down with a spoon. They should smash easily, but still have a little bit of firmness to them.
- Add your sofrito to your beans and stir to combine the ingredients.
- Add in the lime juice and stir.
- Add in the salt and sugar, and stir. Adjust salt and sugar if necessary. At this point, the stew will still be watery.
- Add in the cilantro, if using.
- Cover and seal the lid once more.
- If you have an automatic pressure cooker, using the beans setting, set the timer for 5 minutes. If you have a stovetop pressure cooker, set the heat to high. Once the pressure regulator begins to rock back and forth, begin to measure 5 minutes.
- When the 5 minutes are up, use the quick release method again and unseal the lid.
- Add in the olive oil, garlic, and onion mixture that you set aside earlier.
- Using the back of a ladle or serving spoon, mash some of the beans against the side of the pot. Repeat this 4-5 times. This will release some of the bean flavor into the stew and the starch will help it to thicken. If necessary, boil uncovered for a few extra minutes to evaporate excess water.
- Serve over white rice and enjoy!