I’m white as they come and have never really been immersed in any other culture, much to my dismay. However, I have dipped my toes into Cuban-style cooking and holidays over the years and have come to love their food.
Growing up, my father was good friends (and still is) with one big, fat Cuban family! We went over for birthdays and the usual get-togethers, but the most memorable were the Cuban-Christmases, also known as Noche Buena. The family would go out and slaughter a pig, bring it home and roast it in the backyard on a huge spit over an open fire, or in giant wooden box. I can remember one time when the pig was roasted and they set it on the big island in the kitchen. My mom and I walked over to the delicious-smelling meat and picked at the ears, which tasted like bacon. This was, in fact, my first taste of another culture.
We haven’t been to the traditional pig-roasting Christmas of theirs for quite some years, but my work as a nanny also threw me back to Cuba. My boss was Cuban and consistently cooked Cuban-style foods. She, too, held a Noche Buena, but she was somewhat of a vegetarian, so her main course and outstanding dish of the night was her black beans and rice. It sounds simple and almost peasant-like, but it is one of the most spectacular dishes—and so completely filling! She also makes some great homemade flan, another Cuban tradition, but it’s not my favorite thing to eat.
I’ve only made this once since learning the recipe, but it turned out so good I think my sister and I ate the whole dish in one day. Also, it’s been awhile since I’ve made this, so give me some slack on the recipe–it’s just from memory! Enjoy, and feel free to tweak to your liking!
2 Tbsp. EVOO
Sweet onion, such as Vidalia or Walla Walla, chopped
Two bell peppers (red and orange, green and yellow, etc.) chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp. Cumin
2 cans of black beans (I like the Cuban-flavored ones, like Kirby), lightly rinsed (if you want thicker black beans, rinse only one can and use all of the juices from the other one!)
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 cup water
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
Your favorite rice, cooked according to package
Directions for in the kitchen:
- Heat up the oil in a large pot and cook the onions down for about 4 minutes.
- Add the garlic and bell pepper to the pan and season with salt and pepper. Cook for another 3-4 minutes
- Stir in the cumin to completely coat the vegetables and cook for about 1 minute
- Add the beans, oregano, and water. Bring up to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer. Cover and let simmer for 10 minutes
- Serve over your favorite rice and top with the fresh cilantro!
Notes and Variations
This is from memory, so if you find it needs some tweaking, feel free and leave a comment about what you changed!
Squeeze some fresh lime juice over top just before serving
I’m by no means a rice cooker. In fact, I always screw it up in an actual rice cooker. I find good old-fashioned stove top cooking the best for rice 😀