Black Beans Cubano

Mmmmm… Multi-purpose beany goodness…

This is one of those simple go-to staples that takes a little bit of planning, but is well worth the effort. Simmer a simple pound of beans on a lazy Sunday morning, and eat all week. Sure, you could just eat black beans out of the can as desired, but home made beans come alive with the spices (and smoke) you’ve added, lending a touch of homeyness to meals throughout the week (or even beyond — they keep really well).

There is a reason cultures throughout the Caribbean and South America subsist largely on beans… beans are not only inexpensive, they are nutritional powerhouses and can help stretch your food budget dollars a long, long way. Have I mentioned beans are darn tasty, too?

Uses for leftover beans:

  • Stand-alone as a satisfying soup
  • Added to tacos, nachos, quesadillas or burritos to stretch your meat portions
  • Mashed up and made into veggie burgers
  • Tossed with veggies and pretty much anything else you have on hand to make a bean or taco salad
  • Used to bulk up a pasta dish
  • Used as an added protein hit for any grain-based meal
  • Eaten simply with rolls for sopping up the extra juice

Black Beans Cubano

This dish made a light and satisfying summer week night meal, with enough beans left over for mango salsa and bean tacos for lunch the next day, a big bowl of black bean soup the day after that and a big bowl of beans with sopping bread the day after that. Yay, multi-purpose ingredients. I really could have stretched my beans even further, but I was out of almost everything else in the pantry when lunch rolled around.

Basic Beans
These beans can be made a million different ways, with any bean you happen to have on hand. This is that simple and versatile a recipe.

1 lb. dried black beans (or any other bean)
1 onion, roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, smashed
1 ham hock or other smoked meat (smoked turkey works great here)
1/2 bunch cilantro

The night before you want to cook the beans, put into a vessel of some sort (making sure to pick over for rocks or other undesirable package inclusions) and cover with water. Soak for 8 hours or overnight on the stove or counter top. Do not place the beans in the fridge, or they will get tough.

Drain the beans and add to a medium pot. Add the onion, garlic, ham hock, cilantro and enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, cover, and knock the heat back to a simmer. Simmer for 2 1/2 hours or until tender. After the beans are tender, remove the garlic and cilantro and season to taste.

Coconut Rice
Adapted from Saveur Magazine’s Coconut Brown Rice. This rice is simple, light and tastes of warm nights and island breezes.

1″ knob of fresh ginger, peeled and whacked with the back of a knife until it breaks up a bit and begins to let off some juices
1 cup rice (our favorite is long grain brown rice, though your favorite rice will do, just adjust the cooking time accordingly)
3/4 c. light coconut milk
3/4 c. water
pinch salt

Rinse the rice and add to a medium saucepan over high heat. Add the coconut milk, water, salt and ginger. Stir to combine, making sure the ginger is fully submerged. Bring up to a boil, stirring frequently, cover, and kick the heat back to a simmer. Simmer until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender, about 45 minutes.

Remove the pot from the heat and let sit 10 minutes. Remove any large pieces of ginger you run across. Taste for seasoning and add as necessary.

Mango Salsa
This style of salsa is a Miami staple during high mango season, and makes a great addition to any dish you’d like to inject a sunshiny brightness to. Serve the leftovers in tacos, mixed into a cold rice salad, or spooned over your favorite meat. Tastes even better the next day.

1/2 c. chopped cilantro
1 mango, peeled & chopped
1 jalapeño, chopped (de-seeded if you want less spicy, seeded if you like a big spice kick)
1/4 c. diced red onion
1 lime, juiced

Combine all ingredients and season to taste. Use to bring a bright summery finish to any dish.

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