Monday, November 16, 2009

Cuban Black Bean Soup

What is Cuban food? That’s the question I’ve been trying to answer these last 3 weeks and I’m still not sure I have it down. There’s the popular Cubano sandwich with so many variations that I’m not sure which is the original. (And should I care when they all sound so good?) Cubans seem to be fond of roasted pork, which they marinate in citrus, garlic, and cumin. I’ve done that, but I didn’t know it was Cuban. It was vaguely labeled “Carribean-inspired pork.” Mojo and sofrito are also words associated with Cuban cuisine, but they’re different from the Spanish versions. And despite popular belief, chilies and cilantro are not typically used in Cuban cuisine, although they are ingredients commonly found in other cuisines of the region. So how’s a girl supposed to sort it all out?

I did say soup, right? Well, it is a soup but I just ladled it over rice!

Overwhelmed (and underwhelmed) with all the information on the Interwebs, I just decided to "wing it", as they say, and cobbled together a recipe for black bean soup. It's got all the necessary components, like sofrito, cumin and bay leaf. It's also quite tasty, if I do say so myself.

Cuban Black Bean Soup
  • 1 green bell pepper, roughly chopped
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 head garlic (approx 5 cloves), crushed
  • approx 1/2 to 1 tbs cumin seed
  • approx 1 tbs chopped oregano (thyme will also work)
  • 2 to 3 bay leaves
  • 2 cups black beans, soaked overnight
  • 1 large ham hock (optional)
Make a sofrito by throwing the bell pepper, onion and garlic into a food processor and pulsing until you get a uniform mixture. In a large pot, add a couple of healthy glugs of olive oil (approx 3 tbs). When it’s hot, add the cumin seed followed by the sofrito. Cook until the sofrito gets soft and most of the moisture has evaporated, about 10 minutes or so. Add the oregano and bay leaf. Add the beans (rinsed), ham hock (if using) and about 6 cups of water or chicken stock. The beans should be covered by the water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and allow to simmer until the beans are tender. Once the beans are tender, add salt to taste.

I used a pressure cooker, which took 20 minutes once it got up to pressure (15 psi) and allowed the pressure to release naturally. The beans came out perfectly tender as did the ham hock. I served the beans and shredded ham hock over long grain rice. It may not look like much, but I’ll tell you, this was a very delicious and comforting meal.

This is my submission to Regional Recipes. The spotlight's on Cuba. If you've got a Cuban recipe you're dying to share, I'm hosting and will accept submissions until Thursday. And definitely check back for the roundup at the end of the week.


Mary Bergfeld said...

This sounds wonderful.You are the only Thai, Dane, Cuban in my acquaintance :-). Have a great day!

Ivy said...

Oh nom nom! This is exactly what I want for dinner. I would go to Cuba just for the beans...

pam said...

I used to make a Cuban black bean soup ages ago. Thanks for reminding me, to make it again!

dp said...

Mary, don't have the Cuban in me, but my stepdad is Puerto Rican and I think a little of that carribeaness has rubbed off on me :-)

Ivy, I'm generally not a big fan of beans, but my son loves them. I gave this a shot and we both loved it.

Pam, it's perfect cold weather food. Funny to think it doesn't get cold in Cuba.

Lars said...

looks great, and i LOVE beans, the silkiness and ability to soak flavors... yum. a little tip is to boil a peeled potato along with the beans. this makes the beans even more silky smooth. just discard the potato after cooking.

i went to a pretty authentic feeling cuban restaurant i barcelona and what stuck to my mind was the use of yuca/cassava with garlic as a kind of mash, crunchy fried plantains, black beans (whole, mixed with rice or refried mush), lovely slow cooked meats AND MOJITOS!!! so looks like your recipe fits perfectly :-)

abby said...

I have never been able to perfect a black bean anything, but this sounds great. will DEFINITELY try it.

Marvin said...

Mmmm, any soup with a ham hock in it is a soup for me.

dp said...

Lars, mojitos (and all the different variations) are my absolute favorite drink! As for silky beans, I have heard of the potato trick, but never tried it. I now find that my pressure cooker does a really good job.

Abby, I'm normally not a fan of beans because they can be too mealy, and I could never remember which ones are not supposed to be salted before boiling. Now that I use my pressure cooker, I've not had a problem, and it only takes about 1/3 of the time or less!

Marvin, I'm with you on ham hock. It really makes all the difference in the world.

Xiaolu @ 6 Bittersweets said...

This sounds very hearty and satisfying. Pressure cookers are great, aren't they? Loved the roundup for this event as well. Happy holidays!

dp said...

xiaolu, thanks for stopping by and the kind words. Yes, this soup is hearty, perfect for the cold weather we have here in PDX. Happy Holidays to you too!

Jeff said...

Yeah you put a ham hock with it!! Most people do not and I they definitely lack a lot of flavor because of that.

I really want to learn more cuban cooking and I think you have convinced me to give this a shot!

Nicely done!

Dee said...

Jeff, what can I say? I like pork with my beans. Actually, I like pork with just about anything. LOL