This is the King of Bean Soups and about as Cuban as you can get. I can't imagine any Cuban get together that doesn't involve food, and specifically Black Beans and rice as a featured complement to the main course. Many people think of beans as healthy, sensible, inexpensive, something you make to stretch your food budget. This bean soup is all that, but it is also delicious and an exotic experience for your taste buds. Picture yourself on a veranda, feeling the tropical breeze, eating these wonderful beans!
There are a many versions of this recipe, none as good as my mother's. Mamina made this for every family gathering, now it's my turn to continue this delicious tradition.
FRIJOLES NEGROS-Black Bean Soup
1 lb bag (2 cups) dry black beans (you can use canned beans and add the sofrito, but it won’t be as good)
3-4 bay leaves
2 teaspoons salt
3-4 Tablespoons of olive oil
1 large green bell pepper
1 large onion
4-5 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon cumin
2 teaspoon sugar
1 Tablespoon of vinegar
1 Tablespoon of olive oil
Sort through the beans to take out any debris. Rinse and then cover them with water and soak overnight. Cook in soaking water, do not change it, so they don't loose any of their beautiful inky blackness. Add more water if needed, to about 2 inches above the beans, add the bay leaves.
If using a pressure cooker, cook 20- 25 minutes after pressure is reached. Otherwise use a heavy pan, bring the beans to a boil, then lower the temperature to low and cover them. Cook them for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until the beans are soft; if they dry out you can add more water. I like to set them at the back of the stove and forget about them. Don't worry, the aroma will remind you that they are cooking.
You can also cook them on high in a slow cooker for 7-8 hours. This actually works quite well. Then proceed with sofrito, etc.
Add the tablespoon of salt after they are soft, if you add it before cooking, the beans will be tough.
While the beans are cooking, chop up pepper and onion. My mother stressed that the secret to her marvelous black beans was lots of green pepper. Sauté in olive oil, be generous with the oil for this one. Cook until the onions are translucent. Mash or mince the garlic and add to the sofrito, continue cooking for another minute or so.
When the beans are soft add the Sofrito to them, also the oregano, cumin and sugar. Stir and cook on low, covered, for about 20 more minutes. It will thicken a bit and all the flavors will blend. Taste it and add more salt if needed. Some people like to take out a cup of the beans, mash them and add them back to the soup to thicken it.
The last 2 ingredients, vinegar and olive oil, are for drizzling over the beans before serving. My mother would invariably tell me “most people add vinegar and oil to their black beans”, but she rarely did, as the kids would complain. I also skip the vinegar and oil as they are delicious either way. I say try it without and then if you want to, try adding the vinegar and oil, see what you think.
Serve over white rice or add the rice to your soup bowl. If they are not too thick, you can also eat them as a soup, with crusty Cuban bread.