Cheap Eats:
Arroz con Frijoles
  (Black Beans with Rice)

Buenos dias, amigos! This month, Cheap Eats heads for Cuba, the largest island in the Greater Antilles. As is common in most of the world outside the U.S., beans and rice are staples. Cuban recipes generally use the dark and handsome black, or turtle, beans, which color everything cooked with them. In this recipe, the green, white and pink of the green pepper, onion and ham used as "garnish" stand out dramatically against the dusky backdrop of the beans and rice, creating a dish that is a delight to the eyes, as well as the palate. (If you can't find turtle beans in the regular beans and rice section of your grocery store, check the ethnic/Hispanic foods section.)

Arroz con Frijoles

1¼ cups black (turtle) beans

1 quart water

1 large onion, chopped

2 or 3 cloves garlic

1 large green pepper, chopped

1 bay leaf

1 tablespoon salt

1 tsp. black pepper

2 cloves, ground

1½ cups uncooked white rice

1½ cups hot water

½ cup olive oil

½ pound lean ham, chopped (¼ in. cubes)

Wash beans and let them stand overnight in water (see Note below). Place beans and soaking water in a 3-quart saucepan with lid, or a Dutch oven.

Next morning, boil beans in soaking water for 40 minutes. (Note: cooking the beans in their soaking liquid is authentic, but if you have trouble digesting beans, drain and rinse before cooking — they will lose a little flavor, but they will be much easier to digest.) As beans boil, add more water if necessary. Beans should be tender but whole. Add half the onion, garlic and green pepper and half the bay leaf, salt, pepper, and cloves to the beans, and stir. Add the rice and hot water. Cover and cook over low heat until rice is tender and dry, about 40 minutes. Stir once, turning rice from the bottom of the pan to the top. Remove from the heat. Add ¼ cup olive oil and allow to stand for 5 minutes.

In remaining oil, sauté the ham. When this is warmed through, add the remaining onion, garlic, green pepper and seasonings. Sauté until they start to brown. Serve over the beans and rice.

Serves 6‑8.


If you want to make this, or any other bean recipe, but you forgot to put the beans in water the night before, here's the trick to try. Put the beans in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then remove from the heat. Put a lid on the pot, and set it aside for an hour. Purists say that this isn't quite as good as soaking overnight, but they probably don't have schedules as busy as ours. Most people can't tell the difference.

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