The Cubans, along with many other nationalities, made a significant contribution to the culinary world by combining two nutritionally complementary foods beans and rice. I enjoy all the different variations: Louisiana red beans and rice, Indian dal on rice, Mideast lentils and rice, and various Latin American and Caribbean dishes, but I find this Cuban version the most attractive and flavorful. Black beans in a richly flavored sauce are mounded on rice, then garnished with minced hard-boiled egg, sour cream, and chopped red onion.

SERVES 4

1ВЅ cups dried black beans

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 medium onions, diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 bay leaves

ВЅ teaspoon dried oregano

ВЅ teaspoon dried thyme

1 tablespoon tomato paste

Вј teaspoon Tabasco, or to taste

1 tablespoon vinegar (preferably red wine vinegar)

1 cup water

2 green bell peppers, cored and diced

Salt to taste

Freshly ground pepper to taste

Perfect Brown Rice*

1 hard-boiled egg, minced

в…” cup sour cream

ВЅ small red onion, diced

*About 40 minutes before the beans are done you can begin cooking the rice in a separate pan, or you can cook it in advance and reheat it in the oven (350В°F).

  1. Rinse the black beans in a strainer under cold running water and pick out and discard any blemished ones, stones, etc. Soak overnight in water to cover. Or put in a saucepan with water to cover and boil for 2 minutes; turn off the heat, cover, and let the beans sit for 1 hour. Drain very well.
  2. Combine the olive oil, onions, and garlic in a medium saucepan and saut for 2 minutes.
  3. Add the drained beans, bay leaves, oregano, thyme, tomato paste, Tabasco, vinegar, and cup of water. Cover, bring to a boil, and simmer on low heat for 1 to 1ВЅ hours, or until the beans are tender yet still retain their shape. Stir occasionally. (You might have to add a bit more water before they are done, depending on how long the beans take to cook. In any event, the sauce should be thick, not dry or watery.)
  4. About 10 minutes before the beans are done, add the green peppers, and cook until tender.
  5. Taste to adjust the seasoning; it will probably need salt and some freshly ground pepper. May be prepared to this point in advance, covered, and refrigerated for up to 24 hours. (In this case you will probably have to add a little water when you reheat it to thin the sauce.)
  6. Serve on individual portions of hot brown rice. Garnish with minced hard-boiled egg, top with a spoonful of sour cream, and finally garnish with some diced red onion. Serve immediately.