Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Politically Incorrect, Perhaps. But Definitely Good Eats.

moros y cristianos Cuban black beans & rice
Moros y Cristianos, Cuban black beans & rice
Moros y Cristianos.

For the record, I did not come up with that name for the following recipe.

As anyone familiar with traditional Cuban food will tell you, Moros y Cristianos has been around for as long as Cubans have been cooking and eating black beans and white rice in Cuba -- which is well over a century.

If you don't speak Spanish or haven't already figured out what "Moros y Cristianos" means in English, it translates to "Moors and Christians." That's always been the name of this hearty rice & beans dish enjoyed by  Cubans of all classes and racial or ethnic origins. Rather than be offended by the "politically incorrect" name, I suggest you look past it and give this unpretentious yet deeply satisfying and easy-to-make recipe a try. It's classic Cuban comfort food or soul food, and is one of the most approachable Cuban dishes because of its familiar flavors that the whole family can enjoy. It's not hot and spicy, although if you wish to spice up your serving at the table with a few splashes of hot sauce, I won't complain.

The following is my family's recipe for Moros y Cristianos, aka Cuban black beans & rice. Some Cuban cooks begin by frying chunks of slab bacon and use the grease to fry the onions, peppers & garlic, and then stir the fried bacon into the finished dish before serving. My Mom, however, always used olive oil and did not add any meat, and thus my recipe is vegetarian and vegan. You'll find both styles of recipes for Moros y Cristianos in Cuban cookbooks, so feel free to use bacon and bacon fat instead of olive oil if you eat pork. Speaking of which, Moros y Cristianos is typically served as a side dish for pork, but can also stand on its own as a meatless main course.

cooking Cuban rice and black beans
Simmering pot of Cuban black beans & rice
2 Tbs olive oil, preferably Spanish olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, seeded & finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 bay leaf
1 can (15.5 oz) black beans, drained*
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp salt
1 cup uncooked rice**
scant 2 cups water

*You can substitute 2 cups of leftover cooked Cuban black beans. If you do that, you might want to reduce slightly the amount of oregano, cumin, salt & pepper in this recipe.

**Cubans traditionally use white rice. If you substitute brown rice, increase the cooking time by 15 to 20 minutes and add an additional 1/4 cup of water.

Cuban black beans & rice Moros y Cristianos
Ready to serve
In a medium Dutch oven (approx. 2 1/2 qt size) or large saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, bell pepper, garlic & bay leaf; saute until the vegetables are softened and onion is translucent. Add the beans, oregano, cumin, salt & pepper and stir to combine. Stir in rice & water, bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer until the water is absorbed and the rice is done, about 30 to 25 minutes for white rice, or 45 to 55 minutes for brown rice.

Stir and remove bay leaf before serving. If desired, do as the Cubans do and stir in a little extra virgin olive oil for added richness just before serving. Makes 4 servings as a main dish, or 6 as a side dish. Refrigerates well and the reheated leftovers taste fantastic.

Zestfully yours,

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