Sunday, May 6, 2007

Black Beans with Sofrito

I haven't been cooking much until just recently. I used to cook all the time, but for some reason, I haven't been in the mood. Well, I am now.

I'm starting with this one because it's the best one. Not just my best one. It's the best black bean recipe. Anywhere.

If you like beans, you'll love these. If you are a fan of black beans, then I feel sorry for all the other poor saps that serve you their black beans. Other beans may still be edible after these, but you may wonder why you bother.

These aren't side dish beans. Serve them with some chicken and grilled veggies as the sides...

These seem complicated, but give them a shot. They are easy, just take it step by step. After you do it once, you'll know how easy beans are to make.

Black Beans with Sofrito

First, what's a sofrito? It's a blend of vegetables, herbs, and spices, cooked on the side and then stirred into the beans near the end. Seems like work, huh? It's worth it. Don’t shortcut and just dump it all in earlier. You might not think it matters, but trust me, it does.

I often make these in a slow cooker. When I do, I reduce the water by one cup. They have to cook for a lot longer, but you don't have to watch them to make sure they don't burn or stick.

If using a conventional pot, try to use one with a heavy bottom to insure even heat across the bottom. A thin-bottomed pot can cause the beans to stick in the center, then burn.

Pasilla chilis aren't too spicy, and you’re only using two for the whole pot. You shouldn't be afraid of the heat. But, they might be hard to find, I suggest two red bell peppers, instead. There will be a subtle taste difference, but they will be terrific. I can never decide which way to make them. Each way is different, but equally good.

1 lb. dried black beans
½ lbs. salt pork or a ham hock
1 medium white onion, finely chopped
7 cloves garlic, minced
6 cups water (5 in a slow cooker)
1 pasilla* chili, seeded and halved
2 bay leaves
1½ tsp salt

1 pasilla* chili, seeded and chopped
1 medium white onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp olive oil
1 tbsp cumin seed, ground
1 tbsp dried oregano
1½ tsp. salt

1 tbsp fresh lime juice
chopped cilantro (optional)

* You can substitute other chilis, or even green or red bell peppers, if desired


Pick through beans, discarding all non-bean material and any beans that are broken or strange looking. Rinse beans and add to the pot.

Rinse salt pork and add to pot. Add onion, chili or bell pepper, salt, bay leaves, and water.

Bring beans to a low boil, cover, and then simmer slowly, stirring occasionally until beans are the desired tenderness (tender but not splitting or falling apart), about 1 ½ to 2 hours. You may have to add more water periodically. The only downside, if you add too much is saucier beans…

Remove the chili/pepper and ham hock/salt pork. Unless the salt pork or ham hock is very meaty, discard it. If it is meaty and you actually like to eat it, you can cool it a bit and pull the meat off and shred it with a fork. Then add it back to the beans.

Make sofrito by sauteing the chili, onion, and garlic until soft.

Add the ground cumin and oregano and saute about a minute, until fragrant. Remove from heat.

Mash 1 cup of the beans with a fork or potato masher (or, alternately, lightly blend 1 cup of the beans and 1 cup of bean liquid in a blender). If you have a stick or immersion blender, use it now. Just stick it in and very briefly pulse 2-3 times. Careful, you can always do more later, but you can never bring the beans back if you do it too much.

Add mashed beans back to the rest of the beans in the pot (unless you used the immersion blender…)

Add sofrito to the bean pot.

Simmer beans, uncovered, another 20 to 30 minutes until thickened to the desired consistency.

Add lime juice and cilantro and stir.

In your world, you serve the beans over rice, if desired. In my world, I just eat them. Why waste calories on rice when there's a whole pot of beans?


  1. Sounds YUMMY!! I'll have to give them a go ... beans, beans, they're good for your heart ... the more you eat ... the more you ... :D

  2. I tried this and liked it a lot, Roland. I've been cooking up a Cuban black bean soup recipe I got from a Fanny Farmer cookbook in the eighties, but this may just supplant it.

    I've had a habit of dumping rice on top of bean soups, which may have rubbed off on me from working around Cajun folks for all these years. I've been using quinoa in place of rice lately, and I can't decide whether I like your soup best with it or without it.

    Thanks for sharing this.


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