Archive for May, 2011

Black Beans: Cuban Frijoles Negros

Monday, May 30th, 2011

Life happens. I know you’ve been there. There’s more on your plate than you can chew on – whether it’s work, family, unexpected twists and turns, or simply keeping up with the day to day.

I’m not complaining. Just keeping it real.

At times like these, I turn to some staples. Near the top of my list of go to foods are frijoles. In most Latino homes, you’ll find some beans ready to eat. My kitchen is no different. I’ve got an assortment of dried beans and cans in the pantry. Yet, It’s the black beans in the freezer and the fridge that are prized and a necessity.

That wasn’t always the case. Growing up, pinto beans were king. That is, until I fell in love with their black cousin.

Frijoles negros, “turtle beans,” “caraota,” and “habichuela negra,” are just a few of the names for this small, shiny, sweet legume that is predominantly used in the Carribean, central Mexico, the Yucatan, and African cooking.

Despite the fact that I’ve yet to visit Cuba, I’ve been making this recipe with slight variations for nearly two decades. It’s my go to recipe for a big pot of beans – some to eat and the rest to stash in the freezer in quart containers.

Cuban black beans are spiced with bay leaves plus a freshly-made and cooked sofrito of olive oil, peppers, onions, cumin, and lots of garlic. If you’re hip to Cuban food, you probably know that black beans are typically more common to the western region of Cuba, while red beans are more popular in the eastern region’s cuisine.

Regardless, these beans are a must try. Half it if you don’t want to make such a large amount. You can also modify this recipe to make other cultural variations of frijoles negros. Make a Puerto Rican version with my sofrito with culantro and cilantro or a Mexican version using epazote.

We’ll be using these beans for more recipes. Stay tuned.


Tidbits on Black Beans:

  1. Black Beans and other “common” beans originated in parts of Central and South America.
  2. Beans were introduced into Europe in the 15th century by Spanish explorers returning from their voyages to the New World and subsequently spread to Africa and Asia by Spanish and Portuguese traders.
  3. Purchasing black beans:  buy newer beans when possible since they cook more quickly than “old” beans.  Store in a sealed container in a cold, dry place. If you have leftover black beans and you purchase more beans, do not mix old and new beans since they have different cooking rates.
  4. Cooking black beans:  add salt during the last hour of cooking. I add a tiny pinch of baking soda to my black beans to deter discoloration; this, according to some, is also a method to aide digestion and reduce the incidence of flatulence.


Holiday: Splendiferous Cinco de Mayo Eats

Thursday, May 5th, 2011
Cinco de Mayo - History Horchata Mole Poblana Palenqueta Tacos Salsa

Traditional and unsual Mexican eats on Fork Fingers Chopsticks: (top left, clockwise) horchata, purslane tacos, mole poblano, zucchini succotash, salsa verde with tomatillos and avocado, Mexican pumpkin seed peanut brittle.

Feliz Cinco de Mayo. For those not in the know, this Mexican holiday commemorates the country’s victory over the French in the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862.

Ironically, the day is celebrated more broadly in the U.S. than in Mexico (with the exception of the city of Puebla). Why? According to some academics, the impetus for American interest was the large number of Mexicans living in California during that time period. When they got word of the victory, they banded together to celebrate the success of their motherland.

Today, the holiday is less focused on the significance of the 1862 battle and is instead a general celebration of Mexican heritage and culture. Many Americans – whether of Mexican descent or not – now participate in Cinco de Mayo festivities.

Mexican eats . . .

In homage to my Mexican roots, I’m reminding you of the splendiferous Mexican eats on Fork Fingers Chopsticks. Yes, I said it . . . “splendiferous.” It’s my word of the week and perfectly describes the array of awesome recipes on my site.

I hope you prepare at least one of these dishes this Cinco de Mayo weekend.  So far, the horchata recipe is the most sought after.

Which recipe is your favorite, whether you’ve made it or not?




Drinks & Sweets