Cuban Black Beans

Cook black beans according to recipe below. When cooked, add several heaping tablespoons of recaito and a few chopped ajices dulces, and stir. This is traditionally served with white rice, but I made long grain brown rice with it and it was delicious.

Black Beans
Frijoles Negros
Most people soak their beans before cooking them, but you don’t have to. It takes longer to cook them, but they are still delicious. If you’d like to soak your beans before cooking them, go ahead.
Makes about 4 cups

1 pound black beans
1 smoked ham hock
2 bay leaves

Put the beans and ham hock in a medium saucepan and pour in enough water to cover them by 2 inches. Toss in the bay leaves and bring the water to a boil. Adjust the heat so the water is boiling gently and cook the beans, skimming off any foam that rises to the top, until tender, about 2 hours. Keep an eye on the beans; they should always be covered by liquid. When the liquid meets the level of the beans, top it off with a 1/2-inch or so of cold water.

Toward the end of cooking, ease up on the liquid you add; the goal is to have the beans barely covered with liquid by the time they’re tender.

Recaito

There really is no translation for this mixture of onion, garlic, peppers and green herbs. Recao is culantro (see below) in Puerto Rican-speak, so this seasoning is nicknamed recaito, or “little culantro.” Recaito is used for dishes like Cuban black beans or Puerto Rican Style Pot Roast, where you don’t want the color or extra liquid that you have in a sofrito. Culantro is the defining flavor. Recaito, like sofrito, can get you out of any kitchen emergency. It pays to make extra (which this recipe does) and portion it out for the freezer.
Makes about 1 ½ cups

1 medium Spanish onion, cut into big chunks
8 cloves garlic, peeled
6 ajicitos dulces (see recipe for Sofrito) or 1 cubanelle peppers, cored, seeded, and cut into chunks
4 leaves culantro (if you can’t find culantro, increase the amount of Iajicitos or cilantro by half)
6 big sprig cilantro, stems and all, coarsely chopped (about 1 cup packed)
 

Place the onion and garlic in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. With the motor running, add the remaining ingredients, one at a time and process, until the mixture is smooth. Set aside the amount you need for the recipe you’re preparing. Pack the remaining recaito in ½-cup portions in sealable plastic bags and store in freezer.

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