The Mighty Bean

In food on 06/18/2009 at 11:19 am

Every time I eat beans and rice, I’m reminded how much I like it. The flavor is so complex, almost meaty, it satisfies the tiny crevices on the edges of my appetite. The other day, we had early Sunday dinner at the home of our Far Rockaway friend. We were scouting out the location of my future workplace.

Man, the place is as far as you can get from our new apartment and still be called NYC. But it reminded the other half of Crown Heights, blacks and Orthodox Jews elbow to elbow. It’s also part-Hamptons, what with the houses butting up to the beach, fenced in by the main drag. The south side of the island is all boardwalk and sand. Our Far Rockaway friend lives in the projects, sky high with dirt cheap rent. Not that I envy her too much, the neighborhood is plenty sketchy. She decided to strut her cooking chops for us. I’d never been in the kitchen with a Dominican, so this was a particular treat.

The key, plopped into every dish, is sofrito, one that has all sorts of peppers (not traditional, according to her sister), and one that was just mashed garlic. Guess what went in the salad dressing?! Sofrito is basically a short cut mirapois of instant flavoring, no caramelizing needed; homemade is best. I’ve tried some canned stuff, and it’s not as fragrant or fresh. She also keeps a jar of tomato paste preserved in olive oil. I picked her brain for the essence of Dominican cuisine. The menu: salmon in tomato stew, beef empanadas and beans+pumpkin and rice. Those chunks of pumpkin were her secret ingredient, adding sweet flaky accents to the hearty beans.

I ate the requisite beans and rice with relish, but the other half squirmed at the thought of that canned mush touching tongue, so yesterday, I had the bright idea of using dried legumes. We are told by our Broadway-belting friend that the dessicated variety is totally different than the canned kind. The other half was game, so I went to work, soaking the beans to make the cooking time short and sweet.

First I chopped and blended my sofrito, grabbing the five kinds of peppers at the market that were available, hot and sweet. The ratio needs futzing, but the more garlic you put in, the more paste-like consistency you’ll get. I need to get some some small jars so I can keep the stuff longer, portioned out. Right now, half the batch is sitting in a Chinese take-out plastic container in the freezer.

The verdict: beans pop in your mouth like a mini-natural casing hot dog when they’re freshly re-hydrated. They absorb any flavor you add, so add a lot! The canned stuff ain’t got nothing on these. I’m going work my way through the bean aisle now. They even have a 16-bean per bag variety for soup. If you grind the stuff up, you got a bean dip ready to go. All hail the mighty bean, tofu of the future!

bean beans they’re good for your heart
the more you eat the more you fart
the more you fart the better you feel
so eat your beans at ev’ry meal!

1/2 bag beans (any variety you like)
2 Tbsp sofrito (grind up a bunch of peppers, red onions, garlic – one bulb per 2 peppers, cilantro, olive oil, salt, pepper)
bacon or smoked ham hock

Soak beans overnight or until double water is absorbed.

Change out the water and add fresh water 1″ above beans into pot.

Add your seasonings: sofrito, bacon, oregano, etc… Simmer on low-medium heat for 45min.

Serve over rice or oatmeal for that extra nutty QQ.

Tip: To keep the beans al dente, but also have a creamier sauce, dissolve 1 Tbsp cornstarch in a bit of water and add to the simmering beans at the end. The sauce will thicken right up.

git yer fart on

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