Top Secret Frijoles Negros (Black Beans)

As with most things in my life, even black beans is a story.

In the past year, I’ve been practicing vegetarianism. Once in a while I come across a food at one of my local Jersey City take-out places that I fall in love with and crave. So it is with a particular Latin American take out spot in my neighborhood that makes the most heavenly frijoles negros (black beans) I’ve ever eaten.

Those beans are so damn good, I was determined to crack the code on them so I could replicate the flavor at home.

One of the first and easiest steps was to look up recipes on the interwebs. There are tons of them, most of which I don’t like, and which I knew didn’t match what I was getting locally.

The take-out black beans I get have an almost creamy consistency, and had nothing in them except disintegrated cilantro, and some magical blend of spices I needed to decode through some alchemical testing in my laboratory… er, I mean kitchen.

It turns out that the base flavor profile I was looking for hinged on an all-important ingredient: vinegar.

Yes, vinegar is used in the making of black beans. I think people who don’t cook them would be surprised to know that is what creates a tart undertone to the beans and makes flavor explode in your mouth with each delicious bite.

But not just any vinegar will do. Oh no.

Goya Distilled White Vinegar - a top secret ingredient

Goya Distilled White Vinegar – a top secret ingredient

I know this because I had to try out several kinds until I found the right one that matched my local take out. Not surprisingly when it comes to humble dishes simply prepared, this vinegar is the least expensive on the market.

I can buy a bottle of Goya Distilled White Vinegar in a plastic bottle for 85 cents, which is more than enough for many pots of yummy black beans. (I’m also saying do not use “cider vinegar” because I’ve noticed a lot of internet recipes call for it. It doesn’t taste right.)

The other ingredient you must have is fresh cilantro. If you don’t have it, don’t make the beans. The flavor profile won’t be right. Period.

Okay, here we go.

This recipe is one of my favorite “riffs” on frijoles negros and has some traditional elements and other flavors I enjoy too. This version of the dish is more acidic / tart because of the ingredients I prefer; but feel free to make your own riff too.

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TOP SECRET FRIJOLES NEGROS

  • 1 can of Goya Black Beans – do not drain liquid (29 oz.) (Reserve 2 tablespoons of beans from the can in a separate dish)
  • 1 can of stewed or diced tomatoes – do not drain liquid (14.5 oz.)
  • 3 sprigs of fresh Cilantro, well washed
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 medium size onion
  • 2 Tablespoons – Goya White Distilled Vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons – olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 fresh lime
  • water (as needed)

Dice the med. size onion and set aside. Mince the 3 cloves of fresh garlic and set aside.

In a pot, empty most of the contents of the can of Goya Black Beans, including the liquid (minus 2 tablespoons of beans) and immediately add 2 Tbsp of Goya White Distillied Vinegar.

Bring the heat up enough to allow the beans to slowly start to bubble.

Chop the cilantro (including the stems) and mix it into the pot, and cover.

Once the beans have begun to bubble, add the can of diced tomatoes with liquid, mix, and re-cover.

In a pan, put 2 Tbsp of olive oil and bring up to saute heat. Add the diced onion to the pan and cook until translucent.  Add the minced garlic and stir rapidly – just enough to permit it to perfume. Add salt and pepper, mix.

Stir the onion and garlic mixture into the pot of beans, and re-cover.

Slice the fresh lime into quarters. Squeeze the juice from two lime quarters into the pot, stir the mixture, and re-cover again. (Discard the actual limes, do not put them in the pot.)

Allow the beans to continue cooking, and take the 2 tablespoons of beans you reserved and put them into a bowl and mash them thoroughly. Add the mashed beans into the pot. The mashed beans will create a creamy consistency.

The beans can stay covered on the stove with their flavors blending together for many hours, with the heat very low, as long as you keep checking the pot. If the amount of liquid is too reduced, add water until the consistency is where you want it. (I prefer my beans to be pretty liquidy with lots of delicious broth.)

Before you’re ready to serve the beans, squeeze the juice from the remaining two quarters of fresh lime into the pot and mix thoroughly.

Serve and enjoy!

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EFT: It’s Calling From Inside The House!

I have an evil presence in my home. It is calling from my refrigerator right now, laughing at me. Taunting me. Daring me to eat it.

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Will I actually injest this nefarious substance in the name of … D..d.d… di…. *cough, cough,* eating healthier?

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You duped me into buying you at the Korean grocery. I saw that coy look you gave me as you sat on the shelf beside the packaged Soba noodles.

Go on, you said, I don’t cost much. Don’t you like my pretty packaging?

NO…must…not…. I thought, but my resolve was already weakening.

Ahaha, you reply, you WILL eat me and you’ll learn to like it! You want to reduce your animal protein intake right? Well you still need protein and I’m a great source.

Ugh, I answer, disgusted with myself. You’re right. I know I have to do it, for my own good.

You were smug with victory as I put you in my basket.

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2012_08_06-tofu.jpg

All you health nut types have been eating Tofu for years. (Then again you probably drink wheat grass juice too, so there is no help for you whatsoever.)

You’ve stir fried it, you’ve put it in soups, hell you’ve even made tofu cheesecake out of it. (Gross, I say!) You and your evil minions have made Tofu a ubiquitous high protein staple, available to any innocent person walking down the isles of a local Korean grocery (and plenty of other shops; your distribution knows no bounds.)

I have purchased Extra Firm Tofu (hereafter referred to as EFT) in the hopes of frying it and maintaining enough shape (cubes?) to get a sear on it.

When I asked the lady at the Korean grocery how to prepare EFT, like do I marinate it, dump soy or oyster sauce on it, she says just cook it with whatever else I’m cooking and it will pick up the flavors of the rest of the dish.

I’m not sure how this is going to come out, but here are the ingredients I’ve got. I’m thinking of putting into this EFT dish. See, I don’t think of it as any other kind of dish since it will be contaminated by the EFT, but I’m TRYING damn it!

– EFT (god help me)

– Veggies: scallions, bok choy, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, shitake mushrooms, celery

– Soba noodles

– Sauce(s): I have oyster sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil

– Fresh ground black pepper

– Sesame seeds?

Anybody that cooks Tofu out there, please, for the sake of all that is holy, put an encouraging comment below on how to cook this menace and make it taste good.

The future of my waistline may depend upon your kindness, stranger.

Carol’s Hurricane Dinner

If you’ve survived the hurricane AND you still have power, chances are you are wondering what’s for dinner?

Many folks would be likely to have the ingredients below on hand, and for those you don’t have – substitute something else. Survival is adaptability, after all!

INGREDIENTS:

Get a pot of boiling water going on the stove. If you’ve been ordered to boil water, let the water go for a while before you add these ingredients:

  • One package yellow rice (you can sub. white or brown rice)
  • Two sm-med white potatoes diced into small cubes
  • One can of pink beans (you can sub. black beans, butter beans or red beans)
  • Salt and fresh ground Pepper to taste
  • Pinch of chili powder (optional)

Boil the three items together (I’d wait until the rice and beans are half-way done to add the potato) until cooked.

Heat a skillet with olive oil (or the oil of your choice or butter):

  • One large onion, chopped (can sub. leeks if needed, or chopped scallions could be added on top after cooking if that’s all you have)
  • Meat or chicken of choice (I had some beef sausages and cut them into small bite sized pieces)
  • Two medium green squash, sliced (you can sub. yellow squash, eggplant, zucchini, or other veggie of choice)
  • Five medium mushrooms, sliced (you can sub. canned mushrooms, if you had to)
  • One small can of sliced water chestnuts (that’s what I had on hand, check your cabinet for something interesting)
  • Salt and fresh ground Pepper to taste

Heat the oil in the pan and add the onion until just releasing water, then add meat and continue cooking. Add squash and cook down. Add sliced mushrooms towards the very end they don’t take long to cook. Throw in the water chestnuts just to get warmed and absorb some of the cooking liquids and flavors.

Once everything is cooked and ready…

Spoon some of the rice, beans and potato mixture into the bottom of a bowl. Add the meat, onion and veggie mixture on top.

If you like cheese, you could add some grated parmesan to top. If not, dig in and enjoy!

Red, White and Blue Salad for the 4th of July!

Make this Red, White and Blue Salad for yourself, your friends and your family this holiday weekend.  It’s a colorful addition to any picnic table and it’s delicious!

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

Red: Radishes; Grape Tomatoes; Dried Cranberries; Red Onion

White: Feta Cheese Crumbles; Sliced Almonds

Blue: Fresh Blueberries

Other: Peeled and sliced cucumbers (kirby cukes work well); salad dressing of choice; toasted sesame seeds (optional)

– Peel cucumbers and slice down the middle. If you don’t like the seeds, remove them. Otherwise, slice cucumbers into 1/8th inch thick slices.

– Wash and slice radishes into 1/8th inch thick slices.

– Wash and slice grape tomatoes in half

– Cut red onion into small dice

– Assemble a layer of cucumbers, radishes, red onion and grape tomatoes.  Sprinkle on feta crumbles, sliced almonds, dried cranberries, and fresh blueberries.  Repeat layers until all ingredients have been used.

– Add extra sliced almonds and blueberries to the top; add toasted sesame seeds if desired.

– Chill in the refrigerator for 30-60 minutes.  Serve with your salad dressing of choice (Caesar salad dressing works well)

ENJOY!