Moros y Cristianos: Cuban Black Beans and Rice
My love affair with legumes is starting to become worrisome. I knew there was a problem when we had leftovers after a Mexican fiesta and I found myself imagining reasons to go into the fridge, and oh – while I’m in there I might as well have just one more spoonful of the Amped Up Refried Beans. No harm in that, right? And yes, I WOULD like some more corn and black bean salad. Well, and green bean and chickpea stew MUST be healthy, so…okay.
And then we sat down to our Cuban dinner of Mojo Chicken, Moros y Cristianos, and Cuban Sweet Potato Salad…and I went straight for the beans and rice. Studded through with delicious black beans, brimming with flavor. I couldn’t get enough of it. I only turned my attention back to the rest of my meal when Mike’s hungry gaze settled on the rest of my chicken breast, which was a good reminder to hurry things along. Oh, delicious Cuban rice. How could I have tried to make you into just another side? You’re more than that. I took you for granted, and I apologize. Friends again, right? By the way, you’re looking GOOD today….is that a new bowl?
By the way, if you’re in the mood for a brief history lesson – Moros y Cristianos translates to Moors and Christians. The beans are representative of the Moors, and the rice would be the Christians. Cuban food is very regional, with strong influences from the Spanish, North African, and Caribbean areas. Moros y Cristianos has trickled down from the Spanish, where it is a popular dish served at the Feast of St. George. This feast, as well as a number of other festivals, commemorates the Reconquista – a prolonged period of fighting between the Christian and Muslim people. The festivals generally end with large mock battles in which the Christians (riding horses) heroically defeat the Muslims (riding camels) and then all of the Spaniards gleefully celebrates the Muslim demise. And now…and now I feel guilty (and possibly racist) for enjoying my rice and beans….thanks for NOTHING, Spanish festivals.
This is why I should generally just say, “I’m making rice and beans” and leave it at that.
Moros y Christianos: Cuban Black Beans and Rice
Serves 6 – 8 as a side dish
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 large (or 1 medium) yellow onion
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 green pepper
- 1/4 cup crushed tomatoes
- 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tsp cumin
- 3/4 tsp thyme
- 1/4 tsp hot red pepper flakes
- 1 tsp salt
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 1 19oz can black beans
- 2 cups long grain white rice
Begin by chopping up the onion into a 1/4 inch dice.
Chop the garlic up into a mince as well.
And continue chopping (that’s it after this, I promise) to bring the green pepper – seeded, of course – into a 1/4 inch dice as well.
In a nice and fairly big pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Cook the onions and garlic together until the onions are slightly translucent. Keep stirring to make sure that they don’t burn and become bitter. When the onions are cooked to this point, add the green peppers and give it a nice stir.
Hot on the heels of adding in the green peppers, add just about everything else. In goes the crushed tomatoes! Down into the mouth of the beast with the red wine vinegar! Stir it up and sprinkle on the spices whilst daintily dropping the bay leaf in. Onions and garlic and cumin, oh my. It smells really delightful at this point. Stir the mixture and let it cook for just a few minutes so that the tomatoes lose that tannic bite.
Drain and rinse the black beans and add these to the pot. Rinse the rice under cold water as well to remove some of the starch, and let it join the party.
A nice stir makes sure that everything is incorporated and the rice is well coated with those savory herbs and spices.
Pour in the chicken stock and bring the uncovered pot up to a boil. As soon as it boils cover the pot, reduce the heat to minimum (or very low), and let it simmer away for the next 20 – 25 minutes until the rice is tender. Fight the compulsion to lift the lid up halfway through and check progress, because that lets out all of the steam that we’ve just worked so hard to create. Patience, my friend. Patience. When the rice is ready, all of the ‘good stuff’ like the peppers and beans will have risen to the top. Give this a nice gentle stir to work them in to the rest so that they speckle through the rice.
Now this is comfort food. Hearty, low fat, po’ man’s rice and beans for the choosy and the beggars alike. And yet, so very good.
I make no apologies for the fact that I will happily eat these leftovers alone for lunch tomorrow.
It’s at this point where you might question why I made a side dish of rice for 8 eaters, but only 4 chicken breasts. Am I crazy? Was there a mistake? No. There was no mistake. That was as deliberate an act as anything.
I LOVE THIS RICE