Sunday, April 28, 2013

Delish Black Beans Recipe - Frijoles Negros - Yum!

I didn't learn to cook from my mother.  I learned from my mother-in-law, my mistakes, and mostly from wonderful friends, like Leidy.   Leidy is a single mom.  She has two amazing kids that she's put through college through her hard work as a hairdresser and manicurist.  Yes, she does both, and well.  But those are not her only talents, Leidy is also a fabulous cook, and her desserts are memorable.  You know those houses you walk into and immediately smell like a home with savory food filling the air?  Well, that is Leidy's home practically everyday.  
Leidy and her kids
Leidy works from home, and it always astounded me that in the middle of her work, she would tell you "let me get dinner started" and she would come in and out of her work almost seamlessly and suddenly, voila! the most delicious meal you have ever had was ready.  She made it seem so easy.  For me cooking was always such a task.  The creativity of coming up with a daily meal, and knowing how to whip it up... a special talent that I do not possess.  

Leidy was always very gracious with me and with everyone who entered her home; she not only fed her kids, she often fed us too.  As a single mom for some time myself, I always envied her ability to cook at the drop of a hat.  Her kids always came home to a warm, home cooked meal.  I never experienced that as a little kid and I guess that's why I admire her so much.  I know how her kids must have felt every day, cared for through her food, full of love and nurturing with every bite.  

One of Leidy's other talents is making people laugh with her typical Cuban sayings... like the time she was telling a story of a wedding she attended and she said "entre como las grandes estrellas" (Cuban for "I made an entrance like a movie star"), and other times when someone was standing in her way and she would say "estas como el Miercoles!" (Cuban for "you are just like Wednesday", meaning always in the middle, in her way).  There are many more of those, some not fit to print.  I am blessed to know Leidy, her two wonderful kids, and blessed to have enjoyed her cheerful company, friendship, and food.    

Here's her black beans recipe... I used to be a complete cooking idiot (ironic that I am blogging about it now) so trust me, if I can do it, you can too.  I make it with my pressure cooker (because that's how Leidy taught me) but  I know it can be done in a saucepan too; it just takes more time for the beans to soften, a couple of hours or so.  The flavors would be the same.  

A note about pressure cooking:  I was afraid to use a pressure cooker for many years but after I used it the first time, my fear dissipated.  I am still very respectful and attentive when I use it.  You should be too.

Black Beans "a la Leidy"


  • 2 packages of Iberia brand black beans (don't buy any other brand; these are softer and tastier than most)
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil
  • 2 medium onions (1 cut in half & 1 chopped)
  • 1 green pepper (1/2 in one piece, and the other 1/2 chopped)
  • 8 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 3 teaspoons of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of Comino (Cumin)
  • 1/8 cup vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar
  • A handful of aji Cachucha (Cachucha pepper).  I buy them in the produce section of my local supermarket but when I don't find them, I don't sweat it; they give the beans an extra kick but it's not a make or break situation.
Cachucha peppers
  1. Place beans in pressure cooker and cover with water.  
  2. Soak for 8 hours or overnight.
  3. Drain water and add fresh water to fill the pressure cooker 3/4 of the way.  
  4. Add 1 onion cut in half and 1/2 of a whole green pepper (just half, not chopped)
  5. Pressure cook on high until the pressure cooker boils (makes a loud sound), then lower the heat to medium and let pressure cook for 20 minutes.  
  6. Turn heat off and let pressure cooker cool.  After 10 minutes or so, I run mine under the faucet and it cools fairly quickly.  Test it by slowly lifting the pressure valve until you don't feel any pressure/resistance.  
  7. While you wait for the pressure cooker to cool, place the olive oil in a medium sized frying pan on high heat.
  8. When hot, add your chopped onion, the chopped half of the green pepper and garlic and sautee until the onion is glazed.  
  9. Add the salt and comino, stir and turn off the heat.  
  10. Once cool (please be sure it is cool), open the pressure cooker and remove the onion and green pepper pieces.
  11. Transfer the frying pan items to the pressure cooker.  
  12. Let beans cook on low heat until they are the desired consistency.  I usually do this for 30 minutes or so, stirring every 10 minutes so that the beans don't stick to the pot.  It is important that you do not scrape the pan.  Just stir, and press with your spoon on the beans a little against the side of the pan.  This will help them thicken. 
  13. When the beans are nearly ready, add the vinegar, sugar and aji Cachucha.  
Serve over rice, pureed (that's how my kids like it) with steak and plantains, or with one of my other favorite recipes, bistec de pollo a la plancha (chicken steak).  You'll find a fab recipe for this here, at
Want a printable copy of the recipe?  Email me and I will happily send it to you in a PDF, but first I'll have to ask Leidy ;)