Book your flight to Cuba yet? Me neither. But wouldn’t it be fun to go? Cuba has played such a huge role in 20th Century American politics and history. I’m curious to know what cultural differences Cuba has from the rest of the Caribbean. Yet Cuba is just 61 miles from Miami!
Nassau in the Bahamas is the closest I’ve been to Cuba. Fried plantain with “peas and rice” is the signature dish in the Bahamas, the “peas” are in fact beans. Cuba has a similar dish colorfully called Moros y Cristianos (Moors and Christians) because of its white rice (Christians) with black beans (Moors).
Here’s a variation on that dish, complimented with the sweetness of fried plantain.
Just a note on the plantains — let them turn black before cooking. Don’t bother trying to work with green or even black-streaked plantains. They need to be good and black for the skin to peel off, otherwise you’ll be struggling with them. These skins are tough. I buy the plantains a good week before I actually am going to use them in a recipe and keep them in a paper bag to ripen. Once the plantains are black, it’s island time!
Cuban Black Beans with Rice and Plantain
1 cup uncooked rice – I used medium grain white rice to be more authentic but feel free to use any kind
3 Tbs. olive oil
2 black plantains, peeled, slit lengthwise, chopped into circles and in half again to make little wedges
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1/2 of an onion, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 bell pepper, red, yellow or green, or a combo of colors, seeded and the white pith removed, chopped into bite-sized pieces
2 stalks celery, trimmed and cleaned, sliced lengthwise and diced
1 teaspoon of “Better Than Bouillon” vegetarian “No Chicken Base” dissolved in 1 cup boiling water (or use any bouillon or 1 cup vegetable stock)
1 cans black beans, drained and rinsed until there is no more foam
1 tsp. ground cumin
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Hot sauce of choice (my favorite is the Frank’s brand)
1/4 cup minced cilantro
3 green onions, sliced into thin rounds
Cook rice according to package directions and set aside in the pot, covered, while you prepare everything else.
Swirl around 2 tablespoons olive oil in a medium-hot skillet and fry plantain until they are browning and turning golden. This takes about 6 minutes or so. Remove to paper towels if oily.
Reheat skillet with another tablespoon of oil and add peppers, onions, garlic, and celery. Cook until vegetables soften and slightly reduce. Then pour in the broth, beans, salt and pepper to taste and cumin. Cook gently to marry the flavors, about 5 minutes.
Set out bowls. To serve, put a serving of rice into the bowl, top with bean mixture and add plantains. Sprinkle green onions and cilantro on top. Serve with hot sauce of choice. Feel the wheels of that plane touch down in Cuba.