Why I Am Posting These Recipes

I believe that it is healthier for an individual and for the planet to reduce the consumption of animal products in the human diet. However, I love to eat all kinds of delicious food, and find it really, really difficult to go totally vegetarian. Also, my family protests if I serve too many vegetarian meals in a row. So I am committed to making an effort to move towards a vegetarian diet without wholly doing so. I will post recipes several times a week that represent my philosophy of eating well, eating healthy, eating local. Most recipes will be easy to prepare, as I have a busy life. So I expect my followers to be people who love to cook and eat well, want to try to help the planet through their eating (by eating local foods and trying to reduce the use of meat in our diets), and have many other things to do each day besides cook.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Venezuelan Black Beans

My Venezuelan mother-in-law taught me how to make black beans.  The thing is, she doesn't follow a recipe.  It is intuition and based on what you have on hand.  So it took a little practice to get it right.  One day, years ago, I started making the black beans in the morning, after soaking them overnight.  I kept having to turn the stove off to take the kids to preschool, pick them up, do errands, etc.  So I would cook for an hour, turn off the stove and let the pot sit, come back, turn on the stove, let the beans simmer for awhile, then turn it off to go do something else, and so on.  The beans turned out better than ever.  Something about letting things sit to allow the flavors to meld together . . . My father-in-law says that my black beans are the best he has ever had, better than those made by real Venezuelans!  Maybe he is just being nice, I don't know, but you might want to try these, anyway!  Usually I cook the beans with a smoked ham hock, but this time I used bacon because I came across Applewood smoked bacon bits and pieces, a very economical package, at Trader Joe's.  I happened to have this in my refrigerator today, and I did not have a smoked ham hock.  The flavor was fine using bacon, so I would say you could go either way.  The cooking times I list are approximate.  I started these this morning and didn't finish them until dinner time, as I kept turning the stove off when I left the house.  This is definitely a dish to make when you are either at home during the day or in-and-out.  I think it would be difficult to do if you have to leave the house early in the morning and be away all day.  The actual time you spend doing anything to the dish is not that great, however, so it really is not that time-consuming.

Serves 8-10

1 lb. black beans, soaked overnight in plenty of water, then drained and rinsed
½ large onion or a small onion cut in half
½ green pepper
4 pieces of bacon
½ large onion chopped, or 1 med onion chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
3 garlic cloves, pressed
1 ½ TBS ground cumin
2 TBS molasses
1 tsp dried marjoram
½ tsp dried basil
1 bay leaf
¼ tsp Caribbean hot sauce
1 TBS sugar
28 oz. chopped tomatoes
salt and pepper to taste

Boil beans for about an hour with ½ large onion and ½ green pepper (do not chop) in enough water to cover beans plus have about 2 inches of water above beans in large pot.  Turn off heat.  Remove onion and green pepper from pot.  Fry bacon in skillet until crisp.  Remove bacon to drain over paper towels.  Add chopped onion and green pepper to bacon grease in skillet and fry, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent.  Add garlic and stir for about 10-20 seconds.  Add to pot of beans.  Add cumin, molasses, marjoram, basil, bay leaf and sugar to pot and simmer for 30 minutes.  Add tomatoes and fresh ground black pepper and simmer for another hour or more (more is better).  Add chopped bacon and salt to taste.  Serve over rice.

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