For me Cuban Black Bean soup is one of my favorite meals no matter the time of year. Whether 99 degrees or 29 degrees I will have my Cuban Black Bean soup. Above, the series of videos show you the traditional recipe coming directly from her family’s version from the island. I want to introduce you to my version of the soup.
Begin by using dried black beans, not canned. You should always rinse dried beans (I do it 3 times the magick number) and whether you pre-soak your beans or not is your choice. However, whether you soak them or not when you add them to the pot do not put salt into the water as this will make your beans tough even though you have pre soaked them. The vegetables I like to use are cilantro, green peppers, a green habanero chile, onion, scallion, tomatillos, fresh thyme, and fresh oregano (best if you can grow your own herbs.) How much you use is up to you, but make sure you use the amount of veggies in accordance with amount of beans you will be cooking.
While the beans are coming to boil chop your veggies then toss them into a blender, add olive oil, just enough to make an emulsion, squeeze a lime into the blender add a bit of water and blend it down until you have a loose paste. It should be a pretty green in color. Set this to the side and chill, have a Tacate beer with some lime wedges, or whatever you like to drink. After about 45 minutes to an hour pour your sofrito, the blended veggies to the pot, add your sea salt, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder and black pepper (get a grinder for black pepper this gives a splendid flavor) and let it cook down for another 30 – 40 minutes. By this time the beans should be pretty soft.
A this point I add about 1/4 cup of rice to the pot, then a tablespoon of margarine (I use Earth Balance) and let it cook until the rice is tender. I’ve been to Cuban restaurants and had Black Bean Soup and I have yet to have it with rice cooked in the same pot with the beans. This thickens the soup without mashing the beans. I certainly have nothing against mashed beans because I love my frijoles refritos (Mexican refried beans) without a doubt. But, I like my beans whole as much as possible in my version of Cuban Black Bean Soup.
After about 20 -25 minutes squeeze the juice of half a lime into the pot, put the top back on, turn off the heat and let it steep for a few minutes. After that grab your bowl and fill it up. Ok I must confess, not being from Cuba, and having no Cuban parentage, but Mississippian heritage I have to have my cornbread on the side and sometimes letting the crumbs fall into the bowl. This reminds me of my aunt Essie that would crumble the cornbread over my bowl of pinto beans and rice when I was no more than 3 or 4 years old. I guess that taste of beans, rice and cornbread have been etched into my mind and palate eternally.