Three times I attempted this black bean recipe, as I tried to recreate a dish I enjoyed years ago in a local Puerto Rican restaurant. Three times I loaded my slow cooker with dried beans, not presoaked, just rinsed and picked over. First, I tried cooking them without any seasoning, thinking I'd add the flavorings at the end so they wouldn't keep the beans from softening. (Not enough water; the beans turned into a solid blob before I realized it.) The second time, I added sufficient liquid, but in an act of defiance, the perfectly cooked beans refused to absorb the sofrito, tomato or spices. (Blech.) The third time, success: dry beans, correct amount of water, sofrito and tomato and spices added right at the beginning, everything coming together with no more intervention on my part than a stir somewhere between hours five and six. In a pinch, you can substitute store-bought sofrito (I like Goya red sofrito, though it contains a tiny amount of MSG), but it takes just a minute to make your own from scratch.
Slow cooker Puerto Rican black beans with sofrito and cilantro
In Puerto Rico, sofrito seldom contains tomato; it's a green condiment, called recaito. The red sofrito, more common in Cuba, is the one I prefer, and my homemade recipe is a combination of the two. This sofrito recipe makes 2 cups; you'll have some left over, to use in soups and stews. Serves 6, as a main course with rice.
For the sofrito:
1 green bell pepper, seeded, roughly chopped
1 red bell pepper, seed, seeded, roughly chopped
1 large tomato, seeded, roughly chopped
1 medium onion, peeled, roughly chopped
4 large cloves of garlic, peeled
1 cup cilantro leaves
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
For the beans:
2 cups dried black beans
3/4 cup sofrito
1/2 cup chopped canned tomato
3/4 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp Mexican oregano
1/4 tsp mild red pepper flakes
1 small onion, diced
1 large garlic clove, peeled and smashed
Kosher salt and fresh black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
Place all of the sofrito ingredients in a food processor or blender, and chop finely (do not pureé).
In a 3-quart slow cooker, combine the beans, 3/4 cup of the sofrito, tomato, cumin, Mexican oregano, red pepper flakes, onion and garlic. Add 4 cups of water, and stir.
Cook on LOW for 7 hours, until the beans are soft but still hold their shape. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Stir in the fresh cilantro, and serve hot, over rice.
More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:
Quick and easy black beans and rice
Whole wheat pizza with pumpkin, black beans and caramelized onions
Moros y cristianos
Vegan black bean and sweet potato stew
South End Deep Root Chili
Other recipes that use these pantry ingredients:
Spicy Mexican black beans, from Andrea Meyers
Mexican baked eggs with black beans, tomatoes, green chiles and cilantro, from Kalyn's Kitchen
Black bean soup, from Simply Recipes
Puerto Rican rice and beans, from Cooking with Anne
Brown rice with black beans and cilantro, from The Way the Cookie Crumbles
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