One of the ways that I express my interest and desire to travel and see the world is by cooking foods from other countries. When I think about the books I choose to read, or the movies that I am drawn to see, they are often set outside of the United States. Each time I learn a little more about a particular culture and, of course, the food. It is my personal way of having a mini-adventure. I can get lost in a cookbook from Israel or a food blog from Mexico. In the course of a weekend I can read about a family struggling in India, go see a romantic movie that takes place in France, and watch a cooking show filmed in Spain. My older son recently returned from Guatemala, and my daughter will be going to Colombia and Argentina in the next few months. That may be the source of my inspiration as I sat and planned what to serve for Shabbat Dinner. I kept going back to Central and South American food, simple and satisfying, flavorful and made with ingredients that are readily available, especially here in Southern California.
A friend who I work with, Alba, is originally from Guatemala. We are always talking about food, love, and life. She calls me “her Jewish Mom” and that is only one of the many reasons that I am crazy about her. Another is her Black Beans.
Alba’s Black Beans
1 lb black beans
2 large onions
4 cloves garlic
4 Tbsp. olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Place beans in a large pot to soak overnight. Add a large onion, cut in half, two cloves of garlic, and enough water to cover beans by at least one inch. The next day cook the beans in the same pot of water for several hours over a low flame, until the beans are tender. Beans continue to expand so add water as needed. Remove onion and garlic and discard.
Finely dice the second large onion and two cloves of minced garlic and sauté in olive oil till golden. Strain the beans (reserve liquid) and add to onions. Season to taste with salt and pepper. At this point add as much of the reserved liquid until you have the desired consistency. Cook for another twenty minutes for flavors to blend.
Serve with rice and some fresh chopped cilantro.