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Cannellini Bean Soup

In Pastas, Rice & Legumes (Beans & Grains) On January 3, 2015 0 Comments

Now that the holidays are over, I’m thinking about foods that’ll warm up my soul in January, February and March. Here’s an easy but healthy comfort food that has stayed with me since my youth in Italy – Cannellini Bean Soup (BTW, Cannellini beans are white and elongated, as opposed to smaller, rounder beans).

After the beans are cooked, just add olive oil, green onions, tomatoes and oregano, to taste. Served with fresh bread, wine and a fireplace, you’ll stay cozy all night.

Prep time: Soak beans overnight plus 1-1/2 hours cooking time
Makes: 5 cups cooked beans
Serves: 3 to 4

2 cups dry, uncooked Cannellini beans (one cup of dry beans will yield 2-1/2 cups cooked beans)
1 white or yellow onion, peeled and cut in half
2 bay leaves (optional)
extra virgin olive oil (to taste)
3 to 4 green onions, ends and dark green stems cut and discarded
1 to 2 tomatoes (any variety)
2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano (this can be substituted with 1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves)
salt and ground black pepper, to taste
Crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
French or Italian bread (for serving with beans)

Soak and Cook the Beans:

1. The night before serving the beans, place 2 cups uncooked Cannellini beans in a 3 to 4-quart porcelain or metal bowl on a countertop; cover with cold water.

2. Make sure the water level is one inch above beans; cover the bowl and let beans soak overnight.

3. The next day, drain the beans, discarding the water.

4. Place soaked beans in a 4 to 6-quart sauce pot; add cold water (make sure the water level is two inches above the beans).

5. Add onion and bay leaves to the beans.

6. Bring the beans to a boil.

7. When beans come to a boil, set heat on medium to medium-high.

8. Cook the beans for approximately one hour.

9. After one hour, taste a bean to check doneness. If needed, cook the beans for 20 to 30 more minutes, checking their doneness every 10 minutes.

10. By checking doneness every 10 minutes, the beans will not overcook or break apart.

Prepare Garnish for Beans:

1. Meanwhile, cut the green onions into 1/4-inch pieces; set aside in a glass or porcelain bowl.

2. Remove stems from tomatoes; cut each tomato in half.

3. Remove and discard pulp and seeds from each tomato-half; cut the flesh into 1/4-inch pieces; set aside in a glass or porcelain bowl.

4. If using fresh oregano, remove leaves from stems. Discard stems and finely chop the leaves.

5. Set the chopped oregano leaves aside in a small bowl.

6. When the beans are cooked but still hold their shape, remove and discard the onion and bay leaves.

7. Add salt and black pepper to the beans (to taste).

8. Set the garnish dishes, crushed red pepper flakes and the bread on table.

9. Serve Cannellini Bean Soup in individual bowls.

10. Ask each guest to garnish their own beans.

Wine Pairing Suggestion: Chianti or Cabernet Sauvignon (reds); chilled Chardonnay (white).
Text and Photograph ©2015 Nancy DeLucia Real

Refried Beans (Frijoles refritos)

In Holidays, Pastas, Rice & Legumes (Beans & Grains) On May 2, 2014 0 Comments

Last week, I stumbled across these fresh cranberry beans at the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market. These beans really captured my attention. Just look at them!


They’re fresh and this means that they take less time to cook than packaged dry beans. In honor of Cinco de Mayo, we’re makin’ some frijoles refritos or refried beans. You can add these creamy beans to tostadas and tacos or serve them as a dip with tortilla chips. I’m sure you won’t forget the Tequila shots and/or the Margaritas… y andale! Or, just go for it!

Inactive Prep Time: Overnight soaking, plus 45 minutes to boil the beans
Prep Time: 15 minutes (for refrying the beans)

1 pound fresh cranberry beans (if using dried beans, allow 20 to 30 minutes more for cooking)
1 yellow or white onion, peeled and halved
3 bay leaves
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
5 strips of bacon (optional)
3/4 cup peeled and finely chopped yellow or white onion
Half a Serrano chile, finely minced
4 to 6 tablespoons Half n’ Half cream
1 Chipotle chile in adobo sauce, mashed*
Salt, to taste

Soaking & Cooking Directions:

1. Place beans in a 4-quart glass or porcelain bowl; add enough cold water to cover the beans.

2. Cover the bowl and let beans soak overnight.

3. After the beans have soaked overnight, drain them completely.

4. Transfer the beans to a 6-quart sauce pot; add the peeled and halved onion and the bay leaves.

5. Cover the beans with about 2-1/2 to 3 quarts cold water (there should be 3 extra inches of cold over surface of beans).

6. Bring the beans to a boil.

7. After beans come to a boil, set heat on low. Simmer the beans for about 45 minutes or until they are tender, but not broken.

8. Set the sauce pot with beans aside to cool.

9. After the beans have cooled to room temperature, drain them, reserving about 1 cup of the cooking liquid.

10. Discard onion and bay leaves.

11. Transfer the drained beans to a food processor; process beans into a puree.

Refry the Beans:

1. In an 8-quart sauce pot, heat the oil.

2. When oil is not, add the bacon strips, finely chopped onion and the minced Serrano chile.

3. On medium-high heat, stir-fry the mixture until onion is translucent and bacon turns crisp, about 2 to 3 minutes.

4. After 2 to 3 minutes, remove the bacon strips and discard them.

5. Using a wooden spoon, carefully stir the pureed beans into the stir-fried mixture.

6. Constantly and quickly stir the beans, bringing them to a boil – stand away from stove to avoid hot splatters.

7. Immediately lower the heat setting. If the boil is too strong, cover the sauce pot to avoid hot splatters once more.

8. Constantly stir the beans for about 2 to 3 minutes.

9. After 2 to 3 minutes, add the Half n’ Half cream and the mashed Chipotle chile; continue stirring until the refried bean mixture is uniform.

10. Stir in about 1 teaspoon salt. Taste and adjust seasonings.

11. Serve immediately.

*NOTE: Chipotle chiles in adobo sauce are sold in cans. They can be found in the international foods section of standard supermarkets or in Latin American grocery stores.

Text & Photographs ©2014 Nancy DeLucia Real

Cuban Black Beans & Rice (Moros y Cristianos or Congri)

In Pastas, Rice & Legumes (Beans & Grains), Vegetables On July 29, 2011 0 Comments

The Spanish name for this rice dish is “Moros y Cristianos” – Moors and Christians. The black beans represent the “Moors” and the rice refers to “Christians”. The dish’s name may be inspired by early Cuban settlers’ referral to the Islamic conquest of Spain in both the 8th and 15th centuries. Another version of this dish (rooted in the African Haitian culture and later brought to Cuba) is known as “Congri”, wherein “congo” is the black bean and “riz” is the rice.

Whatever the origin or the name, the light infusion of onion, cumin and oregano elevate this rice dish to that of a refined delicacy. I’ll also share this – once my Cuban friend, Maria Elena, explained the process for making this seemingly difficult dish, it suddenly became quite simple to me.

Active prep time: 35 to 40 (for the beans); 15 to 20 minutes for the rice
Inactive prep time: Overnight soaking (for the beans)
Serves: 4 to 6

1 cup dry, uncooked black beans
6 cups cold water
2 whole bay leaves
½ medium white or brown onion
1 clove garlic, whole
¼ green bell pepper
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup long grain, uncooked rice
¼ teaspoon dried, crushed oregano
1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
1 to 1½ teaspoon salt

1. Rinse the beans in cold water and drain. Place beans in a 4-quart glass or porcelain bowl with 6 cups cold water. Cover and soak on a countertop or table overnight.

2. In a 6-quart saucepot, combine the soaked beans (including soaking water) with the bay leaves.

3. Bring to a boil and cook, semi-covered, on low heat 35 to 38 minutes or until beans are tender but not broken or mashed (the beans should simmer or boil gently).

4. Drain the beans and set them aside in a bowl. Reserve 2 to 2½ cups of the cooking liquid in a small bowl. Add enough cold water to measure 3 cups liquid altogether. Set aside.

5. In a food processor, finely mince the onion, garlic and ¼ of the bell pepper; set mixture aside.

6. In a 12-inch, nonstick skillet heat the oil. Stir in the onion mixture and sauté 2 to 3 minutes or until onion mixture is translucent.

7. Add the beans, rice, 2½ cups liquid, oregano, cumin and the lesser amount of salt. Stir once.

8. Cover and cook on low heat (without stirring) for 15 to 20 minutes.

9. After 15 minutes taste the bean and rice mixture. If rice is not fully cooked, sprinkle ¼ cup of the liquid over rice mixture, cover and cook an additional 5 minutes. Taste and adjust salt level, if necessary.

10. Serve alongside any meat, fish or poultry dish or as part of a vegetarian meal.

Wine pairing suggestion: Chilled Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay or Trebbiano (whites).

Text & Photograph © Nancy DeLucia Real 2011