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