Creating My First Crockpot Recipe!

A while back I had asked Marta if she had ever used the crockpot for ablandar frijoles.  You see, while I can make MEAN frijoles negros, I am ashamed to say they come out of the can – the Goya con agua y sal can that is.  But everytime I’ve tried to make it out of dry beans, while the taste comes out great, they come out too runny for my taste.  I like frijoles negros to be espesos.

In any case Marta had said she used la olla de presión, you know the pressure cooker.  Me?  I’m deathly afraid of those things, even if now they are plug-in.  Too many stories about explosions.  Also, between you and me, I’m very jealous of how Marta comes up with these wonderful crockpot recipes so I’ve been secretly conspiring some of my own (like Marta, I want to be like Marta!).  I have a list (I swear I do) and as I am able to get the ingredients I’ll be turning my kitchen into a crockpot test kitchen!

Back to the frijoles negros. A couple of days ago I got a really strong craving for sopa de frijoles negros, which I haven’t had in uffffff a VERY long time (and they are a wonderful Lenten meal).   So I decided that would be the first recipe to try on the crockpot.  I’ll give you the recipe and at the end I’ll give you some modifications.

What you will need:

  • a pound of dry frijoles negros (one bag)
  • 5-6 cups of water
  • medium onion, chopped
  • 4 fat cloves of garlic minced
  • half a green pepper chopped
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp of cumin
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 3 bay leaves or 2 tsp of chopped bay leaves
  • one capful of white vinegar
  • one tablespoon of olive oil

Even though we do this on the crockpot, there is some pre-work to be done.  Soak the black beans in 5 cups of water  with the tsp of salt for 10 hours.  When ready, pour the beans with the water into the crockpot.  Add one to two more cups of water.  Chop your onion, green pepper and mince your garlic.

Sofrito

Sofrito

Heat the tablespoon of olive oil into a saucepan over medium heat.  Once the oil is hot enough, throw in the onions, peppers and garlic in that order.  Sauté for about 5 minutes, stirring.  Add the capful of vinegar, the oregano, and the bay leaves.  Stir for about 2 minutes, and take off the heat.

Sauteeing the Sofrito

Sauteeing the Sofrito

Add the sofrito to the frijoles in the crockpot.  Stir mixing well.  Add the cumin, stir again and cover.  Set on low for 8 hours.  However, without taking the lid off, check them around the 7th hour only to make sure they’ve got enough water.  I didn’t have a water problem at all.

Ready to turn on the crockpot

Ready to turn on the crockpot

Now, I usually like my sopa de frijoles negros a bit toned down from regular frijoles negros (you know, the ones you throw over rice)…and there is a reason for that.  Papi would always add about a tablespoon of chopped onion and a couple squirts of white vinegar to his frijoles negros. I never really understood why – until the first time I ate frijoles negros at a Cuban restaurant.  They tasted sort of off; I mean come on, compared to Abuela’s black beans they were tasteless!  And then I remembered, onions and vinegar…and voilá! The beans miraculously recuperated and were now delicious!  I kid you not, that’s how I eat the black beans at Pollo Tropical and everywhere else I go (I rarely like them just they way they are served).  I even got my husband hooked.

Why do I tell you all this?  Because that is how I serve the sopa de frijoles negros.  Since we are two, I do two servings – 2 tbsp of chopped onion and a cap of white vinegar. I place them in the individual custard pyrex molds and cover them with plastic wrapping and shake shake shake señora!  As for the rice, I use no more than half a cup of cooked valencia white rice for each serving.  I like to differentiate it from regular frijoles!  Place the onion first right in the center and the rice right over it so it looks something like this:

Sopa de Frijoles Negros!

Sopa de Frijoles Negros!

The soup came out great! However I discovered that this was a most EXCELLENT way to do regular frijoles negros.  Why?  They come out nice and thick!  So if you have a bunch of people to feed, or don’t mind eating frijoles negros for three days straight, here is what we need to modify the recipe for it to be stand alone frijoles.  I’ve yet to try it but I think the following amounts should do the trick:

  • Chopped onions (about a cup and a half to two cups)
  • One whole small to medium green pepper (half of what you use of the onion.  If you have the time and a gas stove, you SHOULD roast the green peppers before throwing them into the sofrito.  Trust me on this one.)
  • 8 fat garlic cloves
  • 1 to 2 tbsp of olive oil (as needed for the sofrito)
  • 2 caps of white wine vinegar
  • 4-6 medium bay leaves
  • 1 tsp of: salt, cumin (or you can modify to taste.  Note: you can omit the cumin, typically I don’t use it in my traditional frijoles negros but I included it here because many people do)
  • 2 tsp of oregano
  • IF you typically use sugar on your frijoles negros, then you can add it here too – but I have no idea what the amount would be.

Everything else in the methodology (OMG sounding too much like the graduate student that I am!) stays the same.  If you like frijoles negros, and you have a crockpot I invite you to try this recipe and make it your own.  Then you can come back and let us know how it came out!

Happy Cooking!

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You have dirt on your forehead!

Being a Catholic outside of a Catholic country has its own weird happenings.  I was raised in Puerto Rico and attended Catholic school all my life.  Naturally on Ash Wednesday all of us would be walking around with the ashes on our foreheads.  Even outside the school, everyone knew what the dark spot in your forehead was.

However, when I moved to the states on my very first Ash Wednesday un monton de gente would stop me to tell me I had dirt on my forehead.  No, I’d say, it’s Ash Wednesday.  Blank stare followed by what is that? Are you kidding me?  You know Ash Wednesday the beginning of Lent.  Blank Stare.  It’s a religious thing I’d say near exasperation.

So, as I type this, I’m about to leave for Mass for Ash Wednesday to get my dirt on the forehead.  What am I giving up for Lent you ask?  I thought about this long and hard.  First I thought of giving up coffee.  The shear thought of living without coffee for 40 days made me break into sweats.  So I decided to give up two things: sweets and Dunkin Donuts coffee.

Trust me, if you live in Rhode Island, and feel even remotely a Rhode Islander, giving up Dunkin Donuts coffee is no easy task.

So to all you Catholics and Christians who follow the tradition of giving up something for Lent, what are you giving up this year?