August 23, 2010

black bean soup

We've had the pleasure of dining at Cuban restaurants and so far, we have a favorite place we keep coming back to. If not for it's out of town location, we would be visiting it more often. I must say that I have a weakness for the pork dishes in their menu like masitas (roasted marinated pork loin cubes served with onion slices) and lechon (roasted pig or pork shoulder served like pulled pork) as well as for the maduros or pan fried sweet plantains. I clearly see that there are similarities in the way they cook the pork dishes and the bananas to our versions in the Philippines. For my husband, their black bean soup is perhaps one of the most memorable which, for me, was good enough reason to try to make it at home. First on my grocery list was a package of dry black beans. I soaked the beans overnight then cooked them the next day. I thought that the soup had a smoky flavor so I'm quite sure that it needed some form of smoked ham or hocks as a base. I was lucky to find some smoked pork neck bones that were very meaty and not all bones so I decided to get them instead of ham. I put a few chunky pieces in a skillet with olive oil and gave them a good sear on all sides. I could already smell the smokiness at this point and thought about the flavor they would impart to the soup. I transferred the seared pork to a plate then sauteed the sofrito in the same pan. The Cuban sofrito consisted of chopped onions, chopped green bell pepper and minced garlic. The next step was to add the cooked black beans with enough of the water and the seared smoked pork. Season with salt, pepper and a little vinegar. Add about three bay leaves. Simmer for a few hours until the beans are very tender. At this stage, the meat would be falling off the bones. As with most bean soups, this is best served the next day to give it time for the flavors to blend together well.

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