We are crazy about a pot of beans in this house. When I moved out, it was the first recipe from mom I took with me. Having been married to a Puerto Rican for many years, no one believes she’s Russian if they’ve tasted her pernil with a side of rice and beans.
She told me she learned to stew them from her best friend’s mother, and it’s truly unlike any other beans I’ve tasted at restaurants or homes, though I’ve been told this is definitely home-style. For instance, rarely do you see them in a tomato broth, with potatoes and olives, smoked, salty meat, and tons of fresh cilantro. Sometimes you’ll see sliced carrot in there, too. Or maybe even peppers. She told me she’s been using pumpkin these days for it’s sweetness, which I’ll give a try in Autumn. It’s hearty and the recipe doesn’t require that it needs to be. I love that most about it. As long as you know what the first 3-4 ingredients are, you can totally improvise based on what you have around your kitchen, and you almost always have beans, tomato sauce, onion and garlic. No fuss, EVER.
Mom can’t cook without her sofrito. A small batch from a blender contains one whole, medium-sized onion, 1-2 cloves of garlic, red and/or green pepper, big handful of cilantro, drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper. You can put sofrito in and on ANYTHING. Breakfast eggs. Stews. Soups. You can marinate meats, veggies, and seafood with it. I rarely make it myself, but when she’s over and she brings her container of this amazing green stuff, I use all of it for everything.
My approach to mom’s beans is a less is more approach, and is always based on the season and what’s in season. Right now, it’s based on my garden. I’ve so much thyme growing and I absolutely adore it in this recipe, paired with flavors of cumin, my go-to for most things. Mom uses a packet of sazon but I tend to omit it. Smoked meat is always involved in mom’s recipe, but you can freely omit. When I do, I add a bit more of veggies. If you’re using meat, you might find it unnecessary to use salt. Always taste as it simmers and develops flavor.
Mom’s Stewed Beans, Sorta
olive oil, to coat pan
cumin seeds plus dash of powder
thyme, few sprigs (or any fresh/dried herb)
1 sm onion, diced
1 large garlic clove, minced or grated
1 jalapeño, diced, if you’re in the mood for spice
1 med potato, peeled and diced (optional)
diced smoked/cured meat (bacon, pancetta, ham, kielbasa, or sachichon) to taste!
1 bay leaf
1 8oz can tomato sauce plus same amount of water, or fresh
15.5 oz cannellini or small red beans, soaked over night or canned
2-3 small orange peels (optional)
1/4 cup beef/chicken broth (optional)
salt n pepper to taste
Toast cumin seeds, til fragrant. Add olive oil enough to coat pan and when hot enough, add onion and thyme. After a minute, add garlic, potato, jalapeño, and meat if using. Mom usually adds spoonfuls of sofrito at this point. Saute for a minute or so. Add your favorite tomato sauce, homemade or canned, along with equal amount of water and orange peels. Add everything else but the cilantro and let simmer for about 30 min to an hour, depending on if you used canned or soaked beans. If you feel it needs more liquid, add water and/or stock. Add fresh cilantro to taste. Discard sprigs of thyme and bay leaf before serving. Serve alongside or over white or yellow rice. My brother tends to eat a bowl of this without anything else. If you want even heartier beans, add more veggies.
One time, Danny and I tossed pieces of rotisserie chicken into a pot of these beans and let it simmer long. The results were mind-blowing and I’ve every intention of testing this out again and sharing it with you. It was pretty much a chicken and bean stew made during a cold, winter night. It was perfection.
Please experiment with the recipe as it certainly demands it. Use what you have and let me know how it goes. ❤