Ritual and Repetition
A couple of weeks ago, I attended a talk at my Brooklyn’s Book Court between Thomas Keller and Peter Kaminsky. Though technically about Keller’s latest cookbook, Ad Hoc at Home, it wasn’t strictly about food and cooking. From process and baseball analogies, he got to ritual and repetition and I realized what I’d been missing. Trying to post regularly, I’d become sharkish, cooking in constant motion. I’ve gotten used to being just a few clicks away from French-Italian-Regional-Seasonal-Indian-Mexican-Caribbean. It’s tempting to jump from one to the other, trying everything once then moving on. Having set out to write about traditional food in a new medium, I forget that the best part can be going back, trying again, and making it a little better. I had ritual, but my repetition was lacking.
Looking back over my posts, the one dish that I’ve wanted to try again was frijoles negros. The first time I wrote about them, I was finding my way through my grandfather’s recipe. Not sure of where I was going, I focused on what came next – peppers, onions, bay leaf, simmer.
Retracing my steps through the same recipe, there were no major changes just small surprises – the way the black beans, purple tinted white onions and green peppers form orchids in the pot, the whole mashed garlic cloves that disappear into the beans, the olives I’d forgotten to add. I was also more confident that I could correct mistakes. Over cook them and you only need to add more water, turning back the clock to the time before you decided to answer that email or pick-up your cell phones, they’re generous little beans. Easy to make well but hard to make great, this batch turned out better than the last. In a few days it’ll be gone. If I want to know more, it’s up to me to soak, chop, simmer, and repeat.
Abuelo Pelaez’s Frijoles Negros
Click here for the original post. I’ve revised the recipe in both locations to reflect minor adjustments.
1 pound black beans, rinsed thoroughly
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 large white onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
4-5 garlic cloves, mashed but whole
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 large white onion, finely chopped
1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons salt (easier to add later than take away)
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup green olives stuffed with pimentos, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon sugar
Soak the black beans overnight in a large pot with 10 cups of water.
Add the next five ingredients to the beans and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium and simmer for 1 hour, check regularly and skim the foam that forms on the top.
To make the sofrito, warm the remaining olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the remaining onion, green pepper and garlic and sauté for about 5 minutes till soft. Add the bay leaf, cumin, oregano, black pepper and salt and cook for about 2 minutes more.
Add the sofrito to beans. Stir in sherry vinegar, wine and olives, and bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer and cook, covered, for about 1 to 1 1/2 hours, stirring frequently, until slightly thickened and cooked through. Remove both bay leaves, and adjust salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and add sugar. Serve as soup or a side dish, or over white rice.
Off the heat, add the sugar. Serve as soup, over white rice or as a side dish to just about anything.
Makes 8 servings.