I stopped by the La Honda Country Market today for my weekly blog-meal shopping and I had absolutely no idea what I was going to make. I was amazed by the choices once I started walking the aisles. If you wanted to make Italian food, there were all kinds of pasta and sauces, plus Calzones, Pizza, Lasagna and Shrimp Scampi in the frozen food section. Feel like a Mexican fiesta tonight? The Country Market has avocadoes, chips and salsa, tortillas, rice and beans. And there are Enchiladas, Taquitos and two types of Burritos in their freezers. If you want Gluten-free products, they have an extensive selection—from rice cakes, puppodums and soup to Risotto, Portabello Spinach Parmesan and Gluten-Free pasta. Or you can try Vegetable Korma or Vegetarian ground beef. What a feast in the making!
But I was looking for something new. Something I’d never made before. The rib eye and New York steaks looked phenomenal. But I didn’t feel like barbecuing. The half-chicken and chicken breasts were always excellent, but I’ve already blogged about chicken dishes twice now, so I was looking for something different. And then I saw the ham hock. I’d never cooked a ham hock before. I put that in my basket and continued looking for inspiration.
By the time I saw the frijoles negro (black beans), I knew where my meal was headed—south of the border to Cuba, where I could make Cuban Black Beans and ham. Excellent! Here’s the recipe:
Cuban Black Beans (with vegetables and ham)
A staple common to Cuban cooking is black beans. You will find that although they may seem common, they can be used in a variety of different dishes.
1 pound dried black beans
4 cups of water
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
¼ pound bacon, chopped
1 pound smoked ham hocks, cut in 1 inch pieces
2 teaspoons paprika
3 teaspoons ground cumin
2 bay leaves
4 cups chicken stock
½ teaspoon chili powder
2 cups of diced mixed vegetables
1 tablespoon vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
Place black beans and water in large stockpot. Cover and boil two minutes. Turn off heat and let stand covered for one hour. Then drain the liquid from the beans (I saved mine for making bean soup another day) and return the beans to the pot.
Remove the lid and add the rest of the ingredients, except the diced veggies, vinegar, salt and pepper. There should be enough water to just cover the beans, so if necessary add a bit or water. Cover and simmer until the beans are tender, about two hours. At the mid-point of one hour, add the two cups of veggies. Your veggies should include onions, celery and carrots, which the Cuban chefs call sofrito when sautéed with cumin, paprika, chili powder and garlic. I also added diced zucchini, red bell pepper and yellow summer squash for taste and color and because our garden went into overdrive with that last hot spell.
After the full two hours, take out the hocks and remove the meat from the bones. Return the meat to the pot. Add the vinegar, salt and pepper. Simmer long enough to heat the vinegar.
Serve this with a green salad, some crusty artisan bread (there are a lot of varieties at the store) and one of the great microbrew beer varieties you’ll find at La Honda Country Market. Hearty and healthy.
Oh, and by the way, another fabulous Cuban/South American dish is the versatile and delicious Rice and Beans. So, into the leftovers from this meal I stirred in a cup of rice I had already cooked earlier in the week and made enough rice and beans for lunch or side dish for four. Tomorrow we’re having sausages with rice and beans! Economical, yummy fare.
I am Laurie McLean and I’m blogging about my experiment in sustainable community through cooking in the tiny mountain town of La Honda, California. Each week I’ll be buying ingredients for a family-of-four-dinner at our fabulous local La Honda Country Market (and encouraging my neighbors to do the same so we keep it in business). Then I’ll blog about it at: https://countrymarketcooking.wordpress.com and share my recipes for that meal at the store. Mangia!