This post got an update on 11/3/21
Home: It’s Everywhere
If you, like me, have lived in many different places — I wonder: did they all feel like home at some point? Did it take you just a few months to acclimate? I have lived in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Western New York, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Baltimore. They all felt like home after a while. In different ways.
Connecticut is where I daydreamed in pine trees, made pots out of the natural clay in the stream and left them to harden in the sun, and spent endless summer (and spring and fall) days in our pool. Massachusetts is where I was the new kid, where I figured out who my friends were and where I had my first boyfriend. In Western New York, I found my “zone” of not being shy anymore, found creative ways to have fun in the middle of nowhere (sledding on cafeteria trays and rearranging the campus center to be an obstacle course!), and basically just had a blast learning, growing, and having fun. In Costa Rica, my world was challenged with a new language and a new knowledge of my country and how it affects other countries. Nicaragua taught me how to be a leader and how to love a country and its people in the midst of sadness, defeat, victory, and corruption. Baltimore found me my church, my husband, and my passion of cooking, baking, and serving others.
All this to say that I have many homes. And each home tastes different. After six months in Nicaragua, it felt like home. Even though Nicaragua is not recognized on a world-wide culinary scale, they have some good dishes that you grow to love if you spend enough time there.
The gallo pinto (a rice and beans dish that, literally translated, means “painted rooster”) is so familiar and satisfying, especially when it comes with a cool tomato salad and a dollop of crema ácida (sour cream, but I love the direct translation: acid cream). Their tostones are incredible. They are plantains cut into 2-inch pieces, fried, flattened, and then fried again. One acquaintance of mine pronounced tostones to be the best thing he had ever eaten in his life. There are also sweet plantains, pollo a la plancha (grilled chicken with incredible seasonings), and whole, fried fish – head and everything. And the fruit! Warm mango, fresh bananas (different than you find elsewhere), papaya, guava, pitaya, pineapple…I know it’s apple season here, but some of the tropical fruit just blows me away.
So, the long intro is to give you the background of this dish I made the other day. It’s not necessarily specific to Nicaragua. It may be served in many Latin American countries. But the ingredients and flavors make me think of “home.” With the black beans, you can add whatever you like: cumin, cilantro, peppers, even ginger. Just be sure to include garlic and onions. That’s the basis of this recipe (plus, they’re really good for you!). The recipe I include here is an estimate since I usually just add whatever I’m in the mood for.
This is an easy recipe to double and freeze. Dried beans often come in one pound bags, so feel free to double the recipes for leftovers.
What does home taste like to you? How many different places have you called home?
Blean Beans & Sweet Plantains
- 1/2 lb dried black beans
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 medium yellow onion
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 jalapeño pepper seeded and diced
- 1 bell pepper seeded and diced
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 1 cup cilantro packed
- 4 plantains They should look overripe and almost black
- 1/4 cup coconut oil or avocado oil
- avocado, sour cream, cheddar, and/or fresh tortillas optional
- The night before or at least 12 hours before you plan to cook the beans, combine 1/2 pound beans with enough water to cover it by three inches. Add 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar.
- When ready to cook the beans, drain the water and cover with fresh water. Add 1 teaspoon salt, bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-high and simmer for about 1 hour.
- Meanwhile, prepare the other ingredients. Saute onion, garlic, jalapeno, and bell pepper in olive oil until soft. When beans are soft, drain most of the water (saving about 1 cup), then combine the sauteed vegetables into the beans, along with the cumin, red wine vinegar, and cilantro. Taste and add more salt or vinegar if you like.
- To prepare the sweet plantains, peel plantains and cut diagonally into 1 inch pieces. Saute in batches in coconut/avocado oil until tender, about 5 minutes.
- Serve beans with plantains and any other sides you like: avocado, sour cream, cheddar, and/or fresh tortillas.