Sunday, August 12, 2012

Caraotas Negras

Probably the standard for Latin - especially Caribbean cooking - is Black Beans.  This is one of those dishes I learned while living in Venezuela.  The word for the type of bean that is a Black Bean in Venezuelan Spanish is "Caraota".  In Puerto Rico and the Dominican Rebublic, it's called "Habichuela".  But, please don't call them "Frijoles" unless you're in Cuba or Mexico.  Elsewhere, a frijol refers to a white bean.

This is a pretty simple dish to make, and incredibly versatile too.  The recipe is basically the same as my Basic Beans post, but with a little extra going on.


2 c. Dried Black Beans

10 c. Water

1 t. Salt for boiling the beans

1 T. Olive Oil for boiling

1/4 c. Olive Oil for sautéeing. 

1 sm. Yellow Onion

1 large Bell Pepper

1 or 2 Chile Peppers (Optional)

3 or 4 cloves of Garlic

Salt and Pepper to taste


1.  Soak the beans in the 10 c. of water over night.  You may put in a pinch of Fennel Seed and a pinch of Baking Soda while soaking them.  It might be helpful to review my post on how to make beans before doing this part. 

2.  Add the 1 t. of Salt and the 1 T. of Olive Oil to the soaking beans.  Then, cook the beans on high, and boil them for 1 - 1 1/2 hours, or however long it takes to soften them.  As it's boiling, you will probably need to scoop the gray foam off the top before it boils over. 

3.  As the beans are boiling, mince the onions and garlic finely and set them aside.  I have found you can do this in a food processor on Pulse.  Do not turn the food processor on full or it will liquefy the onions.

4.  Quarter the Bell Pepper and remove the seeds and stem.  There's a helpful hint on chopping peppers in my post on Hummus

If you are using the chile peppers, cut the tops off, cut them in half and de-seed them.  Next, finely mince the peppers.  Again you can use a food processor on Pulse, but be especially careful with peppers as they will liquefy very easily.  Set the minced pepper aside.

5.  Heat the 1/4 c. of Olive Oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add in the minced Onion and Garlic.  Let them sauté until they begin to brown a little.  Then, add the peppers and continue to sauté them, stirring occasionally.  Cover the onion/pepper mixture with a lid while it cooks, continuing to stir occasionally.  Cook the mixture until all the ingredients are soft.  This is called the "alineamiento" (I don't know an English word for this).

6.  When the beans are soft, add the alineamiento to them and simmer together for apx. 1/2 hour.  They should thicken a bit.  You can cook them to desired thickness.  Add salt and pepper to taste before serving.

*There are various ways to serve Caraotas Negras:

1.  You can eat them as they are, like a soup.  This is commonly called "Turtle Soup."

Despite what your favorite cartoon about ninja turtles taught you, Turtle Soup does not contain turtle meat.  It's called that because black beans are sometimes called "turtle beans".  

2.  You can serve them over rice.

Like this.

3.  A very typical thing done in the Caribbean is to serve caraotas negras over spaghetti noodles, and then add a Tablespoon of Mayonnaise and Ketchup.  You then, stir the mayo and ketchup into the beans before eating.  

Don't judge it until you try it!!!

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