One of the best ways to get to the heart of a culture while traveling is through its cuisine. Ingredients are often determined by what’s abundant and available - something I found to be very true on my first trip to Cuba last November. I visited Ciego de Ávila, Cuba after hurricane Irma to give english classes and had difficulty finding any vegetarian food because the devastating hurricane destroyed most of the crops. The produce that survived the hurricane was taken to Trinidad and Havana where the majority of the population, tourism, and economy is concentrated leaving us out of luck in Ciego de Ávila. More than a week into the stay with my host family in Ciego and sticking to diet of rice, beans, pickled vegetables, and an occasional side of chopped lettuce or chard, I was thrilled to find an exciting new bean based recipe at a restaurant called La Casona. This mouthwatering vegan potaje de frijoles negros (black bean stew) is full of exciting flavors and is perfect for a vegan diet since beans are high in folate, B vitamins and iron, and heart-healthy.
After speaking to the chef at La Casona and begging him to let me in on his secret, he shared only a few key ingredients, leaving me to recreate the rest of the recipe from memory when I got home.
If you are curious about Ciego de Ávila or planning a trip there, be sure to read my post on Things to do in Ciego de Avila. A special thank you to my lovely host mom, Joaquina, and everyone else who made my time in Ciego de Avila special.
1.5 pounds whole black beans (about 2 ½ cups)
2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup chopped onion
6 cups of water
⅔ cup of wine
1 teaspoon salt
2 bay leaves
1 small can chopped jalapeños
½ teaspoon cumin
⅓ cup chopped cilantro
Cooking time: 5 hours
Serves: 8-10 people