*Guest post by Crystal Rivera (@cookonyournerve)*
No one would believe mom is Russian if they’ve tasted her pernil with a side of rice and beans. Seriously. And while I don’t eat pernil these days, I’m perfectly fine with having a bowl of these beans all on their own, or with rice! Or bread.
Mom told me she learned to stew them from her best friend’s mother as a teen. Tomato broth, with potatoes and olives, smoked, salty meat, and tons of fresh cilantro is where her recipe begins, but does not have to end. Sometimes you’ll see sliced carrots in there, too. Or maybe even peppers. There’s a nod to Autumn in this recipe by using the honey nut squash for sweetness. It’s hearty and the recipe doesn’t require that it needs to be. I love that most about it. As long as you have a can of beans, this sazón, and tomato puree, you can totally improvise based on what you have around your kitchen. No fuss, EVER. Do you always store sofrito in your fridge? Use some of that, too.
My approach to mom’s beans is always based on the season and what’s in season. The addition of orange zest is not something mom would use, but I happen to be obsessed with cooking with oranges. When flavors of citrus, smokiness, and spiciness meet--it surprises you in an eyebrows-up kind of way. While smoked or cured meat is always involved in her recipe, I’ve added smoked tofu instead.
Now, let's get cooking!
~ CITRUS-STEWED BEANS ~
Serves 4 alone, or 4-6 as a side
- Olive oil, to coat pan
- 2-3 long strips of orange zest
- 2 tsp Loisa Sazón
- 2 sprigs of fresh thyme or oregano (or 1⁄2 tsp dried herbs)
- 1/3 cup onion, diced
- 2-3 garlic cloves, chopped, about 1 tbs
- 1 jalapeño, diced (optional)
- 1 heaping tbsp capers
- 1 1/2 cup honeynut squash or other veggies, diced*
- 1/2 cup smoked protein (such as smoked tofu) 85 grams or 3 oz or 1⁄4 c plus tbs
- 15 oz can of cannellini beans (or any kind, alt: soaked and cooked)
- 1 8 oz can tomato sauce (alt: 1/2 tomato paste 1/2 water mixture)
- 1 1/4 cup water (or more if you want)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Cilantro, chopped (optional)
*Note: Any veggie you like will do just fine. Carrots, potatoes (sweet or not sweet), yucca, etc. Even adding chopped fresh greens towards the last few minutes of cooking is a nice touch.
In a medium pot under low-medium heat, add your orange zest, garlic, onion, jalapeno, capers, sazon, and herbs. Saute for a few minutes, til onions are translucent.
Add your tofu and beans, tossing til everything is combined.
Stir in the tomato sauce and water. Simmer, covered, for about 15 minutes. It should take on the flavors of citrus and smokiness from the tofu.
Then add your honeynut squash and any more liquid if necessary. Simmer til tender, about 15-20 minutes. Discard orange zest and woody herbs.
Serve with rice or bread.
A little bit about Crystal Rivera
Crystal Rivera, once a performing poet, is now a food stylist, food photographer, and recipe developer located in New York City. Recipes found on her blog are flavored, mostly, by seasons. Particularly the way seasons move in the city, from market to market. Quickly. Born a Russian-Puerto Rican Jew in Queens, NY, many of her dishes merge cuisines into poems.
Thank you for creating these spices. It’s so hard to find good ingredients. I love the recipes, keep them coming.