Oswald Rivera

Author, Warrior, and Teacher

Category: beans and legumes (page 1 of 3)


This is a marvelous vegetarian dinner that came about through sheer coincidence and necessity. Friends of ours gave us a whole bunch of fresh grown carrots. Some we cooked with maple syrup. And that was a good dish; but we still had a lot of carrots left. So, the idea came about: why not cook them with beans? In this case, white beans, which we keep in stock. Let me add, this dish was prepared with said dried beans. I guess you could do it with canned beans and, yes, it wouldn’t be as time consuming. But the natural taste would not be there. In the Rivera family, we still like beans made from scratch. You could call it a Nuyorican thing.

Now, cooking dried beans takes patience. The cooking time will depend on the size and type of bean. On the internet, it states that you can prepare white beans in 20-30 minutes.  In practice, this is not so. Beans take time to cook. It can be anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour or longer. The beans must be cooked till they are tender but not mushy. You  just have to keep on testing them until done. Vegetable, like carrots, take less time. What we did was cook the beans for 45 minutes. If, perchance, the beans are still too crunchy for your taste, then cook them  longer. Finally, we added the carrots and cook for 15 minutes more. Again, it may take longer, depending upon how tender you want the beans and/or the carrots. Just use common sense.

For seasoning of this dish, we stir-fried onions and garlic in olive oil. Then added salt, pepper, and oregano. Then we added the carrots to the beans with some tomato paste for more flavor. That’s it. Yes, it’s not a quicky meal. But the results, despite the time invested, will be heavenly. In Puerto Rican cuisine the usual partner to beans is rice. This time around we combined the beans with Spanish yellow rice, and it was perfect. In fact, you can also combine the beans with pasta, say spaghetti or linguini, and you’ll have a new take on pasta fazool.



1 cup dried white beans (cannellini or great northern)
2 cups carrots, peeled and cut into diagonal 1/4-inch thick pieces
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, peeled and sliced into rings
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon fresh chopped oregano or ½ teaspoon dried
1 teaspoon tomato paste


  1. Rinse the dried beans in water and put them in a large bowl. Cover with water by at least 2 inches and leave to soak overnight.
  2. Drain and rinse the beans and put them into a pot with a heavy lid. Add just enough cold water to cover them. Bring the beans to a boil,  cover and simmer them gently for 45 minutes or until the beans are tender. The cooking time will depend on the size and age of the beans.
  3. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a skillet or frypan. Add onions and cook  until soft and translucent. Add garlic and cook 2 minutes more. Season with salt, pepper and oregano. Add to beans in pot along with the carrots. Cover and cook 15 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and cook about 2 minutes more. Serve over rice.
    Yield: 4-6 servings.



I’m always experimenting with unique tofu recipes. The one I came up with today could be categorized as a fusion Nuyorican dish, Tofu con chili y Gandules. Basically it’s tofu spiced with chili and coupled with green pigeon peas or what we call gandules, a legume very popular in our cuisine.  For this dish I used pigeon peas because I happen to have a couple of cans on hand. I’m sure you can try it with any bean variety of your choice, be it red beans, black, white, pinto or, even black eye peas. The fusion element comes in when I add soy sauce and peanut butter to attain a distinctive sweet and sour affect. Trust me, you’ll love it.

The dish may be a bit repetitive in that you use two pans to cook the ingredients. Other than that, it’s quite easy to make. Also, It’s an entrée that you can serve by itself or over rice or pasta. If you’re a tofu fan, this recipe will hit the spot.

Final Note: in our family, we like extra firm tofu but, even with extra firm, we still press it before cooking.  Pressing the tofu compresses it and squeezes out extra moisture, making it firmer and dryer, which means you can get a more  closed-grained interior and wonderfully crisp exterior when you cook it. The procedure is easy enough: wrap a block of tofu in a couple sheets of paper towels, then place in a plate with a lip. Put something heavy like a frying pan on top and weigh it down with 2 full cans or jars, or even a couple of books, and leave for 30 minutes.. The tofu will lose about two-thirds its original thickness, and up to 100ml water will have been removed. You can take a chance on  cooking the tofu without pressing, but you might end up with shredded tofu and a soup-like consistency. Better to be safe and sure.



1 bloc tofu (14-16 oz,) rinsed and cut into chunks or serving pieces
¼ cup soy sauce
1½ tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons peanut butter
1/8 teaspoon dried oregano
¼ cup water
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic peeled and minced
2 (15 oz.) cans gandules – reserve the liquid in the cans
1 tablespoon chili powder or to taste
1 tablespoon cumin  powder


  1. In a bowl, combine the tofu, soy sauce, tomato paste, peanut butter, oregano and water. Mix until the tofu is evenly coated.
  2. In a wok or large pan, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive  oil and fry the tofu pieces until all liquid is absorbed and the tofu is browned.
  3. In another smaller pan, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil and sauté the onion and garlic over medium heat until the onion is transparent. Add these, the browned tofu, and gandules to the wok or large pan. Add reserved water from the cans, chili powder and cumin. Stir to mix, cover and simmer on medium-low heat for 3-4 minutes or until  hot.
    Yield: 4-6 servings.





In our culture we love chicken and we love beans. So why not combine them together in a one pot meal, as we did back on the block with Pollo con Habichuelas. Just mix the ingredients, season, cook, and you have a marvelous one dish entrée.

In our family we use dried beans when preparing this dish. It will not work with canned beans, which are already precooked. You would have to prepare the chicken and beans separately, and then combine—which negates the idea of a one dish meal. Also, since it’s dried beans we’re dealing with, that means they need to be soaked for at least 8 hours or, preferably, overnight. This makes it easier to cook, and reduces the gas produced when the food is being digested.  There is a quick presoak method I’ve seen online: In a large pot, add 6 cups of water for each pound (2 cups) of dry beans. Heat to boiling; boil for 2–3 minutes. Remove from heat, cover and soak for at least 1 hour. Full disclosure, I’ve never tried this method; so I can’t vouch whether it works or not. Proceed as you think best.

Note that we use white beans in this recipe, which cuts down on the cooking time (about 1 hour). It takes longer to cook other beans. For instance, black beans take 60 to 90 minutes, kidney beans, navy beans and pinto beans take 90 to 120 minutes. With those varieties, since we’re cooking the chicken and beans together, by the time the beans are done, the chicken will be overcooked and dry.

The usual accompaniment to this dish is rice. In out family we like it as is with a crusty loaf of bread. Whichever way you serve it, it makes for a great dinner and the leftovers taste better the next day.




2 cups white beans
1 2½-3 pound chicken, cut into serving pieces
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon fresh chopped leaf oregano  or 1 teaspoon dried
1 chicken bouillon cube
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 cup black olives, sliced



  1. Day before, rinse beans, place in a large pot and add water to cover by 2 inches. Cover pot, and soak overnight. Note that the beans do not need to be refrigerated while soaking. Just leave in the kitchen counter while soaking or atop the stove.
  2. Rinse chicken under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels. Place in a bowl, drizzle with olive oil, add salt, pepper, garlic and oregano. Mix to combine. Let stand for 15 minutes so that the spices blend into the chicken pieces.
  3. Drain beans, place in large pot, add water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a boil and add chicken, bouillon cube and turmeric. Stir to mix. Lower heat to gentle simmer, cover and cook until beans are tender, about 1 hour. Add more water, if necessary, during cooking. Add olives, cook 4 minutes more and serve.
    Yield: 4-6 servings.


This is a recipe that came out of necessity. In Nuyorican culture we love beans. For example, rice and beans, to us, is manna from heaven. It is an integral part of our diet. Of course, we’ve refined and modified our bean intake so that we have all sort of bean dishes. And, usually, I cook beans from scratch. That’s the way my mom did, and it is family dogma. However, looking though my cupboard, we came across a couple cans of black beans. I do not recall when these were purchased  or by whom. And they were just short of the expiration date. I hate throwing away items that can still be utilized. So, I figured, okay, this one time I’ll conjure up a good bean dish that will make use of the canned stuff. That’s when I thought of Curried Beans. In my experience, most curried bean dishes, especially in Indian or Southeastern Asian cuisine involved chick peas. What we call garbanzo beans. But would the curry combo work with back beans. I considered, why not? And gave it a try. Let me say it was an experiment that rendered majestic results. I’ve come to the conclusion that almost any bean category could be used in a curried context. It may not work with green beans, which is more of a vegetable category, but then, as stated numerous times before, you’re only limited by your imagination.

This is an easy and quick dish to prepare. Following on the Asian concept, we decided to serve it with rice noodles. Just like regular rice and beans, it’s a marriage made in heaven. Note that if you don’t have rice stick noodles around, you can always substitute vermicelli pasta. So, enjoy these suckers. You won’t be disappointed.



2  (15oz.) cans black beans
½ cup minced onion
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon curry powder (or more to taste)
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup chicken broth


  1. Heat oil in a skillet or saucepan. Add onion and cook over medium heat until somewhat soft and translucent.
  2.  Add curry powder, flour and chicken broth. Mix well. Slowly mix in broth. Stir until slightly thickened. Add black beans. Stir and cook until beans are heated though.  Serve over rice noodles.
    Yield: 4 servings.



Back on the block, in my family, this was one of our popular meals, especially when times were lean. Essentially it was just a soup of garlic and beans but, through time, we added other ingredients to enhance our palette. That’s the beauty of this dish. You can doctor it anyway you want depending upon what’s on hand. In terms of the beans, we always liked white beans, although it also works with garbanzo beans (chick peas).  We never did it with red, black or pinto beans, although you’re welcomed to try and let me know how it works out.

In our version, apart from the garlic, we add parsley, marjoram, salt and pepper, and sazón accent (you can substitute Goya sazón if desired). You can also use a teaspoon of turmeric in place of the sazôn. Your choice.  Note that in our culture, we soak the beans overnight and then cook the following day. If you’re press for time you can do the quick soaking method:  drain beans, place in a heavy pot or Dutch oven with 2 quarts (8 cups) water and bring to a boil. Cover and boil over moderate-low heat and cook until beans are almost ender. Then follow recipe as given. Also note that the recipe calls for water or chicken broth.  To us unsophisticates, adding 2 chicken bouillon cubes to the water counts as chicken broth—unless you have ready made chicken broth on hand.

With a good crusty loaf of bread you have a perfect inexpensive or (as my father use to say) beggar’s banquet. And you can make the soup as thick as you want adding less water (about 4 cups) and turn it into a stew.

(Garlic-Bean Soup)


1 pound dry white beans
2 quart water or chicken broth (or less if you want to make it into a stew)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 clove garlic, peeled and minced
4 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
1 tablespoon fresh chopped marjoram or 1 teaspoon dried
1 large potato cut into chunks (wash, scrub but do not peel)
1 packet sazón accent
Salt and ground black pepper to atste


  1. Soak beans overnight in a pot with water to cover. Drain and rinse under cold running water. Place in a heavy kettle or Dutch oven with 2 quarts water or chicken broth. Bring to a boil, cover and boil over moderate-low heat until beans are tender, about 1 hour.
  2.  Heat olive oil in a skillet or frying pan and sauté  garlic, parsley and marjoram for 3 minutes. Add to beans along with the potato chunks and sazôn. Stir to combine.
  3.  Add  salt and pepper and bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.
    Yield: 6 to 8 servings.


I’ve always had a palate for Mexican refried beans. Mainly because it’s not something common to Puerto Rican cuisine. Thus the thought of refried beans has always intrigued me. Which set me to thinking? What if I made my own version  of it? A Nuyorican version? And why not?  So, here is my version of refried beans with sausages. That’s right. I’ve added sausage to it. Basically, spicy Spanish chorizo sausage which is a stable in  our cooking. For the recipe given, you can use any sausage you prefer, even turkey or chicken . I’m not a stickler to any rules here. Use what you like. The idea is to prepare something good and Nutritious.

Another innovation is that we used white beans for the dish. Mexican refried beans usually consist of pinto beans or black beans. I just figured most beans varieties could be refried. So I tried the white beans and they came out great.

In my culture we usually serve beans with rice. My Mexican brethren also serve refried beans with rice. But they also enjoy it with chips or in a burrito. Following that line of thought, this dish is so good that we serve it by itself with crusty bread. And we do not add chili powder like in some recipes. Remember, this is the Nuyorican version (and we don’t use chili powder) but, if you want, go right ahead and put some in while the beans are simmering. Your choice.

Also, you may like wine with dinner; but refried beans is the type of dish that goes great with beer.


1 3/4 cup white beans
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 cup grated cheese of your choice


  1. Place Beans in a large pot (preferably cast iron) with water to cover with water by 2 inches. Cover and let soak overnight.
  2. Next day, drain beans, put them back in pot with fresh water to cover by 2 inches. Stir in garlic, salt, pepper and cumin. Bring to a boil, turn heat to low, cover and simmer for 1 1/2 hours or until beans are softened.
  3. Use a colander to transfer the liquid from the beans, but reserve the liquid. Heat oil in the same pot (or a large skillet), add the grated cheese. Mix to combine. Add ¼ cup reserved water from the broth and gently smash the beans with a potato masher or fork until you get the right texture. The beans should have the consistency of soft mashed potatoes. Add more bean broth liquid if necessary. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed by adding more salt or pepper.

While beans are cooking, prepare sausage


 2 chorizo sausages, sliced into 1/2-inch rounds
1 small onion, peeled and thinly sliced
Tablespoon fresh oregano leaves or 1 teaspoon dried


1.Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté sausage until starting to brown, about 5 minutes.
2.Add onion and oregano and stir fry for 5 minutes more, turning frequently.
3.Add to fried beans. Stir to mix, and serve immediately.
Yield: 4-6 servings


Rice and beans, whether it’s Arroz con Habicuelas in Puerto Rican cuisine or Arroz con Frijoles in Mexican cooking, is a common staple. Can’t go wrong with it: rice has the carbohydrates and beans have the protein. An inexpensive,  convenient and healthy meal. Thus I’m always on the lookout for something similar in other cultures. That’s when I came across Greek Style Beans combined with Greek rice, or pilafia. In this case, rice pilaf with onion (pilafi me kremmithakia).

Note that in the recipe given, I use dry white beans, which have to be soaked in water overnight. You can cut corners (and cheat) by using canned white beans but, my friends, it just won’t taste the same.   Go the extra mile and soak the suckers then cook. You won’t regret it.  Also, I topped everything with Greek Kalamata olives. This is optional, but it does enhance the dish.



2 cups small white beans
¼ cup olive oil
2 scallions, chopped
¼ teaspoon coriander powder or dried oregano
1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


  1. Soak beans overnight and drain. Cover with fresh water by at least 2 inches. Bring to boil, lower heat and cook, covered, over moderate-low heat until beans are tender but not mushy (about 1 hour).
  2.  Add rest of ingredients and mix well. Cook for 10 minutes longer. Serve with Rice Pilaf with Onion (see recipe below).
    Yield: 4 servings.



2 tablespoons olive oil
1¼ cup long-grain rice
2 cups chicken broth or 2 cups hot water  and 2 teaspoons chicken broth granules
½ cup chopped onion
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
½ cup kalamata olives, halved (optional)


  1. Wash rice at least 3 times in cold water and drain to rid it of starch. What in Pennsylvania Dutch country is know as “washing in several waters.”
  2.  Heat oil in a medium-sized pot or saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the rice and cook until golden in color, stirring occasionally.
  3.  Meanwhile, heat the chicken broth to boiling. Add the chicken broth to the rice, plus the onion and garlic. Cover and simmer until all the liquid is absorbed (about 30 minutes). Fluff the rice with a fork, served with the beans and topped with the kalamata olives.


I like tofu and I like beans. So, in the following recipe, I’ve combined the two. Most of us are familiar with pasts fazool,  or pasta fagioli, which combines beans and pasta, usually small shells, ditalini or even orzo. I guess this would be tofu fazool or tofu fagioli. In my old neighborhood we’d probably call it Tofu con Habichuelas. Whatever. It’s simple to make and utterly delicious.

I don’t usually use canned beans. The flavor just does not compare to beans conjured up from scratch. I acknowledge that it’s easy just to open the can and use. However, if you’re a purist like me, dried beans (in this case, black beans) are best. But you can use whatever bean type preferred.

For dried beans, here’s the drill: Place 2 cups beans in a colander, and rinse under cold running water; place in a kettle or pot  with water to cover by at least 2 inches (do not use hot water); let it soak in the fridge, ideally, overnight; put in a heavy pot or kettle with water to cover, again  by about 1 inch, bring to boil; cover and cook over moderate-low heat until beans are tender (about 1 hour). Note that, during cooking, if water is absorbed or water level runs low, you can add more water, Then cook as you would in the recipe given. Again, if you want to use canned beans, more power to you.

The other thing,  when cooking tofu is it should be pressed prior to cooking. This a technique used to remove moisture and make it easier to cook Normally, even with extra firm tofu, if it is too wet it can break up during cooking. Also, unpressed tofu will not absorb flavor as well, and will not have a good texture. To press: Wrap tofu in a few layers of paper towels; place a cast iron or similarly heavy pan on top, balancing it so that it stays level; wait about 30 minutes and you’ll get at least ¼ cup to ½ cup excess liquid that you’ll discard; remove weighted object; unwrap tofu and cook as instructed.

This time around, I serve this dish with tostones (fried green plantains); but you can serve it with rice or other grain (like quinoa or couscous).


Cooked beans, as instructed above, or 2 (15.5) oz. cans black beans
2 tablespoons tomato paste
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
Salt  and ground black pepper to taste
1 (14 oz.) package extra firm tofu, pressed


  1. Place beans in  a heavy-duty pot or large skillet. Add tomato paste and cook over moderate-high heat, stirring, until paste has dissolved and is on longer in clumps, about 4-5 minutes. Add rest of ingredients, stir and cook, covered, over  medium heat for 10 minutes.
  2.  Stir in tofu, cook another 2 minutes and serve.
    Yield: r servings.


This is another take on that famous Italian entry known as pasta fazool. In more renowned circle, it’s Pasta e Fagioli, or pasta with beans. In the post of 04/26/20 I gave my version of this classic dish. In my family, we prefer white kidney beans when we’re making this recipe. Still, we’re always experimenting and seeking to improve on it. And now we have another version: this time with red kidney beans and sausage. In this entry, the pasta base we’re using is orzo. That singular item that, to us, most resembles rice. And, yes, in past efforts we’ve used rice instead of pasta for this dish.

We prefer to use dried beans instead of the canned variety. True, it’s more effort in that you have to prepare the beans for cooking. This entails soaking overnight a one pound package of beans  in water to cover (by at least 2 inches). Next morning, draining the beans then placing in a heavy kettle or Dutch oven with 2 quarts (8 cups) water. Bring it to a boil, cover and cook over moderate-low heat until beans are tender (about 1 hour).  Now, because of time constraints and convenience, you can substitute 2 (15.5-oz.) cans of red kidney beans. We won’t fault you for that. But, again, it does not match the flavor you get from regular beans.

Note that this dish includes sausage. We prefer the sweet Italian type. Yet you can substitute any pork sausage, or even chicken or turkey sausage. If you’re health conscious, you can use organic vegetable sausages that have appeared in markets in the last few years. Be aware that some sausages come with a casing that has to be removed before cooking.



1 pound package dry red kidney bean
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 (12 oz.) pack sweet Italian uncured sausage, cut into ½-inch pieces
1 medium onion, peeled and sliced into thin rings
2 clove garlic, peeled and minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce
1 (16 oz.) package orzo


  1. Prepare beans by soaking overnight; and then cooking as instructed above.
  2.  While beans are cooking, heat olive oil over moderate-high heat in a frying pan or skillet. Add sausage and onion and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook 2 minutes more.
  3.  Add sausage mix to beans. Season with oregano, salt and pepper. Stir in the tomato sauce, cover and cook until beans are tender.
  4.  While beans are being done, prepare orzo as per package directions. Serve beans and orzo side by side; or you can serve orzo in a large serving dish topped by beans and sausage. Also, if desired, sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese.
    Yield: 6 to 8 servings.




The recipe is Puerto Rican black bean soup. I call it the ‘yoga version.’ I’m always on the lookout for good bean recipes. Beans are an integral part of Puerto Rican cuisine. But this one has an unusual provenance. My wife, Holly, is a proponent of yoga; and her library includes the  Yoga Natural Foods Cookbook by Richard Hittleman. Now, this book is an oldie. It was first published in 1970 when, during the age of Aquarius, natural food and diet and all those hippy-dippy concepts began to gain currency in our society. So, I was intrigued as to what a yoga cookbook would do with Puerto Rican black bean soup

The recipe calls for garlic, cumin and oregano to be crushed in a mortar. The assumption is that when he mentioned cumin and oregano, the author meant whole cumin seeds and fresh oregano. For the sake of convenience, I tried the recipe with ground cumin and oregano, the type that you can get in any store, and the recipe was just as delicious. So, your choice as to use fresh herbs or dried. Also, the recipe calls for vegetable salt. I discovered that vegetable salt is hard to find in my area. Regular salt is just as good with this dish.

In my culture, beans and rice go like love and marriage. In this case we paired the beans with yellow rice, but plain boiled rice is also good.

(Yoga Version)


1 pound black beans
4 cloves garlic
½ tablespoon vegetable salt (can substitute regular table salt—we like sea salt)
1½ teaspoon cumin
1½ teaspoons oregano
5 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions (chopped)
2 green peppers (chopped and seeded)


Soak beans in water to cover, overnight. Add water to make two quarts and cook until tender. Put garlic, salt and herbs in a mortar and crush. Sauté vegetables in oil until transparent. Add garlic mixture and a tablespoon  or two of water and simmer a few minutes. Add this mixture to beans and simmer 30 minutes.
Note: The book does not tell how many servings the recipe yields. But I would surmise it’d  be from 6 to 8 servings.


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