Oswald Rivera

Author, Warrior, and Teacher

Category: beans and legumes (page 2 of 4)


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.



About the only time we have black-eyed peas is on New Year’s Day when we cook them with rice. It’s a dish called Hoppin’ John, and it’s a southern favorite. Other than that, we seldom cook these suckers. Well, I recently found some on hand.  To me, Hoppin’ John is good once a year. I had to create something new with this batch. So, I decided, why not pair them with sausage? It sounded okay. And it turned out magnificent. This dish you can have by itself or with rice. For the sausage, I used pork sausage. But you can use beef, chicken, turkey sausage or, if you’re in the mood for something spicier, Spanish chorizo sausage. Also, remember, if the sausage comes with a casing, remove such before cooking

Let me state that we used dried beans for this recipe. If desired, you can use the canned or frozen variety. However, it will not be the same in terms of texture and flavor. The extra bother of soaking the peas is well worth the effort.  And, yes, I know, there’s a pop-rap group known as the Black Eyed Peas.  They had nothing to do with this dish. Although I was sad when Fergie left the group. J. Rey Soul is a pretty good replacement.



1½ cups dried black-eyed peas
2 sprigs fresh thyme or ¼ teaspoon dried
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 12-ounce package pork sausage, cut into ¼-inch rounds
1 small onion, peeled and sliced into thin rings
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
1 teaspoon fresh chopped oregano or ½ teaspoon dried
2 tablespoons red wine
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley


  1. Soak black-eyed peas overnight with water to cover by about 2 inches. Drain and rinse.
  2.  Place beans in a Dutch oven, heavy kettle or pot with water to cover by about 3 inches. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer, covered, for 1 hour or until peas are tender.
  3.  While peas are cooking, heat olive oil in a skillet, add onion and cook until translucent. Add garlic and cook 2 minutes more.
  4. Add pork and oregano, and sauté until pork is brown. Add wine and cook over high heat until wine is absorbed and has evaporated. Lower heat, cover and simmer for 5 minutes more.
  5.  When beans have cooked, add sausage, season with salt and pepper, and stir to mix. Garnish with parsley and serve.
    Yield: 4-6   servings.




Back during the Punic Wars when I was a youngster there use to be a Horn and Hardart Automat on East 42nd Street in New York City. This place was a goof to me and my buddies. You would go in, see all this small glass windows, put some change into a slot and a prepared meal would come out.  It was like magic. And our favorite,  at the time, was their baked beans that you could get for 10-15 cents.

The Automat is long gone, having been replaced by such things as McDonald’s and Wendy’s. But I still recall their baked beans. Thus I’m always on the lookout for a good recipe. The one given below should fill the bill. It’s bakes beans infused with maple syrup. I’ve tried baked beans with brown sugar, honey and other sweeteners. Nothing can compare to dark maple syrup as a flavoring.

Now, this recipe can be made  from scratch with dried beans. Or, if pressed for time, you can use canned beans. If it’s dried beans, soak them in water to cover overnight. Drain the next day, place in a pot with water to cover by a two inches or so. Bring to a boil, lower heat to simmer and cook, partly covered, for about an hour or until tender. Depending upon the age of the beans, it may take longer to cook. Just be patient. Some folks add salt to the beans while cooking. I do not. Your choice.  That’s it. Once beans are done, you add the ingredients needed, and bake.  If it’s canned beans, drain them before cooking.

Almost any type of bean can be used in this recipe. It can be kidney beans, pinto beans, great northern, lima beans, garbanzo beans, whatever. Or, if desired, you can use a mix of beans to give it more oomph. This time around we served the recipe with anther favorite, chicken wings. But you can serve the dish with beef, pork, lamb or just plain rice. The choice is endless, and the meal will be great, be it a formal dinner, a cookout or picnic.



2 cups favorite cooked beans, or a combination thereof
½ cup chopped onion
¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
¼  cup mustard
Chili powder to taste (optional)
½ teaspoon fresh chopped ginger
¾ cup dark maple syrup
8 ounces bottled spicy barbecue sauce


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2.  Mix together all ingredients in an oven-proof pot or pan and bake for 1 hour.
    Yield: 6 servings.


Arista of Pork and Beans is the classic dish of Tuscany. It is made, traditionally, with pork loin. One can also use pork shoulder. My version is made with pork shank. In fact, there’s a theory that arista, in Latin, means upper part, possibly referring to pork shank, or upper part of the pig. The most popular story of how the dish got its name is that in 1430, the Byzantine Patriarch, Bessarion, came to Florence for an ecumenical council and, when he tasted the roast pork, he exclaimed “Aristos!”, the Greek word for best or excellent.

The beans in the dish refers to Tuscan Beans. That is,  white beans, either Great Northern or navy beans, and cooked with sage and plum tomatoes.

This is a special dish for that special occasion when you want to impress family and friends. However, anytime would be a great occasion for this classic. With a good Chianti, nothing could be better.



1 four-pound pork shank  or loin of pork
3 cloves garlic, cut into slivers
2 tablespoons fresh chopped rosemary or 1½ teaspoons dried
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon fresh ground pepper
3 whole cloves
2 cups dry red or white wine
2 cups water


  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
  2. Trim excess fat from pork. Roll garlic slivers in rosemary. With the point of a sharp knife, cut small incisions in the meat and in each incision insert a garlic sliver. Rub the meat with salt and pepper. Insert the whole cloves in the meat.
  3.  Place the pork on a roasting pan. Pour the water and wine in the pan. Cook for 2¾ hours, basting occasionally. Cut roast into thin slices and serve.



1½ cups small dried white beans, picked over and rinsed
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage or 1 teaspoon dried
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 plum tomatoes, chopped; or 1/3 cup canned, drained and chopped


  1. Soak beans overnight in a large bowl with water to cover.
  2.  Drain beans and place in a Dutch oven or large pot with water to cover. Bring to a boil over moderate heat. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, for 45 minutes or until beans are just tender. Drain.
  3. In a large skillet, heat butter and olive oil over moderate heat. Add beans, sage, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring with a fork, 3 minutes. Add chopped tomatoes and toss lightly to blend. Cook 3 minutes more and serve with pork roast.
    Yield: 6 servings.

FRIJOLES CON TOCINO Y ARROZ (Columbian Rice and Beans)

As you may have noticed in prior posts, in my culture rice and beans reign supreme.  It’s in our DNA. Thus, I am always on the lookout for requisite good recipes.  In Columbia they have their own method of  preparing this consummate dish. My Columbian brethren add plantains to the dish. Something we never do in Nuyorican cooking. We may have plantains as a side dish, either green plantains (tostones) or ripe plantains (platanos dulce).

Let me add that in Columbia, when making this dish, they use a type of bean called Bola. This is a red ball bean with a white eye.  Admittedly, they are hard to find, even on the East Coast.  I’m sure you can find them online.  I’ve discovered that red kidney bean do just as well in the recipe, and are quite tasty.  Also,  this recipe contains slab bacon, which gives it that added flavor.

(Columbian-Style Rice and Beans)


1 pound dried red kidney beans
8 ounces slab bacon, cut into ¼-inch cubes
1 small onion, peeled and chopped
2 medium-ripe plantains, cut into ½-inch cubes
¼ cup chopped cilantro
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
Salt to taste


1. Rinse and pick through beans. Then soak overnight in a large pot of water (the pot does not need to be covered unless you prefer it that way).
2. Next day, rinse soaked beans well with cold water. Place in a heavy saucepan or Dutch oven, cover with water (for at least 2 inches) and bring to a boil. Lower heat to low- medium, cover, and cook for two hours.
3. In a skillet, sauté bacon (no oil is needed), onion, plantains, cilantro, garlic and salt. Add to beans. Continue cooking, covered, at low-medium heat for about 45 minutes or until beans are tender. Stir occasionally to make sure than beans do not stick to pot. When completely cooked, liquid should have the consistency of a thick soup. You can serve the beans and rice separately, or beans over the rice.
Yield: 4-6 servings.



Due to the Covid-19 virus we have stocked up on beans. By that, I mean the dried variety. The are cheap, still plentiful and a healthy food source. Thus we’re always on the lookout for a creative way to use legumes (fancy name for beans). In this effort, beans and sausage are incorporated into a stew. For the dish I used white Northern beans. But you can also try it with red beans, black beans, chickpeas (garbanzos), black eye peas, and lentils. It s a multi-task recipe. Add a good crusty loaf of bread and some dry red or white wine to wash it down, and you have an unforgettable meal.

For a Nuyorican meal one would use the spicy chorizo sausage so beloved in our culture. But you’re not limited. You can use whatever sausage you prefer, be it sweet Italian sausage, French Andoille, kielbasa, even turkey or  chicken sausage. Holly and I came across a wild mushroom sausage with Italian herbs. It peaked our interest.  And you know what? It came out scrumptious. So if you come across something unique, don’t be afraid to experiment. That’s what cooking’s all about.

Let me add that you can use canned beans, if that’s what you want. The recipe won’t take as long but, honestly, it won’t taste the same; and it’ll be a whole different recipe. If you’re using the carrots, you may have to parboil them before adding them to the cooked sausage, along with  the canned beans (and their liquid). And you may have to add more liquid for the soup content. Lots of luck.

(Bean and Sausage Stew)


2 table spoons olive oil
1 pound sausage, sliced ¾-inch thick
1 tablespoon tomato paste
½ teaspoon ground cumin
2 medium carrots, diced
1 onion, peeled and sliced into rings
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 pound dried Great Northern  beans, rinsed and picked through
Salt taste
3 sprigs fresh thyme or ½ teaspoon dried
2 large rosemary sprigs or ½ teaspoon dried
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper or more to taste


1. Heat oil in a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add sausage and brown until cooked through, about 7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a plate, and set aside.
2. Add the tomato paste and cumin to the pot. Cook, stirring, until dark golden, about 2 minutes. Add the carrots, onion and garlic. Cook, stirring, until the vegetables had softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the beans, 8 cups water, salt, thyme, rosemary and bay leaf. Turn the heat up to high and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat to low and simmer gently until the beans are tender, about 2 hours. Stir in the vinegar and pepper. Ladle into warm serving bowls and served drizzle with additional vinegar and olive oil, if desired.
Yield: 6 to 8 servings.





When the stars make you drool, just like pasta fazool, that’s amore.”

Pasta e Fagioli, or pasta and beans, is a popular dish in Italian cuisine. And it’s best know to the rest of us as “Pasta Fazool.” It’s origin is Southern Italy, where it started out as a peasant dish, since it is filling and inexpensive. It began, originally, as a hearty soup or stew. In my family, we never made it soupy. It was more of a traditional pasta dish. That’s the way I’ve been eating it  all my life. The version I’m familiar with includes white beans, either cannellini beans (white kidney), Great Northern, or Navy beans. At one time there was a great restaurant in Brooklyn, Fiorentino’s, where they made the dish with lentils. I found that fascinating, and just as good. In all cases, the pasta used is of the small variety such a elbow macaroni or ditalini.  I reckon you could probably do it with larger shapes such as penne or rigatoni. I’ve never seen it done with string pasta but, if you wanna try, go right ahead.

Since the Covid-19 pandemic, we’ve been stocking up on beans, along with everyone else. Mainly it’s been the dried variety since they are cheap and plentiful. So, pasta fazool was a natural for a hearty dinner. Now, in the recipe noted below, we use canned beans since that’s the easiest way to prepare. But if you want to use dried beans, be my guest. Remember they have to be soaked, preferably overnight, drained, boiled, then simmered for an hour or so using the ingredients given.  Add a crusty loaf of bread, a good Chianti wine, and you’re set for a beggar’s (or a rich person’s) feast.

(Pasta Fazool)


1 pound elbow macaroni
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
1 ½ cups (more or less) tomato sauce
2 15.5-oz cans white kidney beans, drained
Fresh basil to taste or 1 teaspoon dried
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
Grated Parmesan cheese for garnish


1. Cook elbow macaroni per package instructions.
2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven. Add onion and garlic and sauté over moderate heat until onion is translucent and tender.
3. Add tomato sauce and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.
4. Add beans, cooked macaroni, basil, salt and pepper. Bring to boil. Remove from heat and serve piping hot. Garnish with Parmesan cheese.
Yield: 6 or more servings.



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