Oswald Rivera

Author, Warrior, and Teacher

Category: beans and legumes (page 2 of 3)


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.



BIFTEC CON GARBANZOS (Beefsteak with Chickpeas)

Like everyone else, during this time of Covid-19, we have stocked up on beans, both dried and canned. This is inclusive of chickpeas (garbanzos), which is one of the most common staples in Nuyorican cooking.  It amazes me how we never got the idea of mashing the chickpeas and creating something akin to hummus—but that’s another story. The following recipe comes from my first cookbook, Puerto Rican Cuisine in America (Running Press) and the thickener used is cornstarch. I suppose flour could be used though we’ve never tried it that way. For the steak, fillet of beef is recommended, though boneless sirloin or round steak can be substituted. The cooking time will be longer though: 15 to 20 minutes for simmering the meat or until tender.

In our family, when we served his dish, the usual accompaniment was steamed rice. This time around we had some plantains on hand and we made platanos (fried plantains). For a recipe you can go to the post of 10/16/16 (Tostones, Fried Green Plantains). The biftec recipe also calls for achiote, a flavoring that adds an orange-red color to our dishes. For simplicity’s sake, I’ve added a recipe for achiote. If you don’t have the time or inclination to use genuine achiote, then you can substitute 1 teaspoon turmeric.

(Beefsteak with Chickpeas)


1 pound fillet of beef, cut into julienne strips
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely minced
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon achiote (see recipe given)
¼ cup olive oil
1 medium onion, peeled and slice in thin rounds
1 teaspoon paprika
1 16-ounce can chickpeas
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon water


1. Sprinkle the beef with garlic, salt, pepper and achiote, and mix until meat is well coated.
2. Heat the oil in a large skillet or frying pan and sauté the meat over high heat for approximately 3 minutes.
3. Reduce heat to medium, add the onion, paprika, chickpeas (with their liquid) and bay leaf. Stir to blend.
4. Add the water mixed with cornstarch and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens (about 3minutes). Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 3 minutes more.
Yield: 4 to 5 servings.


1, Ina small skillet, preferably cast-iron, heat ½ cup olive oil or vegetable oil. When the oil is very hot add 1 tablespoon annatto seeds. They can be obtained in most supermarkets in 8-ounce jars. Turn heat to low and cook the seeds, stirring frequently for 5 minutes. If the flame is kept on high, the seeds may crack and splatter. During cooking, the oil will turn a bright orange-red color. The longer the seeds steep in the oil, the deeper the hue.
2. Remove from heat and let cool. Using a small strainer, pour into a glass jar or container. Cover and refrigerate.
Note: My relatives use a lot of achiote. Some of their recipes call for a  whole bottle of vegetable oil (32ounes) and one jar (8-ounes) in annatto seeds. Again, this is for those who use it constantly and fequently.








Whether you call them, habicheulasfrijoles, or granos,  beans are a popular foodstuff in Puerto Rican cooking. In my parents day, during the dark times of the Great Depression, beans and rice is what staved off hunger on the island. It was cheap and nutritious. When Boricuas first came to New York during the mass wave in the 1950s, they brought with them their penchant for beans . I was raised on beans and whatever grain was available. And the dish given below was one of our favorites. It’s Bean with Sausage. The sausage being chorizo, the cured, spicy Spanish sausage so beloved in our culture. They come in an 8-ounce package and, for this meal, you’ll need three.

Now, if you’ve acquired my book, Puerto Rican Cuisine in America (Running Press) you will note that I give two  methods for soaking beans. Most likely you’ll be getting dried beans from a store or supermarket. They require soaking in water before cooking if for no other reason that the dry beans you pick up could be older and drier than last year’s meatloaf. I prefer overnight soaking as oppose to the quick soaking method. It follows that the more soaking time, the more tender the product. But, if you’re pressed for time you can do quick soaking: put the beans in a pot with water to cover (about 2 inches). Bring water to a boil and cook beans for 1 minute. Remove from heat, cover with a lid and let soak for 1 hour. Drain the beans, rinse and cook according to recipe.

Now, for this recipe you can use whatever beans are available. It can be red kidney beans, black beans, white beans, Lima beans, pink beans, black eye peas, or green peas (what we call pitipuas, a mispronunciation of the French petitpois).  This time around I used pinto beans, which we hand on hand. Yes, you’re saying, who not just use beans from a can. You could, and it would be convenient, but it just wouldn’t taste the same. Believe me, the result would be different.  If nothing else, dried beans are healthier (canned beans are chock full of salt).

Also, in preparing the beans, I use sofrito as a condiment.  Sofrito is an aromatic mix of herbs and spices that is a base for cooking countless dishes. In my cookbook I give a recipe for making sofrito. You can also access a recipe from my post of 11/08/10. Or you can prepare the recipe without it. Some cooks use Sazón Accent (Goya makes a good product).  And, of course, the perfect side dish for this recipe is white or yellow rice

(Beans with Sausage)


1 pound package of whatever bean desired
3 cups water
½ cup olive oil
3 chorizo sausages, sliced into ¼-inch rounds
2 tablespoons sofrito
¼ cup tomato sauce
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoons fresh chopped oregano or 1 teaspoon dried


1. Rinse the beans in a colander under cool running water. Check and discard any stones or other debris. Soak overnight in a pot with water to cover.
2. Drain and rinse. Place in heavy kettle or Dutch oven with 3 cups water. Bring to a boil, cover, and cook over moderate-high heat for 20 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, in a skillet or frying pan, heat olive oil. Add chorizo and stir-fry on moderate heat for 5 minutes.
4. Add sofrito, tomato sauce, salt, pepper and oregano. Sauté another 5 minutes.
5. Add sofrito mix to the beans. Stir, cover and cook for 20 minutes or until sauce has thickened. Serve with rice.
Yield: 6 servings.




Shrimp with Black Beans

I was recently given a jar of fermented black beans as a gift. The first thing I asked is, How do I use this thing?  Then I discovered it is very common in Chinese cuisine, and it’s an item found  in Asian stores.  I also learned that, in cooking, it should be used rather sparingly. Its not like opening a can of beans and adding it to your stew. A little bit goes a long way. The recipe I tried it with is stir-fried shrimp.

The dish is easy to cook and calls for the usual ingredients found in Cantonese dishes: soy sauce, sesame oil, bok choi (or other cabbage, if desired), ginger, and scallions. I decided to give it a sweet and sour affect by adding honey to the mix. The result is given below. Served over steamed rice, or, if you like, lo mein noodles, it’s delicious.


2 tablespoons fermented black beans
2 tablespoons white wine or dry sherry
2 1/2 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 clove garlic, peeled and sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 pound bok choi, trimmed, washed and dried (can use regular cabbage)
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely minced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and minced or grated
1 cup minced scallions

1. Soak black beans in wine or sherry. In a large bowl, marinate shrimp in 1 tablespoon honey, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, sliced garlic, salt and 1 teaspoon sesame oil. Set aside.
2. Separate bok choi leaves from stems. Chop stems into 1-inch pieces, and chop leaves roughly.
3. Preheat a wok, large skillet or frying pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon peanut oil. Raise heat to high, and when it begins to smoke, add minced garlic and immediately add shrimp with its marinade. Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Spoon shrimp out of wok into a plate and set aside.
4. Add remaining tablespoon peanut oil to wok and, when it smokes, add ginger and bok choi. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 4 minutes.
5. Add shrimp to wok. Stir in black beans and their liquid, scallions, and remaining honey and soy sauce. Cook for 1 minutes. Turn off heat, drizzle remaining sesame oil on top, and serve.  
    Yield: 4 servings.

Cooking with Bay Leaves

Some folks I know don’t like to use bay leaves in their cooking. I could never figure that one out. I cook with bay leaves all the time. They add an aromatic flavor to dishes that is hard to replicate. Bay leaves go back a long way. They were used by the ancient Greeks and Romans not only as a flavoring but also for medicinal  purposes. They were good for soothing an upset stomach, as a diuretic, for treating muscle pain, and even as an insect repellent (that’s right: insect repellent). Today they are used worldwide and are particularly prominent in Classical French cuisine. They are used whole and are often removed from the dish before serving (to prevent choking on the things).

Bay leaves have a tea-like aroma which is great for soups, stews and sauces. Stored in the freezer, they’ll last forever. I prefer dried bay leaves to fresh. I know, this is heresy. But, to me, dried bay leaves rule. Why? Dried bay leaves are usually imported from the Middle East, namely, Turkey. Most fresh bay leaves come from California, and they have a strong eucalyptus flavor that can overcome a dish. Dried bay leaves have a milder flavor and an herbal, floral fragrance similar to oregano or thyme. To my mind, they are better for cooking. In fact, I’m told California fresh bay leaves are not the same as dried. They are two distinct products. So, stick to dried bay leaves—unless you want to end up with an inedible dish which reeks of menthol.

Given below are five dishes using bay leaves. This may give you an idea of its true versatility. If nothing else, the next time you have indigestion, just steep some bay leaves in hot water for a great, soothing tea to quiet your tummy.


Wash 1 cup Basmati rice in cold water, drain. Add rice to 1 3/4 cups boiling water. Add two bay leaves along with a cinnamon stick and 3-4 cardamom pods. Lower heat and cook 15 minutes. Cut off heat and let it sit for 5 minutes before serving (don’t forget to remove bay leaves and cinnamon stick). Note: if desired, you can use jasmine rice as well.


In a skillet or fry pan, sauté  1 medium chopped onion, and 2 cloves minced garlic in 3 tablespoons olive oil. Add 2-3 bay leaves and continue cooking until onions are soft and translucent. Add 2 cups  canned beans (either red kidney beans, black beans, white cannellini beans, or black eye peas), 2 fresh chopped tomatoes, and 1/4 cup chopped cilantro. Simmer on low heat, stirring frequently for 5 minutes.


Cook 8-10 bay leaves in a dry skillet until brown and toasted. Then take a whole chicken (or chicken parts) seasoned with pepper and salt, and moisten with some lager beer or white wine (for a richer flavor, you can use brandy or whisky). Wrap the chicken in aluminum foil with a carpet of toasted bay leaves on the bottom and on top. Seal and place in a preheated oven (375 F.) and cook until done (30-45 minutes depending on whether you use a whole chicken or chicken parts).


In a skillet or pan, sauté in oil: 1 medium chopped onion, 2 cloves minced garlic, 4 bay leaves, and 2 cinnamon sticks. When onion is soft and translucent, add 1 pound ground meat (beef, pork, chicken, or turkey). Cook until meat is browned. Add 1 8-ounce can tomato sauce, 1/3 cup dry red wine, and season to taste with salt and ground black pepper. Cover and cook on low heat for 1/2 hour. Remove bay leaves and cinnamon sticks and serve with favorite pasta. If desired, you may add whatever vegetables you like during cooking.


Soak as many bay leaves as needed in water. Then place them on skewers along with the chicken, lamb, beef, veggies, whatever. And grill as you normally would. When done, remove from skewers and discard bay leaves.   

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