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Published March 06, 2012, 11:30 PM

Halgrimson: Try a Cuban recipe filled with meaning

Moors and Christians is a beans and rice dish traditionally served on New Year’s Eve – but it is delicious almost any time of the year.

By: Andrea Hunter Halgrimson, INFORUM

Moors and Christians is a beans and rice dish traditionally served on New Year’s Eve – but it is delicious almost any time of the year.

A Cuban dish that is called “Moros y Cristianos” in the native language, it’s a food with some meaning as the black beans represent the dark-skinned Moors and the white rice symbolizes the lighter-skinned Christians.

The name of the item is probably a mischievous reference to how Moors and Christians lived together after the Moors conquered Spain and Portugal in the Middle Ages.

Beans are a staple in the Central and South American diets and date back at least 7,000 years. They are native to the Americas and come in more than 500 varieties.

When cooking dried beans, wash well and pick through the beans to remove bits of twig or stones. Beans that are old may take up to two hours or longer to cook. Fresh beans cook in less time.

Soaking the beans ahead reduces cooking time. To soak them, cover the beans with at least two inches of water and let them sit overnight. Drain and add fresh water before cooking.

Adding salt or acidic ingredients before beans are nearly cooked will toughen the beans.

Rice has been cultivated for more than 7,000 years. There are thousands of varieties. Long-grain rice is about four times as long as it is wide.

Moors and Christians may be served for a main meal or as a side dish.

Readers can reach Forum Food Columnist Andrea Hunter Halgrimson at ahalgrimson@forumcomm.com

MOORS AND CHRISTIANS (Moros y Cristianos)

1½ cups dried black beans

¼ cup olive oil for sautéing

2½ cups onion, diced

2½ cups red bell pepper, seeded and diced

4 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped

1 tablespoon ground cumin seed

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 bay leaf

3 tablespoons white vinegar

2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 teaspoons salt

½ teaspoon pepper

4 ½ cups water

3 cups long grain white rice

Cilantro to garnish

In a 2-quart pan, cover dried beans with about four cups water. Do not add salt. Bring to a boil, and cook for three minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, covered for one hour.

Drain and rinse beans. Add enough water to cover again and bring to a boil; reduce heat to low, cover and cook until tender, about 40 to 50 minutes. Drain.

Rinse rice in a strainer under cold, running water until the water runs clear.

In an 8-quart, quart covered pot, sauté onion and red pepper in olive oil until tender. Add garlic, and sauté a few more minutes. Add tomato paste, black beans, oregano, cumin, bay leaf, and vinegar. Cook for about five minutes, stirring gently.

Add water and rice. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and cook for about 20 to 30 minutes, until the rice is done.

Drizzle some olive oil over rice and gently fluff it with a fork. Adjust seasonings by adding salt and pepper to taste. Remove the bay leaf.

Garnish with cilantro and serve hot. Makes 8 servings.

“The Food Lover’s Companion,” by Sharon Tyler Herbst; “Three Guys From Miami Cook Cuban” by Jorge Castillo, Glenn Lindgren and Raúl Musibay

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