Family Reunion from Marta’s Cuban American Kitchen

Martas kitchen logo 1 copy.jpg
My family, like so many others, felt compelled to leave Cuba in the early years of the revolution. I was five years old when we left everything we knew. We left behind our home and our possessions, but saddest of all, our extended family. These are the people I share my earliest memories with. There were birthday parties and Mother’s Days and Nochebuenas and summers in Varadero that we would never share again. Gone were those amazing Sunday dinners at my Abuelita’s with all of the family present.
Did I say “left behind?” Excuse me, I meant to say “robbed.”
Yes, robbed.
Robbed of the lives we could have shared together. I am sad for my dear cousins and aunts and uncles who have lived practically an entire lifetime having been ripped off from experiencing the wonderful warmth of family.
But, ever the optimist, I continue to have hope.
My hope is that even though we have been forced apart by time and distance that we will (very soon!) be reunited once again. After all, we are Cuban, we are patient, and we have very long memories.
So with that in mind, here’s my offering for today:

Moros y Cristianos

3 cups white rice
1 large white onion, finely chopped
½ cup green bell pepper, finely chopped
Olive oil
4 cloves garlic, crushed
½ can tomato paste
2 cans black beans w/ liquid
1 tsp. cumin
Pinch of saffron
1 tsp. oregano
1 bay leaf
2 Tbsp. Balsamic vinegar
2 cups chicken broth
Salt and pepper to taste
1) Rinse the rice in cold water until water runs clear.
2) In a large pot (with lid), sauté onion, bell pepper and garlic in olive oil until translucent.
3) Add tomato paste, black beans, cumin, saffron, oregano, bay leaf, balsamic vinegar.
4) Blend together over medium heat.
5) Add chicken broth and rice. Bring to a boil.
6) Reduce heat, cover, simmer for about 20 to 25 minutes or until rice is fully cooked.
7) While still hot, drizzle a bit of olive oil over the cooked rice and fluff.

15 thoughts on “Family Reunion from Marta’s Cuban American Kitchen”

  1. Mariana,
    Marta’s in California. I dont know how easy it is to get fresh black beans there.
    Actually, for the most part, we use the canned black beans “El Ebro” for our black beans, except of course, on special occassions.

  2. Hello Marta I wrote before about the very hard to find tomato dulce. Today I have a diffrent question.
    The picture of morros y cristianos looks delicious but it looks a lot like congri. What is the difference between morros y cristianos and congri?

  3. I have used both kinds and I can tell you that the main difference is the color of the rice and the texture of the beans. When you cook your own beans you have more than enough liquid to make the rice darker. Also the beans tend to have a little more integrity, if you don’t over cook them before using them for moros. The flavor can be adjusted by making sure the sofrito is bold and flavorful. This is why I suspect that Martica is using tomato paste and Balsamic vinegar. Instead of tomato sauce and lime juice. I find that sauteeing the rice in the sofrito before adding the broth and beans, seals the grains so they take on more of the flavor of the sofrito. I don’t add the beans until the broth is in to avoid smashing them. I also drizzle mine with a little raw extra virgin olive oil before I serve them. BTW Martica, donde estan los pedazitos de puerco? Hmmm? The best part about the moros is finding one of those little jewels in the mix. Since I keep a kosher home, I use chicharrones de pollo or a fabulous kosher bacon called beef fry. That beef fry is so good that my husband thinks it looks and smells too much like bacon, so he wont eat it. GOOD! MORE FOR ME!
    Oh, and for you non-cooks in the Miami area, Islas Canarias on 27 Ave. and N.W. 2nd St.
    makes the best moros outside of your mami’s kitchen.

  4. Mariana-
    I can get fresh black beans in So Cal, but like Val, I use canned, except for special occasions. I make them in my pressure cooker, which I know scares some people. =D
    Jewbana –
    You’re right. I add the tomato paste & balsamic to boost the flavor. And no I don’t put the puerco in, but if you’ll notice the picture it is definitely next to some fresh masitas! In fact, isn’t there a law that says “masitas go with moros?” (there is at my house =D)
    kenko –
    Like Jewbana said, congris is made with red beans and favored by the Orientales.

  5. Ziva –
    Amy just brought me some yesterday. I have not tried them yet, but rest assured I will. Then we can start the “How to prepare canned black beans” debate. =D
    Val –
    No lacon in So Cal.
    Which means no Caldo Gallego or Lacon con Grelos for me… =(

  6. Thanks regarding the difference between moros and congris. I should have known, I was born and raised in Guantanamo. My mon always called kidney beans “frijoles colorados”. And now that I think about it her congris did have frijoles colorados and not black beans. Thank you Marta. I live in Northern Califrnia and there are only a handfull of Cuban restaurants. Some restaurants here advertize their Cuban dishes but trust me, it is false advertizing, if you know what I mean.

  7. FWIW folks, I was born & raised in the original Cuban capital of Santiago de Cuba in Oriente province and we have “congri con (frijoles) negros” AND “congri con (frijoles) colorados.” Be good.

  8. Marta-Thanks for the recipe. M&C has always been my favorite side dish.
    With cooler weather coming soon how about another crockpot recipe in the near future?

  9. I love “congris” to the point that I had to learn how to make it since my wife’s was always too saggy; by the way I usually do it the day before. For me at least, it tests really better the day after. So even in big occasions I prepare it one day before while my wife is cleaning the house for the next day occasion and complaining for my mess in the kitchen. Another detail, when available, “canilla dorado” is the best rice for “congris” or “moros con cristianos”.

  10. Val, Yes, you can get black beans in California, very good ones, organic, small and dark. I find they are better if you cook them in the pressure cooker, the way my Cuban friends do, but Trader Joe’s Cuban black beans, canned, would be less work. I made Marta’s recipe last night, using brown rice (sorry, I live in Northern California), and I cooked a pork tenderloin, very slowly, about 3 hours at 200 degrees, sliced it, put the slices in the microwave for 30 seconds only, and it was perfect! I was hoping to be able to open the bottle of Mumm’s, but…….

  11. I lived on Trader Joe’s Cuban black beans for years. Now that I’m living in El Salvador, I miss them like crazy. Anyone have a recipe for making them from scratch? (They might taste better that way, huh?)

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