Growing up, I was lucky enough to have my mother’s delicious homecooking on a daily basis, so of course I’ve come to view her cuisine as the gold standard for Dominican cooking. As far as I’m concerned, it’s gotta taste like Ma’s or bust; simple as that.
The thing is, perfecting one of her recipes can take a while…especially when your Ma doesn’t write down recipes and always says she never had a passion for cooking. Through a combination of digging through childhood memories of sitting with my mom in the kitchen and just going with my gut, I’ve been able to recreate many of her dishes. The best part — her utter surprise and delight when I tell her I’ve cooked up a storm.
“You did what?!”
Yeah, Ma. I cook!
1/2 lb dry black or pinto beans
1 teaspoon chopped cilantro (or, to taste)
2 thin slices green bell pepper
1/2 a red onion, thinly sliced
1 Tablespoon garlic powder
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
a pinch of oregano
salt, to taste
1. In a large pot, place beans and enough water to cover them by about an inch. Set over medium-low heat and bring to a boil.
2. In a frying pan, heat a tablespoon of oil over medium heat. Add onion and pepper and saute for a few minutes until slightly tender. Add to beans.
3. Lower the heat and simmer until tender — and here’s the catch, this can take a few hours if you haven’t presoaked them. Add water if necessary, and just keep boilin’ til the beans are soft. Add garlic powder and tomato paste and oregano at any point, as well as the key ingredient: cilantro.
4. ONCE SOFT (and not a moment before!!!) add salt to taste. My mother always said adding salt prevents them from getting soft, so let’s just trust mama on this one 🙂