We also listened to solo music performances by two high school girls who played very skillfully, one on the saxophone and another on the violin. Then we visited the drawing and painting classroom where several art teachers were present. They are government certificated artists as well as teachers and are thus allowed to sell their art to tourists, though they were not at all pushy about it. Some of the work by both the students and the teachers, especially the classical style portraits, was very impressive.
The dancers at the
Tropicana run from the
Stage as the rain falls.
The entire month of March takes place during Lent this year. If you have given up meat or just want to simplify during this time of quiet reflection and service to others, our Vegan Tea in the Special Occasion section of our website might be perfect for you. I also recommend the following recipe for Cuban Black Beans and Rice, which can be made as a healthy and purely vegan dish.
One can produce bean soup by throwing beans in a pot with water and a few spices, but I recommend the Spanish and Latin American approach used to create very flavorful Cuban style Black Beans. In this technique, the beans are cooked in a big pot with chicken or vegetable broth while the Sofrito, or vegetable and spice mixture, is sautéed in a skillet and then added to the beans. This mixture includes a jalapeno. Handle the jalapeno with disposable gloves, and do not remove the seeds if you want a spicy flavor. Also, add more than the four garlic cloves called for in this recipe if you really love garlic. Opinions vary as to whether the black beans should be soaked before cooking them. I chose to soak mine, and the result was delicious and very similar to the Black Beans and Rice we enjoyed so much in Cuba.
- 1 pound of dried black beans
- 1 large can (49 ½ ounces or 6 cups) chicken or vegetable broth
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped and seeded, or include some of the seeds for extra heat
- 2 large green bell peppers, chopped into ½ inch dice
- 4 cloves of garlic, or more, chopped
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 ham hock or 4 slices of thick-cut bacon, fried until crisp, drained and chopped, optional
- 1 tablespoon salt (less or none if using ham hock or bacon)
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon turbinado (or light brown) sugar
- 2 cups of long grain white rice, steamed
Makes: approximately 8-10 servings
- In a large pot or Dutch oven, sort the beans to remove any impurities, rinse them and soak them in 6-8 cups of water for 8-12 hours. Start this process the night before you intend to cook the beans. (Alternatively, use the 1 hour quick soak method described on the package.)
- Pour out and discard the soaking water and rinse the beans. Add the broth, salt and ham hock or bacon if using. Bring to a boil on medium high heat. Then simmer on low, partially covered, stirring occasionally, for about 1 ½-2 hours. Add water if the beans start to become dry.
Prepare the Sofrito:
While the beans cook, heat the olive oil on medium and add the chopped onion and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the chopped bell pepper, jalapeno and bay leaves. Continue to cook, stirring, until the vegetables are almost caramelized, about another 10 minutes.
- Turn the heat to low and add the black pepper, oregano, and cumin. Cook and stir for about 2-3 minutes to meld the flavors, and add the Sofrito to the pot of beans after the beans have been cooking for about 1 hour. Scrape the bottom of the skillet to include all the spices and bits of cooked vegetables. Stir in the vinegar and sugar.
- Stir the pot and continue to simmer for another 20-30 minutes while you prepare the rice. The timing can be somewhat flexible when finishing the beans, but stir occasionally.
Prepare the Rice:
- Follow the instructions on the package for making rice, or use a rice cooker. To make rice in a pot on the stove, add 2 cups of uncooked rice to the pot and rinse to remove any dust or debris. Drain off all the rinse water and add 4 cups of fresh cold water. (I never add salt or butter when cooking rice.)
- Bring the rice to a boil over medium high heat, stirring once or twice. Cover and reduce the heat to low; simmer for 20-25 minutes without removing the lid.
- Turn off the heat, remove the pot from the burner, and continue to steam for about 10 minutes without removing the lid. When ready to serve, remove the lid and fluff the rice with a fork.
- To serve Black Beans and Rice, place about half a cup of cooked rice in each bowl and ladle a generous amount of cooked black beans over the rice. Enjoy immediately.