Monday, October 18, 2010

Barrio Beans

Have you had the opportunity to travel to a South or Central American country?  Have you sat down to amazing bowls of beans and rice on your travels there, and been absolutely transported by the flavors?  Have you tried to recreate this flavor at home, only to come up with sub-par beans that don't live up to that food memory in the slightest?  If so, read on, this is a tale for you.  My story has three parts...
Part I: (Business) Travelin' Mama
I'm leaving the fam at the end of the week for a couple of days of business travel.  The husband is quite busy at work these days, and my sister-in-law will have her hands full with the little man, so I am channeling all of my nervous energy about work and leaving my boys into preparing easy-to-eat meals for them for the rest of the week.  Ironically, while I feel compelled to nest and cook so that everyone is fed and cozy in my absence, I have precious little time to do so as I simultaneously prepare for my work event that is only three days away.  I need easy to cook things that yield big results with almost no time and effort.
SMJ's kitchen in nesting mode: beans on the stove, pumpkin muffins cooling, and why yes, there's a brisket in the oven, thanks for asking.

Part II: A Lust for Lizano
Tragically, I've never been to Costa Rica (a wrong that must be righted ASAP), but the husband took a surf safari there in his pre-me days, and his memories of that beautiful country live on.  Moreso than the surf, the sun or the monkeys, though, he talks about Lizano sauce.  Lizano is, apparently, the ketchup of Costa Rica.  A little hot, a little smoky and a little sweet, there isn't much it wouldn't be good on.  I had never tasted it, but the husband talks of it so fondly, we've long been on a quest to score some stateside.  Our new neighborhood is largely Hispanic, and I knew Lizano had to be a stone's throw from us somewhere around here.  I finally sniffed out a Latin specialty market and what do you know... we found his Lizano!  He promptly bought their largest bottle, and then discussions began about a vehicle for the sauce.  Beans and rice kept coming up in the conversation, to the point where I had an insatiable craving that had to be answered.
According to the husband, this is a completely reasonably sized bottle of Lizano to have on hand.
Part III:  Food Memory Not to be Denied
I am tired of dreaming of the beans I've eaten in Brazil, only to boil up a pot and have them taste decidedly American.  I decided to go the interwebs for this one, and not stop my research until I discovered secret ingredients that would yield the beans of my food memories.  The world of food bloggers did not disappoint and with some help from the Homesick Texan, I think I found the two things my beans have been missing: jalapeno juice and pork (when is pork not the answer?).  Hallelujah!
And so my friends, this story has a happy ending.  For about $8 total cost and in about 20 minutes of active cooking, I've created a huge pot of beans, sure to be a hit for several lunches and dinners in my absence, rightfully reminiscent of our travels south of the border, and a perfect vehicle for many heart slugs of Lizano.  All's well that ends well.

Beans from the Barrio
1 pound of pinto beans (2 cups)

4 cloves garlic, minced
1 sweet onion, diced
1/4 cup of jalapeno juice (from canned jalapenos)

1 jalapeno (from can), chopped
1/4 pound of salt pork, guaciale or pancetta, chopped into small cubes
1 teaspoon oregano

Salt to taste
1. Rinse and sort your beans
2. First soak the beans. You can either cover the beans with one inch of water and soak overnight or bring water to a boil, remove from heat and cover for one hour.
3. Drain the beans and cover with seven cups of fresh water.
4. Add to the pot the garlic, onion, jalapeno juice and pork.
5. Bring pot to a boil and then cover and reduce heat to a simmer, stir occasionally.
6. Beans will be soft enough to eat in about an hour, but the longer they simmer, the better they taste; just check on them periodically to make sure there is adequate cooking liquid.  

Serve over rice, or as a component of a bean and cheese burrito, or with fried eggs over the top on a tortilla for breakfast.  Whatever you do, just add plenty of Lizano.  


  1. This is perfect I needed a good bean recipe for my spare ribs tonight. BTW, salt pork coming to you if you want it!
    Thanks SMJ

  2. BE - bring on the porky pork-ness!!! thank you!