Black beans are a cornerstone of Cuban cooking. Served with fluffy white rice, they are the perfect accompaniment for meat, fish, or poultry. They can also stand alone as a nourishing entrée or be pureed to make another Cuban classic, black bean soup.
The cooking time will depend both on the dryness of the beans and the altitude. At sea level they may be cooked in an hour, but at high altitudes it may take two to three hours. For that reason, many high-altitude bean cooks prefer to use the pressure cooker method discussed in the Glossary.
Make the beans: Pick over the beans and rinse them under cold running water. Place the beans in a large nonreactive pot and add enough cold water to cover them by about 2 inches. Soak the beans overnight, or, for a quick soak, bring the beans and water to a boil, boil for 2 minutes, remove from the heat, cover the pot, and let soak for 1 hour.
After soaking, if needed add enough additional water to cover the beans by 2 inches. Add the bell pepper, garlic, and bay leaf to the pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
Lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the beans are tender, 1 to 3 hours. If more water is needed during cooking, add hot water, as cold water tends to toughen the beans. Periodically skim off any foam that rises to the top of the pot.
While the beans are cooking, make the sofrito: In a large skillet over medium heat, warm the oil. Add the onion and bell pepper and sauté until the onion turns translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic, cumin, salt, pepper, and cinnamon and cook for 1 minute more, then remove from the heat.
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