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Meatless meals: Jazz up Fridays with Cuban Black Bean Bowls

Meatless meal plan: Cuban Black Bean Bowls

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Theresa Civantos Barber - published on 02/27/24

The simplicity and frugality of Cuban Black Bean Bowls make them a perfect dinner for Lenten Fridays, but don't worry, they're still delicious!

Do you ever have those nights when it’s late, the kids are cranky, you have zero bright ideas for dinner, and there’s no time to run to the grocery store?

Sometimes my solution on those nights is a frozen pizza, but with about five minutes of planning ahead at some point in the days or weeks before, I have an even better (and much yummier and healthier) back-pocket emergency recipe.

Let me introduce you to one of my favorite recipes from my own childhood: Cuban black bean bowls. I love this recipe because it’s incredibly easy, frugal, healthy and nutritious, and endlessly riffable with fun toppings. 

The concept is refreshingly simple. You cook a can of black beans with Cuban sofrito (a yummy pureed sauce) and serve it over rice or quinoa or whatever you like.

You can jazz it up by topping it with slices of avocado or hot sauce or sauteed peppers and onions, or by mixing in a melty cheese (I favor chihuahua cheese myself). But even just the beans and rice is a delicious and complete meal that the whole family will love.

What makes it so great for a last-minute emergency dinner? The secret is the sofrito. One batch of sofrito is enough to make this recipe at least four times (or twice if you’re cooking for a big group).

Whenever I make it, I freeze the sofrito in one-cup portions. Then it’s ready and waiting to throw together when I need a quick dinner. How easy is that? You could easily double or quadruple the sofrito to meal prep for a big group.

First, you’ll need the recipe for the Cuban sofrito. This recipe comes from my abuela who is from Holguin, Cuba, so you know it’s authentic!

Sofrito

Ingredients

  • 1 15oz can whole tomatoes
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1 medium onion
  • 3-5 garlic cloves
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Directions: Place in a blender to puree. 

And that’s it! At this point I spoon it out and freeze it in one-cup portions so I can make this meal a few times in the months ahead.

On the day you want to cook it, here’s what you need. It couldn’t be simpler: I love these kinds of meals that don’t even require glancing at a recipe!

Cuban Black Bean Bowls

This recipe is quick and delicious. Its simplicity and frugality make it a perfect fit for Lenten Fridays.It takes about 15-20 minutes to prepare from start to finish, if you start cooking the rice and then make the sofrito. If you have made the rice and sofrito ahead of time, it’s even faster, coming together in about 5-10 minutes.

Ingredients (serves 2-4)

  • 1 Can black beans
  • 1 Cup sofrito (see above)
  • Grain of choice (rice, quinoa, or whatever you like: I usually make 2-3 cups rice)
  • Toppings of choice (avocado, salsa, hot sauce, sauteed bell peppers and onions, chihuahua cheese, sweet plantains, etc.)

Directions: If you are making rice, you’ll want to start it before moving on to the other steps. Add 2 parts water, 1 part rice, and a generous sprinkle of salt to a large pot and bring to a boil. Once it’s boiling, cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for about 15 minutes, covered. If you would like, you can add some chopped cilantro and lime juice to the rice, but it’s totally optional.

For the black beans: Add sofrito to a skillet and warm it up (if it’s frozen, this might take a little longer but it defrosts very quickly). Once it’s simmering, add the black beans. Bring to a boil, then simmer, uncovered, until it cooks down and thickens, about five minutes.

Spoon black bean mixture over rice, then add any toppings you desire. My husband and I love to top these black bean bowls with sliced avocado and chihuahua cheese. 

And that’s it! Even quicker and easier than a frozen pizza.

But maybe this simple of a recipe isn’t going to cut it with the crew around the dinner table. Need to add a little something more? Here are two additional suggestions that go with the Hispanic theme. 

Bean and Cheese Quesadillas

Don’t let the short ingredients list fool you: The beans provide protein and fiber that make these simple quesadillas hearty and filling! 

Ingredients (Serves 2-4)

  • 4 Flour tortillas
  • 1 Can black beans (rinsed and dried)
  • About 2 cups Chihuahua cheese

Directions: 

Warm a tortilla in a skillet over medium heat. Cover with an even layer of chihuahua cheese, then sprinkle an even layer of black beans over the cheese. Add another thin layer of cheese and then top with the other tortilla. Cover the skillet and reduce heat to low. Let cook for 3-5 minutes, until the cheese is melted. Use a large spatula to flip the quesadilla, then cook another 2-3 minutes on the other side. Cut into wedges and serve. 

We love this dipped into guacamole or salsa!

Spanish Tortilla

In Spain and Mexico, a “tortilla” means very different things! Spanish tortillas are hearty egg-and-potato baked dishes. In a nod to the Spanish heritage of many Cubans, here is a beloved Spanish recipe that is meatless and delicious.

Ingredients (serves 4-6)

  • 2 lbs Yukon gold potatoes, washed and diced
  • 8 eggs
  • Salt to taste
  • Olive oil

Directions: Preheat the oven to 375. Heat olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat and add potatoes with a generous sprinkle of salt. Reduce heat to low and cook potatoes, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes or until they can be easily pierced with a fork. Add more olive oil if needed to prevent sticking. (Alternatively you can use boiled potatoes and dice them after they are cooked and cooled.) Meanwhile, combine eggs and another big sprinkle of salt and beat together. When the potatoes are cooked, combine with egg mixture. Now you can either transfer them into a greased baking dish or grease the skillet you used for the potatoes and cook directly in there. Once the potatoes and eggs are in a greased oven-safe container, transfer to the oven and bake for 20-30 minutes or until the center is fully cooked and not jiggly. 

Enjoy this Spanish tortilla that is probably not like most tortillas you’ve had up until now! Delicious with a side salad or any of the previous recipes.

For more meatless meal ideas, check out Aleteia’s Meatless Meal Planner for Lent 2024. We will be adding new recipes every Tuesday all throughout the season of Lent.

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Catholic LifestyleFoodLent
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