HAVANA 'MOORS AND CHRISTIANS' and TUSCAN TUNA AND CANNELLINI SALAD
'One of the staples of the Cuban diet, moros y cristianos is a wonderfully poetic, historic name for the color combination of black beans and white rice. The beans are richly spiced (but meatless), and the dish makes great party fare.'
1 lb. dried black beans, rinsed and picked over (see note)
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups coarsely chopped onion
1 large green bell pepper, seeded, coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon vinegar (any kind)
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups raw long-grain rice
1 cup thinly sliced scallions, including green tops
If you like, soak the beans in water to cover for 4 hours or overnight. Drain into a colander. In a large soup pot, bring 8 cups of water to a boil. Add the soaked or unsoaked beans and 1 teaspoon of the salt, and simmer until the beans are just tender, 1 to 1-1/2 hours. Drain, reserving the cooking liquid, and return the beans to the pot.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the onion and green pepper, and cook until somewhat softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, cumin, and cayenne and cook, stirring for 1 minute.
Scrape the onion/green pepper mixture into the precooked beans. Add 3 cups of the reserved cooking liquid, along with the bay leaves and sugar. Simmer uncovered over low heat for about 30 minutes, until the beans are very tender. The beans should be quite thick but still soupy enough to ladle over the rice. Adjust the liquid as necessary. Discard the bay leaves and season with the vinegar and black pepper. (The beans can be made 2 days ahead and refrigerated. Reheat before serving with the rice, adding a bit more liquid if needed.)
For the rice, bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a large, heavy saucepan. Add the remaining 1 teaspoon of salt and the rice. Stir, reduce the heat to low, and cook covered until the rice is tender, about 20 minutes.
To serve, mound the rice on a large platter and make a well in the center. Spoon the beans into it, allowing some to spill out over the rice. Sprinkle scallions over top.
Note: Canned bean option: Omit the cooking in the first step. Use 6 cups cooked black beans and about 3-1/3 to 4 cups of water or broth. Simmer the black bean mixture a few minutes longer to develop flavors and thicken the sauce. Serves 6.
TUSCAN TUNA AND CANNELLINI SALAD
1 (6-ounce) can oil-packed tuna
3 cups drained cooked cannellini or other white beans, rinsed
3/4 cup chopped red onion
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano or 1/2 teaspoon dried
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil, preferably extra-virgin
1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley
Salt, if necessary
3 ripe tomatoes, cut in wedges
Drain and discard all but about 1 tablespoon oil from the tuna. In a large mixing bowl, combine the beans and chopped onion. Add the tuna with its remaining oil and flake into large chunks with a fork.
In a small bowl, combine the lemon juice, vinegar, oregano, and pepper. Whisk in the olive oil until blended. Pour the dressing over the salad and stir gently to combine, being careful not to break up the tuna too much. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. (Can be made 1 day ahead.)
When ready to serve, stir in the parsley and taste and correct seasonings if necessary, adding salt to taste. Serve surrounded by tomato wedges. Serves 3 to 4.