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Some years ago I had the real flu, a nasty bug indeed.  The kids were too young to cook, and hubby isn't very good at taking care of a sick person; when I could eat, no one was feeding me.  A Puerto Rican family heard that I was sick and came to call about the time I was almost over it, but still too weak to get around.  The lady of the house asked if I was eating, and I confessed I wasn't, hoping for perhaps some chicken soup!   She said I should get up in a half hour and she would bring me something that would perk me up properly. 

Was it Jell-O?  Custard?  Chicken soup or other classic dishes for invalids?  Nope.  It was a big plate of red beans and rice.  I was doubtful, but with encouragement I began to eat, and once I had a few bites there was no stopping me. 

A few weeks later I invaded her kitchen by invitation to see how she made them, and they've been a favorite food ever since.  Actually, pink beans are used more often than kidney beans, small chunks of potato and diced bell pepper are often added, and usually tomato sauce, paste, or just canned diced ones.  But I prefer her version.  Incidentally, her instructions include that it must be cooked in a cast iron skillet, and I usually do so.

Puerto Rican Red Beans

1 scant quarter lb. of salt pork or fat back (about 3 oz.)
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 bay leaves
3 large garlic cloves
2 cans kidney beans (or other red or pink beans)
dash of black pepper

If the salt pork has a lot of surface salt, scrape it off.  Cut into a small dice.  Place olive oil, diced pork and bay leaves in skillet over medium high heat.  Sauté, stirring often, until pork is about half rendered.  Pour off some of the fat if you wish.  Add onion; sauté until onion is soft.  Mince garlic and add, stirring.  After a moment, add well drained kidney beans and a dash of pepper.  Continue to sauté for a few more minutes.  Add a little water, and simmer on medium low heat for about ten minutes, or until most of the liquid is consumed.

Serve with a mound of hot, moist rice.   If desired, a soft fried egg is a great addition and with a salad, makes a complete meal.

 

 

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