Rice and beans are a staple in Latin homes, and our home is no exception. My daughter is a wonderful cook, and she has declared that she makes the black beans better than I do, but that I make the pinto beans better than she does. The one ingredient I shared with her was the paprika; I believe that makes a difference.
There are variations to this recipe. You can omit the ham or the potato. You can also use this basic recipe to cook red kidney beans, black beans or pigeon peas (gandules) . I have used this recipe to cook pigeon peas (on the side), and at times instead of ham, I use chuleta (pork chops cut up, which I season with a bit of sea salt, pepper and garlic powder).

Having switched to a healthier lifestyle quite a few years ago, I now cook with mostly organic ingredients and my favorite rice cooker! I got mine at WWW.RiceCookerWorld.net.

Buen Provecho

1 can organic pinto or small red beans – drain liquid
2 oz. diced lean cured ham (jamón de cocinar)
1 diced organic small red onion
2 cloves organic garlic, minced
2 cubed medium sized potatoes (helps to thicken sauce)
1 tbsp. organic tomato paste
2 tsps. organic extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsps. recaito (see instructions below)
Pinch of black pepper
Dash of Spanish paprika (NOT hot) or a non-hot paprika.
1 can water – the water must cover the beans (you can use the bean can)

Place two teaspoons of olive oil in a “Dutch oven” type pot (at medium heat), and sauté the ham and the recaito for about two to three minutes.
Add the diced red onion, garlic, potato, and sauté for another two minutes.
Pour in beans, paprika, pepper, water and tomato paste, stirring for one minute.
Raise flame to medium high, once it begins to boil, put heat on low and cover pot with lid.
Simmer for about 20 to 25 minutes, checking once or twice to stir.
Serve over rice; NOT the instant rice, the long grain rice cooked from scratch. A mixed salad with avocado compliments this dish nicely.

El Recaito

1 organic medium red onion
1 organic large green bell pepper
1 organic large red bell pepper
1 organic medium head of garlic
6 to 12 aji dulce (sweet) chiles (if not available can be omitted)
1 bunch organic cilantro

As you prepare the ingredients for the food processor, place in a large mixing bowl.

Peel the onion and cut in half or in chunks.
Core bell peppers, remove seeds and cut into chunks.
Peel garlic.
Cut 1/4 inch from stem of cilantro and cut in half.
Remove stems from aji dulce.

Begin placing portions of the ingredients into the food processor (with metal blade) and process until finely chopped. Continue adding ingredients until all is finely chopped, or smooth. Make sure paste is evenly mixed, then separate portions into 1/2-cup plastic containers (or use another method of choice) for easy access, and place in freezer (lasts longer). If placed in the refrigerator, the recaito will only last about three days. We use this to season many Puerto Rican dishes.

Yields about 3 to 4 cups.

The aji dulce (sweet) chiles used in the recaito are small and have a flying-saucer shape. Aji vary in color from green-yellow to orange-red.These small chiles are sweet, NOT hot. They are similar to the habanero in appearance and flavor, minus the “heat”. Make sure you ask for “Aji Dulce”. Most Latin markets carry them.