H is for Habichuelas Guisadas

Habichuelas Guisadas (beans stew) is a staple of Puerto Rico. It is a very easy and simple preparation, but so flavorful that you will go back to the same recipe again and again.

Though traditionally a Puerto Rican dish, habichuelas guisadas is popular in other regions as well, especially in the Dominican Republic. 

The soul of habichuelas guisadas is the ‘sofrito’. The most common ingredients used for sofrito are pepper, onion, garlic, and cilantro. That said, there are many many variations of the recipe based on regional and family traditions.

Sofrito has its origin in Spain, and travelled with the Spanish colonists to various Caribbean and south American regions. And looks like the moment it landed, sofrito took off on a journey of its own, leading to the existence of myriad versions today depending on where it landed.

More than a blend of ingredients, sofrito is a technique in cooking. The literal meaning of the Spanish word sofrito is ‘fry lightly’. And that is exactly how sofrito is commonly used today – fried lightly in oil to get the cooking process started, forming the flavor base for many dishes.

Sofrito is used to flavor all kinds of stews, beans and rice, including meat stews. 

As bell peppers are one of the main ingredients of sofrito, the color varies – green, red, orange, or yellow – based on the type of peppers being used. They can also be mild or spicy. 

Some versions use other spices like cumin and oregano in the mix. Culantro, also called recao/ sawtooth herb/ wild coriander, is used in a sofrito often either in place of, or in addition to cilantro.It has leaves like rabbit ears and smells surprisingly like cilantro and is a blessing to those who have a negative perception of the flavor of cilantro.

Sofrito is used in many other ways, besides as the base for recipes: added at the finishing stage of a dish to enhance flavors, as a topping for cooked items or even as a dip. In all its incarnations, it is just captivating, let me say.

Sofrito is lent a helpful hand by the ‘sazon’, a dry seasoning blend.This blend is common to the islands.

Habichuelas guisadas can be made with any variety of beans. White, red, pink, pinto… any of them will work well for habichuelas guisadas. Dried beans are soaked and cooked and used for the dish. If you want to make it on short notice, you can used canned beans as well. I used a can of pinto beans and a can of dark kidney beans for this recipe.

Habichuelas guisadas is usually served with cooked rice.

H is for Habichuelas Guisadas

Difficulty:BeginnerServings:4 servings



  1. Heat the olive oil in a pan on low heat.
  2. Add the sofrito to the oil and fry for 2 minutes.
  3. Add the chopped tomato and sazon to the pan. Stir and cook till tomato starts to wilt.
  4. Add the beans and mix together. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Add 2 cups of water to the pan and bring to a boil.
  6. Cover and cook on simmer for 20 minutes.
  7. Garnish with cilantro springs and serve with cooked rice.
  8. Sofrito

  9. Put together 1 red pepper, cut into pieces, 3 ají dulce (or any sweet peppers like cubanelle), chopped, 8 garlic cloves, 1 yellow onion, chopped, 6 fresh culantro leaves, chopped, 6 stems of cilantro, leaves and stems chopped.
  10. In a food processor, blend the peppers and garlic. Add the chopped onion and blend. Add the culantro and cilantro and blend. You can blend this to a smooth or coarse paste. Frozen in containers, stays fresh in the freezer for up to 3 months.
  11. Sazon

  12. Mix together 1 tbsp each coriander powder, cumin powder, garlic powder, onion powder, anatto (achiote) powder, dried oregano, dried cilantro, black pepper, and salt. Store in an airtight bottle for up to two months.
Keywords:Beans stew, Puerto Rico

F is for Fabada Asturiana 

Fabada Asturiana is a rich pork and beans stew from the Asturias region of northern Spain. Asturias is a rugged mountainous region, and like most mountain food, fabada asturiana is simple and hearty. 

Traditionally, the type of beans used for this stew is fabes de la granja – beans of the farm. As it is fairly difficult to find them in the US, you can use any kind of large white beans. I have used Spanish flat white beans here. 

As with any old recipe, there are several variations going around, especially regarding the meat used. Different types of ham and bacon, chorizo and blood sausages were variously included. For this recipe, I have used ham hock, smoked bacon, slab bacon, and Spanish chorizo sausages. And believe me, it is one of the most flavorful stews I have ever tasted. 

The smoked paprika in the dish enhances the flavors of the chorizo. And the saffron gives it a distinctive color and flavor.

The stew is started in cold water and the flavors are concentrated over slow simmering.

Fabada Asturiana is served with crusty bread, whole wheat being the best.

F is for Fabada Asturiana 

Difficulty:BeginnerServings:6 servings



  1. Soak the beans in cold water, 8 hours prior to the time the stew is to be cooked.
  2. When ready to cook the stew, drain the beans and add them to a large pot.
  3. Add onions (halved), garlic (whole), paprika, saffron, ham hock (whole), two types of bacon (whole), salt and pepper, along with 10 cups of cold water to the pot.
  4. Bring the contents of the pot to a boil. Continue to cook on simmer for 1 hour.
  5. Check the liquid level of the pot; liquid should be sufficient to cover the ingredients. If required, add more water.
  6. Continue cooking for another 30 minutes.
  7. Add the chorizos to the pot. Continue cooking till the beans are soft and the liquid is thickened to the consistency of gravy, for about 30 minutes more.
  8. Check seasoning and adjust salt and pepper, if required.
  9. When ready, pick up the ham hock, slab bacon and chorizo out of the pot using a slotted spoon and place them on a chopping board. Cut the meat from the ham hock into large pieces, discarding the bone. Cut the slab bacon and chorizo into bite size pieces.
  10. Place the meat back in the pot with the beans.
  11. Serve hot along with thick slices of crusty bread.
Keywords:Bacon, Beans, Ham, Meat stew

Warm Three Bean Dip

Though the name refers to a dip, this actually is not a dip. The only apt word I can think of is ‘scoop’. Instead of dipping your chip into something, you are scooping something with your chip. You get the idea!


Beans are one of the most ancient crops consumed by human beings. Historical evidence points to its consumption in regions widespread in Asia and South America, starting 7th millennium BC. Actual cultivation started later in the 2nd millennium BC. Today, it must be one of the most common staples present in all cuisines around the world.

Strictly speaking, beans like fava beans (broad beans) belonging to a particular species can be called ‘beans’, but in modern usage, the word has become a synonym for pulses or legumes as well. Then there are other thing being called ‘beans’ though they are in no way connected to the actual beans. Examples are coffee bean, vanilla bean, coco bean, etc.


The beans’ claim to fame is that it is the chief food item that meets the protein requirements of vegetarians. According to nutrition experts, beans are comparable to meat in terms of calories, but far superior when it comes to fiber and water content. One cup of cooked beans provides about 12 grams of fiber, while meat has none. In addition, beans are high in antioxidants, and are good for digestive tract health.


Instead of the particular varieties of beans used here, you can choose any of your liking.


The molcajete goes well with the ancient crop of beans as it is also an ancient tool. It was in use during the times of the Aztec and Maya cultures. It is carved out of a single block of basalt stone. Comes in very handy in the kitchen.


Despite all the good it does, beans have this unfortunate blemish on its reputation due to its tendency to produce flatulence, giving rise to numerous stories and jokes. Soaking in water to which a pinch of baking soda has been added, or cooking with spices like coriander and cumin are supposed to overcome this problem. Again, in my opinion, moderate quantities will not cause any such problems.


The dip or scoop is served best with sturdy tortilla chips. And, if you like to spice it up a bit, try it with pieces of pickled jalapeno on the side… truly kicks it up a notch. A quick lunch or a snack, with hardly any effort!



Warm Three Bean Dip
Recipe type: Snack
  • 1 cup butter beans
  • 1 cup red kidney beans
  • 1 cup black beans
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 lime
  • 1 bunch (4 or 5) scallions
  • 1 bunch cilantro leaves
  1. If using the cans of already cooked beans, drain and wash the beans. If using dry beans, soak them for 6 hours ahead of time and boil them.
  2. Thinly slice the scallions and cilantro leaves.
  3. Juice the lemon.
  4. Using a molcajete (traditional grinding stone from Mexico), crush the garlic cloves. If you do not have a molcajete, you can use any other means for the crushing.
  5. Add the three beans and crush them, along with the garlic. It is not necessary to make each bean into a paste; a rough crushing will do. It is good to leave a few whole beans uncrushed.
  6. Scoop out the crushed beans into a serving dish.
  7. Add the olive oil, lime juice, and salt, and mix well.
  8. Add the sliced scallions and cilantro and blend in.
  9. Keep aside for 30 minutes at room temperature for the flavours to meld.
  10. Serve with tortilla chips and crackers to scoop.


Kale with Coconut and Garbanzo

Winter is here and the hardy kale is one of the staples of the season. Among all the leafy vegetables, it occupies a unique place, in terms of history as well as nutritional benefits. And it has an enduring role in almost all cuisines of the world. Being very versatile, it can be made into a variety of soups, pies, salads, sides… a wide choice indeed!


Kale is a member of the cabbage family, though the leaves do not form a head in the center. Other members of the family include broccoli, cauliflower, collard greens, and brussels sprouts.

The commonly available varieties are curly kale and plain kale, in a dark green to gray green colour. There are also varieties that come in white and purple colour, though not commonly available in the market.

Kale is one of the earliest known vegetable, having been cultivated for over 2,000 years. There is evidence of its consumption in Greece in 4th century BC. It was the most common green vegetable in Europe during the Middle Ages, mainly due to its ability to withstand the harsh winter weather.


There are several indications of this leafy vegetable’s historical importance in current culture and usage. An example would be the prominence of the word ‘kale’ in Scottish phrases in use even today. A kaleyard or kailyard as it is spelt in Scottish, is a kitchen garden. And the phrase ‘off one’s kale’ actually means too ill to eat!

It is very easy to grow, being tolerant of extremes of weather. However, not all varieties of kale are edible as some are coarse and indigestible.

Kale is rich in vitamin C and K, and beta carotene, in addition to calcium. It is also known to possess anti-cancer and DNA repair properties, along with the ability to lower cholesterol.

The stems of the kale leaves are quite tough and need to be removed. Just cut along the two sides of the stem and to separate and discard it.


The leaf part can then be sliced to the size you want.


This dish is simplicity itself, yet tastes great, and is quick to make, with just a few ingredients.


I have used curly kale and cooked it without adding any extra liquids, which is the best way to cook leafy green vegetables.


You could easily substitute any other bean like cannellini or butter beans for the garbanzo beans. Best eaten with boiled or steamed rice.


Did you know that the ornamental kale in white, pink and purple that you see decorating many a front garden is edible as well?


Kale with Coconut and Garbanzo
Recipe type: Sides
  • 1 bunch curly kale leaves
  • 1 cup heaped, cooked garbanzo beans
  • ½ cup scraped coconut (can be fresh or frozen thawed)
  • 1 medium yellow or white onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tbsp cooking oil
  • A pinch red chili flakes (optional)
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  1. Remove the central stem of the kale leaves. Gather the leaves together into small bunches and slice thinly.
  2. Cut the onion into ¼ inch wedges.
  3. Crush the garlic.
  4. In a large pan, heat the cooking oil.
  5. Add the onion wedges and sauté till they are transparent.
  6. Add the garlic and sauté for another minute.
  7. Add the kale leaves and stir. The leaves will start to wilt right away.
  8. When they are fully wilted, add the garbanzo beans.
  9. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste and mix well.
  10. When all the liquid from the kale has evaporated, in two or three minutes, add the coconut (and the chili flakes, if using) and mix.
  11. Remove from heat and serve right away, as lunch or a side to dinner.


Quinoa and Lima Beans Salad with Walnut Dressing

2013 was declared the ‘International Year of Quinoa’ by the United Nations General Assembly, with the objective drawing the world’s attention to the role that quinoa can play an important role in eradicating hunger, malnutrition and poverty.



So what is so special about quinoa?
For starters, quinoa is a complete source of protein that includes all nine essential amino acids. Imagine what a blessing it is to vegans who always have a problem about enough protein in their diets. While quinoa is low on calories and carbs, it is also gluten free and rich in fibre. Quinoa also contains minerals like magnesium, iron, tryptophan, copper, and phosphorous.
Its qualities are so much recognised that NASA includes it in the menu of its astronauts!

Quinoa, pronounced ‘kinwah’ following its Spanish spelling, is the grain-like seed of a plant belonging to the spinach family. It was cultivated in the countries of Ecuador, Bolivia, Colombia and Peru, of the Andean region, 3,000 to 4,000 years ago. A staple in the area, quinoa has become increasingly popular world over in the last few years.

Quinoa seeds have a bitter coating called saponin, which makes birds avoid them. In the case of most of the quinoa that is available today in the market, this coating has been removed. Still, it is better to wash it thoroughly before cooking it.

You can cook quinoa the same way as rice. You can boil it in lots of water and then drain it. Or you can combine quinoa and water in a ratio of 1:2, bring it to boil, and simmer it till done and water absorbed, in around 15 minutes. For added flavour, quinoa can be toasted dry for five minutes over low heat and then cooked.

Though quinoa can be used in many ways – quinoa burgers are quite tasty! – my favourite use for it is in salads. It is very versatile and you can add a lot of varied stuff to it to come up with interesting combinations. I like it best when I add a lot of my favourite things and come up with a satisfying meal in one dish!
The addition of lima beans, broccoli, carrots and avocados make this a complete, nutritious meal. The onions add flavour to the salad.
And if you grind the dressing a bit coarse, it adds a bit of crunch too! And if you like the dressing on the spicier side, you can even add some red chilli flakes to it.


Quinoa and Lima Beans Salad with Walnut Dressing
Recipe type: Salad
Cuisine: International
  • Half cup quinoa seeds
  • 1 cup frozen baby lima beans
  • 1 head broccoli
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 1 carrot
  • Half a small red onion
  • Half cup walnuts
  • Quarter cup olive oil
  • Two cloves of garlic
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  1. Wash the quinoa thoroughly under running water and drain.
  2. Bring one and a quarter cup of water to a boil. Add a pinch of salt and the quinoa to the boiling water. Reduce heat, cover and cook for 15 minutes.
  3. Wash the frozen lima beans under running water to defrost it. Cook in a microwave with a pinch of salt and two tablespoons of water, for three minutes.
  4. Cut the broccoli head into florets. Cook in the microwave with a pinch of water and two tablespoons water, for two minutes.
  5. Scrape the carrot into longish strips.
  6. Slice the onion thinly.
  7. Cut the avocado into pieces.
  8. Soak the walnuts for 15 minutes. In a blender, add the walnuts and garlic and blend. With the blender running, add the olive oil in a steady stream. Transfer to a dish and season with salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper.
  9. To assemble, in a large bowl, toss together the quinoa, lima beans (drain off any excess cooking water from the lima beans and broccoli), broccoli, carrot, onion and avocado. Transfer to a serving bowl and drizzle the dressing over the salad. Serve the extra dressing along with the salad. Delicious!