I’m chasing a flavor. When I was a young chef on the Virgin Islands we would walk into town to take a jitney bus to work. If we had the time we would stop at Belardo’s for a quick lunch. Mr. Belardo was a Puerto Rican émigré. He had three beautiful daughters and that is why we frequented his establishment. We would wink and tease and generally come on to the beautiful brown Belardo girls. Mr. Belardo did not like us very much.
We’d drag our hung over butts down to King Street and wait for a cab or take a break in Belardo’s Café. They had good coffee and the best beans and rice. You were served a mound of fluffy white rice and a ladle of creamy red beans accompanied with a couple of fried chicken legs. After this repast you got on the bus sober.
The taste of those beans has lived in my mouth for 30 years. I’m sure the Belardo’s recipe was basic but in my mind I add drama and flavor.
The Balardo girls were fine but they passed on the wild white boys. I cannot eat my beans without seeing their lovely faces. I want take a brown body down to the beach and snuggle into the sands. How sad and wonderful to be older and dream of Belardo’s. These are the beans I made today:
Soak a pound of white beans over night ( great northern, small limas, navy beans or cannellini beans) then simmer them for an hour with 2 pounds of smoked neck bones or cured ham hocks. Cool and remove the meat. Sauté one chopped onion in a separate pot, a few ribs of celery and two diced carrots in a small amount of fat. Add a small can of tomato paste and a can Las Palmas Red Chili Sauce (14 oz) and the pulp of three reconstituted Santa Fe dried chilies. Add a can of chicken stock and bring to a simmer, add the beans, broth and the meat from the bones, continue to simmer for thirty minutes. Season with oregano , a tablespoon of molasses, a splash of habanera sauce, a sprinkle of sugar and fresh ground black pepper.
These are great beans but not the exact memory of Belardo’s Café and the inviting ripe daughters.
Whole beans are an wonderful source of nutrition. They provide complex carbohydrates, fiber and protein in a small package. Beans are easily enhanced and flavored; a modest amount a fat, meat and vegetable matter augments the humble legume greatly. Beans are the perfect food for diabetics or those seeking to lose some weight.
When I was a child I abhorred their mushy feel. Now I find all beans very toothsome. I do not eat black eyes unless they are peeled and I suck out the eyes of fish looking at me.