This recipe is part of a Cuban-Style Christmas: Mojito, Garlic Plantain Chips, Lime, Garlic, and Oregano Mojo, Avocado Salad, Gloria's Black Bean Soup, Crab Empanadas with Pickled Garlic-Caper Remoulade and Roasted Pork Marinade.
1. Place the beans in a nonreactive pan. Cover with three quarts water, add the bay leaves and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer the beans for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, stirring frequently and adding more water if neccessary to keep them covered.
2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a sauté pan or skillet. Saute the the bell peppers, shallots, and onions over medium heat until the onions are translucent, about 15 minutes.
3. Add the garlic, cumin, dried and fresh oregano and saute for an additional 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Transfer to a blender and puree until smooth.
4. When the beans are almost tender, add the pureed mixture, sugar, and salt to the beans and cook until just tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Adjust the seasonings, garnish with the red onion and sour cream, and serve
Richard Wrangham, a professor at Harvard University and author of Catching Fire, studies the role of cooking in human evolution. "Once you start thinking about the importance of cooking -- its supply of energy, its strange distribution compared to natural foods -- it's bound to have affected our evolution hugely, our behavior, our society, our cognition, all sorts of features about us," he says.