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
Darra Goldstein is editor in chief of The Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets, an 888-page reference guide to all things sweet. "The book is really a compendium of human desires, a cultural history of desire for things that are sweet and what it has caused in the world, in both the realm of pleasure and also of pain," she says.