I feel like there are people who like all the food on their plate to touch and people who like the different dishes to maintain their own space into carefully managed sections of the plate. I am firmly in the first camp and unsurprisingly a great fan of food in bowls for this very reason. Breakfast is probably my favorite time for a bunch of things to get tossed together in a bowl, which is why this meal of cumin-spiced black beans, plantains, and a fried egg is everything I ever wanted from the first meal of the day.
You Should Eat Beans for Breakfast
This recipe is really a ploy to get you to eat beans for breakfast. If you're already a fan of this practice, join me in convincing the masses that beans are the way and the light to fuller, more satisfying days. Black beans prepared Cuban-style with a soffritto of bell pepper, onion, and garlic are my favorite. Ham hocks are often included in the preparation, but they are just as tasty in their vegetarian preparation.
As the beans cook along with more garlic and bay leaves, you fry up the soffritto to add it to the pot of cooking beans. Make a big batch of the beans ahead of time and you've taken care of the most time-consuming part of this recipe. You can add a pinch of sugar or splash of vinegar to the beans to take them in slightly different directions, but overall it's the earthy warmth of the cumin that comes through most. It's also the reason why we like to add ripe fried plantains to the bowl.
In order to find a ripe plantain, look for one that's soft to the touch with a few dark spots. You could batch fry these ahead of time and warm them up before assembling the bowls. The fried eggs that are served over top should be made to order; your broken yolk wouldn't want it any other way.
Black Beans and Plantains Breakfast Bowl
For the beans and soffritto:
12 ounces dried black beans (about 2 cups)
7 cups water
1 bay leaf
2 cloves garlic
3 fresh cilantro stems with leaves
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium red bell pepper, diced (about 1 cup)
1 medium white or yellow onion, small dice (about 3/4 cup)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
For the plantains:
6 large eggs
Freshly ground black pepper
Coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
Make the beans: Place the beans, water, bay leaf, whole garlic cloves, and cilantro stems in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-heat heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low to maintain a slow rolling boil. Meanwhile, make the soffritto.
Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the bell pepper, onion, and minced garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened. Transfer the mixture to the pot of cooking beans. Add the salt, cumin, pepper, and 1 teaspoon of the chopped cilantro; stir to combine; and continue cooking the beans until they are soft, 1 to 1 1/2 hours total.
Make the plantains: When the beans are ready, fry the plantains. Cut the top and bottom tip of the plantain off. Score the whole length of the plantain with the tip of the knife without cutting the flesh and remove the peel completely. Cut the plantain on an angle into 1/2-inch-thick slices.
Heat the 3/4 cup vegetable oil in a medium frying pan on medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the plantain in a single layer, making sure not to crowd the pan and working in batches if needed, and fry until deep golden-brown on both sides, about 3 minutes per batch. Transfer the fried plantains to a paper towel-lined plate as they're ready; set aside.
Coat a large nonstick frying pan or cast iron skillet lightly with oil and heat over medium heat. Add 3 of the eggs, season with salt and pepper, and cook until desired doneness (a sunny-side up egg is recommended so that the yolk runs all over the plantains and beans). Transfer to a large plate and repeat with the remaining 3 eggs.
Assemble the breakfast bowls: Place 1/2 cup of the black beans in each of 6 serving bowls. Top each with 2 to 3 fried plantain slices. Top each with a fried egg and a sprinkle of the remaining chopped cilantro.
- Make ahead: The beans can be prepared several days ahead of time and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator or frozen for up to 1 month.
Using canned beans:
3 (15-ounce) cans of low-sodium black beanscan be used in place of the dry black beans. Just add the soffritto and spices to the canned beans as you are heating them up.
Recipe by Sara Martinez