Cuban comfort food: plantains and black beans | Food | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Cuban comfort food: plantains and black beans

“Every so often, we’d splurge on groceries and make a substantial dinner.”


Beans and rice with fried plantains are a staple food in Cuba. My love of it was instilled by my first college friend, Katie, and her Cuban brother-in-law. He loved to cook and we happily adopted his recipes. She and I bonded over stealing food from the cafeteria and using the secret conference-room kitchen to make stone soup. As sweet as she is scrappy, I have fond memories of her writing letters to companies committing social injustices. 

When we moved into our first apartment junior year, we were dead broke. We subsisted on canned vegetables from my grandma’s garden and expired food from our many jobs. We always shared and cared for each other. Every so often, we’d splurge on groceries and make a substantial dinner. Our favorite dish was plantains and black beans. 

We lived together for years and stayed friends for many after. She moved away to pursue a degree in social work, but this recipe has lived on with me. When I make it, I remember her and know that she’s caring and fighting for everyone around her. 


  • 1-2 ripe plantains
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 small-to-medium red or sweet onion
  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 cup water
  • Salt, pepper, cumin to taste
  • Cooking oil of choice


Dice and sauté onion in small pot on low-medium heat for three minutes. Add rice, water, coconut milk and a pinch of salt. Stir over high heat until boiling. Cover and lower to a simmer until liquid absorbs and rice is creamy. In another small pot, sauté garlic, then add vegetable broth, black beans, and cumin, salt and pepper to taste. Allow to simmer; heat may be turned down to keep liquid from evaporating. In a skillet, heat oil on low. Peel plantains and dice or cut into long strips (my preference). Cook on low-medium heat until tender and slightly brown. Serve black beans and plantains over coconut rice.

Crawford is the kitchen manager at Biddle’s Escape in Regent Square.

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