According to Alex Garcia, chef-owner of Erizo Latino restaurant in New York City, there are two secrets to true Cuban black beans: preparing them without meat and allowing them to "sleep" over night to develop flavor. This recipe comes from Garcia's grandmother. The finished beans can be seasoned to taste with sugar and vinegar.
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1 pound dried black beans, picked over and rinsed
1 green bell pepper, quartered lengthwise
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 red, 1 green and 1 yellow pepper, minced
1 large white onion, minced
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon oregano
1/2 cup minced garlic
1/4 cup tomato paste
Put the black beans, quartered green pepper and bay leaves in a large saucepan add 8 cups of water. Bring to a boil over moderately high heat. Reduce the heat to low, partially cover the saucepan and cook, stirring occasionally, until the beans are tender, about 2 1/2 hours. Remove and discard the green pieces and bay leaves.
Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the minced bell peppers and onion and cook over moderate heat until softened. Stir in the cumin and oregano. In a small saucepan, cook the garlic in the remaining 1/2 cup of olive oil over moderately low heat until golden brown.
When the beans are tender, add the sautéed pepper mixture, the garlic in its oil and the tomato paste. Season with salt and simmer gently for 5 minutes to blend the flavors. Cover and refrigerate overnight or for up to 3 days. Reheat gently before serving.