In Ernest Hemingway’s Key West Kitchen

Photo credit: C. Bertelsen

When I think of the writer Ernest Hemingway, for some reason I think of fish and whiskey and meat dripping fat onto an open fire.

Hemingway ate all those things, and more. Proof lies in The Hemingway Cookbook (Boreth, 1998), on sale in the wonderful gift shop behind the Hemingway House in Key West.

There’s also a clue to Hemingway’s culinary proclivities hidden along one of the walkways in the lush gardens surrounding the house. Pauline Hemingway hired Miriam Williams to cook for the family, even though Miriam knew practically nothing about cooking at the time, by her own admission.

Photo credit: C. Bertelsen

Black beans are also a favorite of mine. I’ve been making the following recipe for years. And I’m sure Papa would have loved them.

Black Bean Soup

For beans:

1 pound dry black beans

1 large green pepper, cut into quarters

2 bay leaves

1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced

2 cloves garlic, peeled, left whole

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Soak beans over night. Or do the quick soak thing – in a large pot, cover beans with water, bring to a boil and boil for 2 minutes over high heat. remove beans from heat, turn off burner, and cover the pot. Let sit for an hour. Drain beans and add more water to cover.

Add green pepper, sliced onion, and garlic cloves. Put pot back on stove, bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, and cook beans until tender, about an hour. Remove green pepper and garlic. The onion will just melt into the mixture.

For sofrito:

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 large green pepper, seeded and deveined, chopped fine

1 medium onion, chopped fine

3 cloves garlic, peeled and mashed or chopped fine

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon whole dried oregano leaves

2 teaspoons, or to taste, hot sauce, such as Texas Pete

1 tablespoon fine sea salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish

Cook the green pepper and onion in the olive oil over medium-high heat until onion is translucent, about 8-10 minutes. add garlic and cook 30 seconds. Stir in the remaining ingredients except for the cilantro, cook for 1 minute and add to the beans.

Bring the beans to a gentle boil, reduce heat to simmer, and cook with lid off for about 30 minutes.

Serve with white rice, grilled meat, mojo, and garnished with the cilantro.

One of the six-toed cats at the Hemingway House in Key West (Photo credit: C. Bertelsen)