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Comfort Food: From the Kitchen of Susan Dressler

Passed down from generation to generation, family cookbooks are brimming with food for the soul and memories made from scratch.

Susan Dressler and her mom

Susan Dressler and her mom

With her mother being a born-and-raised Southerner and her father being Cuban, it’s no surprise Susan Dressler spent a lot of time in the kitchen growing up.

Whatever they cooked, whether it was her mother’s Chicken Divan or her father’s Arroz con Pollo, cooking was always a fun and flavorful adventure for the whole family. And just as importantly, both cultural traditions were always blended into meals—plantain chips were served right alongside cheese straws. “To this day, we still have a great tradition of eating a Cuban dinner on Christmas Eve and a Southern dinner on Christmas Day,” Susan says. “We keep both influences going strong.”

Not long ago, Susan and her mother created a family cookbook, ensuring that special family recipes like her mother’s Sloppy Joe’s and her father’s Chicken Ropa Vieja will continue on. And as often as this family still finds thezmselves in the kitchen together, it doesn’t seem likely that any traditions or recipes will be forgotten anytime soon. “We love to get in the kitchen and collaborate on the menu and cook together,” Susan says. “It’s so much better than doing it any other way.”

Black Beans

Don’t pass on this recipe just because it looks complicated. It is amazing, and you really cannot mess it up!

Phase One:

1 pound dry black beans
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium ripe tomato, quartered
1 bay leaf
½ medium onion, quarted
½ medium green pepper, quartered
1 garlic clove, unpeeled and crushed

1. Wash beans, discarding imperfect ones. Place in 3- or 4-quart pot. Cover with 2 inches of water. Bring to a boil for 10 minutes, and then turn off and allow to soak for one hour.
2. Add all of the remaining ingredients. Add additional water so that beans are covered with an inch of water. Bring to a boil, and then lower heat. Cover and cook until beans are tender, about 1 hour. Remove large pieces of tomato, pepper, onion, and garlic.

Phase Two:

½ cup olive oil
½ medium onion, finely chopped
½ green pepper, finely chopped
1 garlic clove
1 teaspoon oregano, crushed
¼ teaspoon cumin
2 tablespoons wine vinegar
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons dry sherry

1. In a skillet, heat oil, and sauté the onion and green pepper until transparent.
2. Add garlic, oregano, cumin, wine vinegar, and salt. Stir to mix well. Cook 2 minutes longer, and then add to beans.
3. Cook beans at least another 30 minutes.
4. Add sherry just prior to serving. Serve over rice or as a soup.
5. Garnish with a dollop of sour cream or raw onion. 

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