From the Diary of a Kitchen Goddess: Polenta Cakes and Black Beans for the Feast of "Tres Reyes"

January 6 ~ La Fiesta de Tres Reyes ~

Tres Reyes, or Three Kings Day, known to some as "Epiphany," is the primary occasion for gift giving in Spanish-speaking countries, especially Mexico and Central America. I love the Spanish language and Mexican Food, so I have been looking for a reason to throw a party that celebrates an important occasion for my friends and neighbors. What better occasion to give the gift of joy and sustenance than on "Three Kings Day"? The Kings brought gifts to Jesus, because he was important ~ his birth was meant to redeem the world. The tradition of exchanging gifts on January 6 each year has been held since the 4th century A.D./C.E.

Dig into a fiesta on a plate ~

Festive dish that will warm hearts and stomachs on a cold January evening
Festive dish that will warm hearts and stomachs on a cold January evening | Source

Esperanza's Tres Reyes Incense gift box ~

3-D watercolor painting of a gift box in which  Esperanza sent home some Three Kings incense with our guests.
3-D watercolor painting of a gift box in which Esperanza sent home some Three Kings incense with our guests. | Source

January 5 and 6, 2013 ~ A Twelfth Night Celebration

January 5th is considered Twelfth Night, the eve of Three Kings Day. It has been traditionally an occasion to throw a party because the arrival of the kings in Bethlehem was a cause for celebration. Since it is the last day set aside for Christmas reveling, serving a festive meal on this night is very appropriate.

Parades of Mummers

Often on either New Year's Day or Twelfth Night, Groups of "Mummers," both actors and musicians, paraded through the town square and local merchants gave prizes to the ones they liked best. They were judged as much for their fanciful costumes as they were for their artistry. Very often, Twelfth Night celebrations were kicked off by groups of friends gathering to watch the parades before the feasting in their homes that evening.

A Kitchen Goddess Twelfth Night Celebration

For the Feast of Tres Reyes, Esperanza and I planned a two-part celebration. The first part was a Mummer's Play that we performed with a group of friends from a nearby village who have formed a theater troop and some of our young friends in our village square on January 5th. Sebastian, the troop's leader, was the director of our production. Damien portrayed Herod and Diana was the angel. Sound effects behind the action were provided by Lily on flute, Amir on riqq, Spencer on violin, and Grover on concertina.

A Magical Mummers' Revival

Our Mystery Play was the story of the Three Kings who brought royal gifts to Jesus when they found him where the star rested. The finale of the show was our inviting onlookers to sing with us the familiar carol, "We Three Kings." Our final destination that evening was the nursing home in town. They were our liveliest audience!

My Grand Feast for the Revelers

On January 6th, we gathered our friends and neighbors for a feast at our cottage to celebrate Three Kings Day, and the final day of the Christmas Season. Everyone wore colorful costumes and masks and danced to lively music provided by some of the young people who participated in the mystery play the night before. They were joined by Asha and Maggie with their harps and Hugo with his recorder. We served baked polenta cakes topped with savory black beans, sour cream, and guacamole. The theater troop brought mead and claret. The parents of the children brought chili, sangria, and apple enchiladas. One brought home-made churros to serve with hot cocoa for dessert. Garnishes for the cocoa included candy canes, cinnamon sticks, marshmallows, and whipped cream.

Esperanza wrapped incense in purple tissue paper inside small boxes with a star against a midnight blue background painted on them. These were the gifts that we sent home with our guests.

A Popular instrument where Jesus was born ~

A serving of Tres Reyes Polenta Cakes and Black Beans ~

A serving of polenta cakes topped with the bean mix and shredded cheese.
A serving of polenta cakes topped with the bean mix and shredded cheese. | Source

Are you inspired to prepare this dish?

5 stars from 1 rating of Polenta Cakes and Black Beans

Cook time for Polenta Cakes and Baked Beans ~

Prep time: 30 min
Cook time: 30 min
Ready in: 1 hour
Yields: Serves 10 people 3 polenta cakes wit toppings.

Intredients that will warm the hearts of your guests ~

  • 3 rolls polenta, sliced into small circular cakes
  • 3 cans black beans
  • 1 can kidney beans, optional for extra color and flavor
  • 3 onions, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, cut small
  • 4-6 tbspns olive oil, for skilled grilling
  • 3 tbspns Fajita seasoning
  • 3 pkgs shredded cheese, Mexican blend
  • 3 cups guacamole, chilled
  • 3 cups sour cream, chilled

The making of a festive meal

  1. Grease 2 or 3 baking sheets with butter or shortening and preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Cut the polenta rolls into small, circular cakes, about 1 cm thick. (If you make polenta from scratch, you will have to form the cakes by hand once the polenta cools).
  3. Bake polenta cakes for about 30 minutes ~ or until they become golden around the edges.
  4. Dice onion and garlic into very small pieces and sautee them in olive oil.
  5. Open cans of beans and pour them, along with their juices, into the pan with the garlic and onions.
  6. Add the Fajita seasoning.
  7. Let the beans simmer until the mix is blended and hot. Remove from heat.
  8. Remove the polenta cakes from the oven and use a spatula to transfer about 3 to the plate of each guest.
  9. Top the cakes with a large spoonful of the bean mix. Sprinkle shredded cheese on top.
  10. Serve with a spoonful of guacamole and sour cream on the side.

Polenta Cakes and Black Beans are Nourishing!

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 3 polenta cakes with toppings
Calories 225
Calories from Fat360
% Daily Value *
Fat 40 g62%
Saturated fat 0 g
Unsaturated fat 0 g
Carbohydrates 34 g11%
Sugar 0 g
Fiber 3 g12%
Protein 16 g32%
Cholesterol 8 mg3%
Sodium 35 mg1%
* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because the recipes have not been professionally evaluated nor have they been evaluated by the U.S. FDA.

© 2013 Karen Szklany Gault

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Comments 8 comments

billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

You know, I don't think I have ever had black beans. Sheez, I feel kind of ignorant reading this hub. :) Thanks for the culinary education.


Seafarer Mama profile image

Seafarer Mama 3 years ago from New England Author

You are in for a treat. There are lots of different ways you can cook them, but I like them best with Mexican seasoning....in or out of tacos. They are also often included in bean salads. Yum! :0)

Thanks for stopping by, billybuc


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 3 years ago from North Carolina

Hi Karen-love the title of "the Kitchen Goddess" That's wonderful. My nephew calls my food hubs, "Dining with Dee" lol

I've never heard of this holy day/holiday and found the history very interesting. I'll have to bookmark this one and give it a try. J loves polenta! Thanks for sharing. Rated UP/I/U


Seafarer Mama profile image

Seafarer Mama 3 years ago from New England Author

Thank you so much, Denise. I am glad that you enjoyed this hub and the history behind the feast day.

Polenta is such a cozy comfort food, isn't it?

Thank you for all of your positive votes!


kittythedreamer profile image

kittythedreamer 3 years ago from the Ether

Oh, great ideas here! These polenta cakes look yummy scrum-diddly-umptious.


Seafarer Mama profile image

Seafarer Mama 3 years ago from New England Author

Hi Kitty. Thank you for stopping by! Glad you enjoyed reading my hub and recipe, and I appreciate your words of encouragement.

It is a yummy dish, and when I can please my daughter and husband with something, I keep making it often. :0) Let me know if you try it sometime. :0)


Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 2 years ago from Wales

So very interesting n and a great recipe. Thank you for sharing and voted up.

Eddy.


Seafarer Mama profile image

Seafarer Mama 2 years ago from New England Author

Thank you, Eddy! So glad you enjoyed reading my story, and I hope you have a chance to try the recipe. :0)....so filling on a cold winter evening. What has your lowest temperature been where you live in the UK?

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