In a medium saucepan, combine 4 cups of water with 1 teaspoon of the salt and 1 ½ teaspoons of the olive oil. Bring to a boil. Stir in the rice, cover, and reduce heat to low. Cook for 20 minutes or until the rice is tender.
In a large saucepan, heat the remaining olive oil over medium heat. Sauté the onion, green or red pepper, and garlic until the vegetables have softened, about 5 minutes. Add the beans, broth, vinegar, bay leaves, black pepper, cumin, and remaining salt. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and let simmer for 10 minutes; remove the bay leaves. Spoon the beans over the rice and sprinkle with the scallions, if desired. Serve warm.
Tip: For a quick black bean soup, follow this recipe. Then remove the bay leaves and process the mixture in a blender or food processor until smooth. Instead of serving it with rice, spoon a dollop of sour cream onto each serving and sprinkle with sliced scallions.