Black Beans and Rice
Here we are with meal number 4 from the Cuizoo Arsenal, where I attempt to give you 7 meals that are quick, cheap, easy, and nutritious. This is one of those basic meals that has sustained entire civilizations for hundreds or thousands of years. Just don’t ask my daughter to eat it. She continues on with her absolute hatred of beans. And yet, it is one of our staple meals. You may (or may not) ask how we pull that off. My best explanation is that I just keep cooking it. We generally have some variation of beans once every week and she cries every time she finds out.
It’s not that I don’t care. It’s just that I know there will be a day when she decides that beans are OK. It has happened with mayonnaise, melted cheese, cow’s milk, rice, mustard, whipped cream, and others. And maybe they won’t be her favorite, but she will learn to tolerate them. So I just keep cooking them and try to ignore the fact that her bean-loving brother is now attempting to emulate his sister by saying “ewww…” every time I cook something from the legume family. Don’t tell Social Services, but I’m pretty sure they are not going hungry and if they refuse to eat one meal, I’m confident they’ll make up for it purely through Cheddar Bunnies the following day.
So, Beans and Rice. You basically want to think about this like a *very* thick bean soup. And this means you can use any type of beans or lentils cooked in water or stock with aromatics and serve them over brown rice to make a complete and healthy meal. I find the texture to be much better if you use dried and soaked/cooked beans, but trust me I’ve done it with canned beans many, many times. My only request on canned beans is that you select a brand that doesn’t use BPA-lined cans. We use Eden Organic.
Meat is optional here. Obviously beans are great with a bit of pork in them. This usually means some sausage, a ham hock, or bacon. But this is entirely optional. In the absence of pork, I find that a lot of Smoked Paprika adds great depth of flavor and the smokiness that the meat usually imparts. So, add some meat if you have it or want to use it up.
Otherwise, just add lots of onions, garlic, peppers, and spices. The key flavorings in my opinion are: Cumin, Smoked Paprika, Chipotle Powder, Garlic, Salt, and Fresh Cilantro. This is another meal where you can provide some flexibility based on toppings. I like to serve chopped avocado, toasted and chopped pumpkin seeds, finely diced onion, chopped cilantro, chopped tomatoes, sour cream, shredded cheese, and/or hot sauce.
But if you go in a non Tex-Mex direction, beans are equally good with some Garlic, Sage, and Thyme. I particularly like white beans with those flavorings served with some crusty bread or pasta instead of rice. (White Beans, Sausage, Tomatoes, Olive Oil, and Italian spices are another favorite). Or if you go the lentil route, you can play up Indian spices with Curry and Garam Masala served over Basmati Rice with a dollop of yogurt and some chopped pumpkin seeds or pistachios. Beans will essentially take on any flavor you decide to throw at them, so be creative and take advantage of this cheap and easy protein.
Black Beans and Rice
Serves 6 with leftovers
16 ounces dried black beans (or about 3 or 4 cans)
1 large onion
2 red peppers
4 cloves garlic
2 t salt
1 t cumin
1 1/2 t smoked paprika
1/8 t chipotle powder
2 T tequila
Zest and juice of one lime
Additional salt and pepper
1 1/2 cups uncooked brown rice
Toasted and chopped pumpkin seeds
1. If using dried beans, rinse and put them in a pot. Cover with plenty of cold water and bring to the boil. Boil for 2 minutes and remove from heat. Cover and let soak for about 2 hours. (If using canned beans, ignore this step. Also, you can just soak dried beans overnight if you like and skip the boiling step.)
2. In a large stock pot, heat a bit of olive oil over medium heat. As oil is heating, chop onion, peppers, and garlic. Add to hot oil and saute for 2-3 minutes. Season with 2 t salt, freshly ground pepper, cumin, smoked paprika, and chipotle powder. Cook spices and aromatics for an additional minute. Deglaze with tequila, scraping up any browned bits.
3. Drain the beans from their soaking liquid (or canned liquid). Add to pot with aromatics and spices and fill with water, just to cover the beans. (Alternatively, if you are using canned beans, just add them to aromatics and cook for 15-30 minutes total with only about 2 cups of water or stock.) Cover and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer for about an hour.
4. Meanwhile, according to package directions for rice, bring water to the boil and cook rice. (Most brown rices take at least 45-50 minutes to cook. If you are using white rice, it will only take about 20 minutes.)
5. Remove the lid from the beans and let simmer for 15-30 additional minutes (after the first hour of cooking), until much of the liquid has evaporated and beans are tender. (15 minutes should be fine with the canned beans.) Meanwhile, prepare optional toppings and zest. Using a zester or peeler, remove the zest from one lime and chop it finely. When beans are nicely tender, add the chopped zest and the juice of one lime, additional salt and pepper to taste, and additional cumin, smoked paprika, or chipotle to taste.
6. Fluff rice and serve the meal by putting some rice on a plate and topping with black beans. Put toppings on the table and allow guests (or ungrateful children) to choose what they want.