Matt and I have been back in the Boston area for about a week (although he had to take a three day trip up to Canada for work and I went the other direction, to West Palm Beach for a work-related meeting). We've been pretty low key for the short time we scheduled ourselves to be here this summer. By "low-key" I mean barely leaving the apartment. But Thursday afternoon I needed to stop by my old office to return a laptop I borrowed, so I conveniently scheduled the trip right before The Food Project farmer's market opened. The July harvest is in full gear, and there was so much good stuff. My vegetable drawer has never been so happy.
I'm a pretty fly by the seat of my pants kind of a cook. I generally see no need to follow directions to a T, so when using a recipe, especially when cooking not baking, I see it as more of a suggestion rather than a mandate. This makes farmer's market-based cooking appealing to me, because I can just buy what looks good then go from there.
This week, the one really exciting ingredient was tomatillos. I've never cooked with them before, but the most memorable and tasty meal of my life included tomatillo and pineapple salsa. It was the first night I arrived at the Quaker retreat center for my three month resident stay, and black beans and rice with quesadillas with tomatilla and pineapple salsa was the menu for dinner. I can still picture the table I was sitting at, in a room full of about 50 strangers. Of course you usually remember the best and the worst meals, because I also remember where I was sitting when we had crepes with spinach which was picked as a special meal for someone's birthday. I thought it tasted just horrible. You think that crepes might be a good choice, but it didn't do it for me.
Anyway, one of my weekly responsibilities of being a resident student was helping out in the kitchen, so I made sure to learn how to make black beans and rice. One of the cooks was a really funny and generous woman originally from Costa Rica, and really this is her recipe. It's become my favorite comfort food. And since my picky eater husband reviles beans, when I make a batch I get it all to myself.
I've made this at least twenty times, but still, I've never made it with the very memorable tomatillo and pineapple salsa, so this was the perfect opportunity. I just grabbed a recipe from the internet, substituted the serrano peppers for jalapeno since that's what I had and added some red and green bell peppers. Everything included was from the farmer's market, minus the pineapple of course.
The next afternoon I whipped up a batch of black beans and rice. If I could only eat one meal for the rest of my life, this would be it. Hands down. I could eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And with salsa and sour cream, it's got all the four food groups covered. The perfect food.
In honor of my friend Stephanie whose birthday was yesterday and who last week started a blog where she shares some of her own recipes (No Pickles, Please!), here is my recipe for black beans and rice. The amounts are approximations, but it's that kind of recipe. Add a little more or a little less and it should come out just fine.
- 1 19oz can of black beans
- 3 c. of cooked rice (white or brown--both are good)
- 1 red or green bell pepper chopped
- 1 medium sized onion chopped
- 2 ribs of celery chopped
- 2 gloves of garlic minced or crushed
- 1 tsp. of cumin (a little more or less if you like)
- 1/2 tsp. of ground coriander
- Either 1 or 2 chipotle peppers chopped (found in a small can with adobe sauce) or 1 or 2 Tbls. of chipotle hot sauce (Goya brand makes one I use)
- 1 to 2 tomatoes coarsely chopped
- handful of chopped cilantro
- juice of 1 lime
- 2 Tbls. olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- sour cream or cheese to garnish (I recommend the sour cream)
Add the olive oil to a large pan or a medium sized pot and saute the onions and celery for 2-3 minutes until translucent. Add the bell pepper and garlic and saute for another 2 minutes. When cooked down, but not browned, add the can of black beans, including all of the liquid. Add the cumin, coriander, black pepper, and chipotle peppers or hot sauce. Bring to a low boil, then reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring regularly to prevent the beans from sticking or burning on the bottom of the pan. This is what the beans will look like at this stage:
After simmering, add the rice and stir. I try to cook the rice the night before and give it time to firm up and dry out a bit. At this step, depending on the consistency of your rice, you will likely need to add some water, possibly up to a cup if the rice is dry. There should be some sauce to the dish, after all the rice is added. The rice will continue to soak up the juices of the beans and you want the final dish to be moist with a little sauce to it. You can also taste to determine if more spices or chipotle are desired.
At this point, add the chopped tomatoes and cover for another 10 minutes. The tomatoes will soften and cook down, adding their liquid to the rice and beans. After 10 minutes, you can turn off the heat, and stir in the lime juice and cilantro.
This black beans and rice is flavorful enough to be served alone as a side dish (it's a good potluck dish that will bring compliments), or as I prefer with tortilla chips, garnished with fresh salsa and sour cream.
Great with a Corona or margarita too. Enjoy!