Saturday, February 13, 2010

Black Beans and Rice: But really, its the Salsa

I am officially making "Jon and Mirna" a tag in my recipes. I cannot tell you how awesome it is to have Mirna (and therefore Jon) as a source for food-knowledge. Its like anything you could want, they can tell you how to make it amazing.

And who knew?! There is a fresh produce market two hundred yards from my front door!!! I have been really sketched out lately seeing people duck into this boarded up shack behind Delmar. Yeah, in that sketchy parking lot.

Yesterday, curiosity got the best of me, so I followed a biker into one of those doorways that is guarded by heavy plastic flaps. Following a biker into plastic flaps sounds sketchy, I know. But so far this week I have seen a middle aged orthodox jew, a guy with a basket on his bike, an old married couple, and a few other stragglers in and around the sketchy boarded up building. So I followed him in. Yes, I fully acknowledge this was possibly a bad decision. Yes, I will probably do the same in the future. So far, even the things that go wrong have only taught me difficult lessons, so I shall proceed.

And voila! there was a twenty foot stretch of fresh veggies!!!! For six dollars I got three avocados, four oranges, a lime, four red peppers, and cilantro. Yum. Apparently its just boarded up for the winter. Summer always proves to be less sketch.


On to the Black Beans and Rice

Vegan note: minus the sausage (which I probably wont use next time, anyway) this should be completely vegan!

Also, Its the salsa that makes it. No joke. Don't leave it off.

2 cans black beans, or the equivalent in dried beans that have been cooked
3-5 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 sweet onion, chopped
1-2 peppers, chopped: any kind - I used a red pepper, Mirna's had 1 green and 1 jalapeno (hers is always better)
meat, if you'd like: 2 sausages in this version, ground beef is another option
a few tbsp vegetable oil
1 bay leaf
cumin and coriander (My roommate Zen is magic and had whole dried herbs in the cabinet, but crushed is fine)
salt and pepper

Chop the onions and start them sautéing on medium - medium/high in a large pot. If they start to brown/burn, your heat is up too high, but if you don't hear them sizzling it is down too low. As they start to caramelize, or turn clear (maybe not the same thing, but both mean they're cooking) add the garlic and chopped peppers.

Meanwhile: to cook the sausage, first simmer them in about 1/2 an inch of water, turning as they cook to make sure they cook evenly. As it starts to cook the outside will turn a light, almost white color. Before it is cooked all the way through, take them out and slice them. Forgive the ugly picture, but I thought it might help. You might want to take the skin off if its thick. Mine definitely needed to have the skin off, but I didn't realize it until I was eating. It got kind of messy trying to get it off...

Once the onions and peppers have cooked down a little bit, you can push them to the outsides of your pan so that they dont keep cooking as fast and add your meat into the center of the dish. If its ground beef, keep stirring it until the pink is almost gone, or if you are using sausages cook the slices well on each side.

As the meat finishes, stir everything together and add your spices. Be generous, and make sure to slightly crush your cumin and coriander if you're using whole, dried herbs.

Let these "get to know each other" for a while, and then add your black beans (dont drain the beans from the can).

Simmer on medium low for a while.


mmmm salsa

1 ripe avocado (they mark the ripe ones at the store, if you grip it in your fist and gently squeeze it you should feel it give a little and it will leave a mark)
1 tomato
1/2 a red onion
1/2-1 lime, squeezed
a generous handful of chopped cilantro (about half the bushel they come in, minus the stalks)
note: I know cilantro is not something you keep sitting around, but DONT leave it out!!!

Chop everything, starting with the avocado and quickly squeezing the lime overtop, stirring it with your hand, so that it will maintain its color. Oh the joys of citrus acid.

Chop everything else, and use your hand to mix them together, adding salt to taste.

This is my first foray into using red onion, and I have to admit I was a little nervous. But strong flavors are more amazing than scary, so rock on bad breath. You were delicious. and fresh cilantro? I need to come up with some new positive adjectives.

Cooked Rice:
I realize this may seem really tedious, but adding together a few different pieces of advice, I really feel like my rice has gotten much better. I even stopped using the rice cooker. So I wanted to share:

Ratio: 1 c dry rice to about 1.5 c water
- if you want it a little more moist, add a little more water, but stay below a 2:1 water:rice ratio. I tend to eat my rice (especially basmati) fairly dry, so probably dont go below this ratio unless you are rinsing your rice first, giving it more moisture (see below).

I am torn on this part: You are supposed to rinse rice before cooking it to get rid of some of the gluten. But Mirna taught me to sautee the rice in butter a little bit before cooking it, and I don't think wet rice would do as well. "Wet rice" also sounds weird. It also tends to throw off my water:rice ratio. So I haven't been rinsing it.

That said, a beautiful teacher of mine once told me you should wash rice three times for maximum love in your cooking. Yay for Persian mothers.

So I am torn.

Going with the first: melt 1-2 tbsp butter in a heavy bottomed pot (the heavy bottom part is important for regulating the temperature and not burning the rice)

Pour in your rice, stirring for a few minutes with a wooden spoon to get the butter evenly spread on your rice. It will sizzle at first, but then it will stop making noise.

stir in some salt and add your water.

Bring your temperature up to medium high until the water breaks into a boil and lower the temperature to medium.

Cover the pot and allow to simmer for about 20 minutes, but the cooking time will vary a lot, so make sure to check it (see below). And dont let it boil very vigorously.

You will see holes develop in the rice once the water has mostly been evaporated/absorbed. By looking down these holes you can see if there is still too much water. After 15 minutes or so, simply taste some of the rice from the top of the pile to see if it is fully cooked; meaning, not hard to chew. Do not, however, stir the rice at this point.

When it seems almost done, and there is no water left in the bottom, remove the pot from the heat but leave the lid on. Let it continue to steam itself for 2-3 minutes.

Fluff. Stack. Enjoy. (or fluff and fold, if you wish.)


  1. girllll i'm stalking you....

    ok, so about the rice - i rinse it about 3-4 times (depending on how lazy i feel at the moment) and using a strainer, get as much liquid out as i can. you can even let it sit for about 10 minutes in the strainer to let as much water as possible drip out of it.

    thennnn i saute it in butter, or oil ( prefer butter) and cook it as you said.

    yummy rice will less good.

  2. ugh i meant WITH less starch....i need to look at the screen before i post.