Beans and rice. Just the mention of this dish can invoke memories of a simple yet delicious plate, full of flavor, culture, and memories. For many, beans and rice is a connection to family, to grandparents, and to a simpler time. For others, it is a memory of a trip to a foreign land, full of mystery, romance, and amazing food. For such a simple dish, there are thousands of ways to prepare it. Here is my take on how to prepare the perfect plate of beans and rice. First off, you’ll need:
1 pound of dried beans (kidney or pinto are best)
1 red onion, diced
1 green pepper, diced
1 tomato, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
chicken bouillon cube (I like cubito maggi, chicken flavor)
3 cups long grain parboiled white rice
Optional: meat, cheese, egg
The night before you want to make the beans and rice, soak the beans. Give them a quick once over, removing any debris or stones, rinse them once or twice, and then leave them to soak in a good amount of water overnight. The next day, you’ll notice the beans have increased in size considerably. Rinse them a few times, and then it’s time to cook them. The easiest and quickest way to d this is in a pressure cooker. You can also cook them in a regular pot, it will just take much much longer. Place beans and fresh water in your pressure cooker. In a medium sized frying pan, saute diced onion, green pepper, tomato, and garlic in 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil. Add chicken bouillon cube and a teaspoon each of paprika and cumin. When the vegetables are nice and soft, puree them in a mini food processor and and add the mixture to the beans and water. Close the lid to the pressure cooker, and cook according to your pressure cookers directions. I cook mine for about 40 minutes and let the pressure release on it own. Once cooked, if they are a little too watery, just pour off the extra cooking liquid. Add a generous amount of chopped fresh cilantro. I really like the flavor the cilantro adds, so I use about three or four tablespoons, you can adjust as you see fit. Give the beans a taste, add salt and pepper to taste if you need it.
Now the beans are done, so its time to make the rice. You can also make the rice while the beans are cooking. In a large heavy pot, heat 2 tablespoons of oil. Add three cups of rice and a tablespoon of salt. Saute the rice just for a few minutes, you don’t want to brown it. Add four cups of water and mix well. When the mixture starts to bubble, cover and reduce the heat to medium/medium low. Let cook for twenty minutes. The only truly important key to cooking really good rice is to use oil and salt, and don’t, I repeat, don’t remove the lid at all during the cooking process.
Time to eat! You can eat the bean and rice by themselves as a meal, or add a fried egg, piece of meat, chicken, or a slice of good cheese. The best part of beans and rice is that its cheap, simple, delicious, and really lends itself to so many variations. Enjoy!