Beans and rice. Health gurus tell us it’s a match made in nutritional heaven, since each provides the essential amino acids the other lacks. If beans and rice could talk, they might in a moment of unguarded honesty simultaneously declare, “You complete me.” Or, perhaps more ethnically accurate, “Me completas.”
I’ve heard that’s a load of garbage, that as long as all the essential amino acids are present in our diets, it doesn’t matter whether we ingest them during the same meal, perhaps even the same day. Nutrition-nerd arguments aside, there’s another problem with beans and rice: They usually suck when you make them at home.
Maybe my experience has been tainted by the way we used to make them in college. A can of pinto beans, a bag of instant rice, perhaps a little salt and hot sauce if a beer-fund deficit hadn’t resulted in grocery cuts that month. There are plenty worse things one can eat in college, but dorm room beans and rice was one I learned to loathe.
Thankfully, this recipe for black beans with yellow rice, from this week’s featured cookbook, Vegetarian Suppers from Deborah Madison’s Kitchen, is nothing like what I ate as a fresh-faced frosh. The black beans are dressed up with the familiar Southwest flavors along with the surprising coconut milk, an ingredient also used in the rice. (If you’re still hung up on coconut oil being a saturated fat, please say goodbye to 1995 and come join us in 2010: It’s one of a few saturated fats that are now considered beneficial. And since you’re presumably an athlete, you can use the calories.)
Erin and I just ate this one for lunch and really enjoyed it—we found it surprisingly light for such a nutrient-packed meal. And it’s one of the quicker meals from the book; you can prepare the black beans while you’re waiting twenty minutes for the rice to cook, and have the whole thing on the table in half an hour.
As for the saffron, you really should use it for the flavor it contributes, if not for the beautiful color, but it’s expensive. A small jar costs well over ten dollars, so if you don’t think you’ll use it again soon, you could probably get by without it. (I stole some from my sister, who has a spice suitcase that looks like it just came off a boat from the East Indies.)
And for the rice, the recipe calls for basmati, rinsed well. Definitely don’t skip out on this step; rinsing the starches off the rice is what helps the grains stay distinct and not all stick together. And I used brown basmati, ’cause that’s how I roll.
Here’s the recipe, printed with the author’s permission (and the notes are hers). If you give it a try, let me know how it turns out for you. And look for another great recipe from Vegetarian Suppers soon. For now, I’m off for a bean-and-rice-fueled run, the mounds of black snow having finally given way to a thin strip of shoulder on the side of most roads, so my probability of death is significantly lowered.
Black Beans with Coconut Rice
This particular combination of rice and beans, which is one of my favorites, is one dish where organic canned black beans do just fine if you take a moment to doctor them up. Vegan as is.
The sweet red fruit of a Chilean Cabernet or Australian Shiraz would be lively partner for both the beans and the rice. For dessert, I’d go for something tropical and cooling, a mango sorbet, a basket of pineapple guavas, or a ripe cherimoya.
Make the Coconut Rice first (see below).
Ingredients for the beans:
- 2 teaspoons light peanut oil
- 1 green pepper, finely diced
- 1 small onion, finely diced
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/3 cup chopped cilantro, plus leaves for garnish
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 scant teaspoon toasted and ground cumin seeds
- 1/4 teaspoon or more to taste, chipotle chile, either powdered or in adobo
- 2 15-ounce cans organic black beans plus their juice, about 3 cups cooked
- 1 scant cup coconut milk (or all the coconut milk remaining from the rice)
- 2 limes, 1 juiced, 1 cup into 4 wedges
1. Start the rice, below.
2. While it’s cooking, heat the oil in a saucepan. Add the pepper, onion, and cilantro, and cook, stirring frequently, for about five minutes. Add the garlic, cumin, chipotle, then the beans and coconut milk. Bring to a boil and simmer until hot. Season with salt and add fresh lime juice to taste.
3. To serve, scoop the hot rice into a wet cup or ramekin and turn it out onto a plate or pasta plate. Scoot the beans around the rice and garnish with the cilantro leaves, pickled onions, if using, and lime wedges.
The Coconut Rice
Ingredients for the rice:
- 1 1/2 cups brown or white basmati rice
- 1 cup coconut milk
- 2 pinch of saffron threads (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- sea salt and pepper
- 4 slender scallions, including the greens, thinly sliced
- 1/3 cup sesame seeds (black and white are nice)
1. Rinse the rice. Bring 2 cups water and the coconut milk to a boil with the saffron and turmeric. Add the rice and 3/4 teaspoon salt, cover the pan, and cook over low heat until the rice is done, in about 20 minutes.
2. Using a fork, gently toss in the scallions, season with pepper. Scatter the sesame seeds over the rice the toss again. use the rice hot from the pan, pressing it into a cup first, then unmolding it or simply scooping the rice onto the plate. While you can stop here, pickled pink onions and a wedge of lime make a fetching garnish.