Black beans, yellow rice

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

Serves 4

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.



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  1. This looks GREAT! I actually bought saffron on an impulse a few months ago at Trader Joe’s (it’s considerably cheaper there; I believe it was about $7) and was just thinking this afternoon I needed to use it. I think we have a winner!!!

  2. That looks aewsome! I always see saffron at Trader Joe’s but the price intimidates me. I’ve been wondering a lot recently whether beans and rice need to be eaten at the same meal. Bean I like but rice is blech. I’d prefer even oatmeal, tbh.
    .-= Evan Thomas´s last blog ..Bacon And Soy =-.

  3. Soo question…I swear baens always make me feel bad. I mean I eat lots of fiber from veggies, but somehow beans no good. When you went vegan did you have any transition to better food processing?
    .-= RunToTheFinish´s last blog ..Opinions Wanted Friday: Calorie balance =-.

    • RunToTheFinish, my transitions have been pretty smooth, phasing meats and dairy out over time. It started with no read meat, for about a year. Then I cut out poultry but still ate fish regularly for about a month, and finally I phased out fish too. Then, finally, most of the dairy products. I’m still not a vegan, but I do eat many more vegan meals than non-vegan meals nowadays. I suppose my bean consumption increased gradually as the meats started disappearing. So I haven’t noticed any issues with feeling bad; usually I feel a lot better digesting than I used to when I ate meat.

  4. I’m a HUGE fan of beans and rice and this looks like a great recipe. I’m not a huge saffron fan, so I would probably eliminate it but otherwise- bravo! Especially like the use of the coconut milk. mmm
    .-= Erica´s last blog ..A Few of My Favorites & Protein Report =-.

  5. I love the flavors of this dish; sounds like a winner. I will be trying this combo this week! And this is just a further reminder that I must get a Deborah Madison cookbook, and soon!

  6. this looks delish! i am totally bookmarking this one!
    .-= Holly (The Healthy Everythingtarian)´s last blog ..I’m Old. This Hurts. =-.

  7. This dish looks DYNAMITE. I also discovered Coconut Rice & Beans not to long ago, and it was quite the life-changer! Thanks for the post – I’m going to try this one too.
    .-= Allison, The Busy (Happy!) Vegan´s last blog ..Ass-Backwards, As Always =-.

  8. Still not sold on coconut milk but that is because I don’t like coconut. Love the look and the sounds everything else together, though. Will try this recipe soon.
    .-= Nicki´s last blog ..Carriage House Cafe, Ithaca – Review =-.

  9. Looks very tasty! I actually really love the simplicity of beans and rice (although when I was younger I HATED it). I usually eat brown basmati rice with chickpeas, steamed vegetables, Bragg’s soy sauce, homemade cheezy sauce, plus some red pepper flakes and ground black pepper. It’s delicious. Especially if you add some steamed sweet potato; adds just the right hint of flavour!
    .-= Sagan´s last blog ..The Living Healthy in the Real World Guide to Grocery Shopping, Part Four: Where to Shop =-.

  10. This looks wonderful, I adore saffron. I got a jar of it at trader joes for 6 bucks.

    A little tip for your reader Run to the Finish- eating caraway seeds with beans can help to cut down on gastric distress.
    .-= meatlessmama´s last blog ..Vegan Bean Goulash =-.

  11. I love rice n bean dishes and am a huge fan of coconut rice too. Coconut offers such a nice sweetness to dishes. I’d definately give this one a try!

  12. Thanks for the new take on rice and beans! It’s a staple in my house too, but sometimes it can get a little boring. I’m also happy to use coconut whenever I can, delicious and healthy. I will be testing this one out soon!

  13. Ohhh, this rice was exceptional. I had already planned our entree, but I decided this rice could work nicely as a side. I used the last of my saffron last week, so I just used the turmeric + 1/4 teaspoon of paprika (poor man’s saffron anyone?). I also added a little hot chili powder for some zing. So good! The coconut milk gives it a richness that is unbelievable! Okay, enough gushing about rice; it’s just so good. Thank you for posting!
    .-= Jenn/CinnamonQuill´s last blog ..Two-For-One: Vegan, Gluten-Free Thin Mints + Oreos =-.

    • Hey Jenn, I’m so glad you liked it! I’d say the rice was my favorite part of the meal. I don’t think I had ever made coconut rice before this. I think paprika sounds like a good substitution, since both saffron and paprika are used in Spanish cooking. Good logic, right?

  14. this recipe was a huge hit last night! i feared the beans would be too soupy, but after boiling them for about 15 minutes, they had a great consistency. the rice was killer too.
    an aside…i only recently found your blog and, well, thank you thank you thank you. after not running for about 2 years, i’ve started up again. motivation came in the form of signing up for a 24 hour relay race from new haven, ct to boston. now i’m in that 2nd month of training “ok, this is getting harder now” slump, but your blog is helping! so thanks.

    • baylah, thanks for trying it out! Yeah, I had to boil the beans a little longer too; and I ended up serving them with a slotted spoon. But then I realized that the sauce was really good!

      And you’re very welcome; I’m glad you’re finding my posts helpful. A 24-hour relay sounds awesome. I’d love to do something like that with friends.

  15. I made this tonight and we loved it! The rice is excellent. I used about 2 tsp of adobo sauce to give it some nice heat. It is definitely an upgrade from normal beans and rice, but just as quick to prepare! Thanks Matt!

  16. Your photos of yellow saffron enriched rice and black beans add another layer of gourmet to just black bean and rice dinners (one of my favorites). I have a recipe on how to make black beans from scratch without any seasoning at . Please take a look and comment!
    .-= DGrub´s last blog ..Glorious Black Beans =-.

  17. Thaks for a great recipe! I have made it a few times now and even my husband said it was the best vegitarian dinner we have ever had (generally not a big fan of vegiatarian meals but I keep making it at least once a week). The coocunt rice both looks, smells and taste fantastic. And the beans, oh so fragrant and nice. I think the cipotle chili really makes a difference (I used quite a bit more than the recipe said). I also tried to add some hot paprika which worked great.

  18. Marsha Lalande says:

    Really disappointing. Ingredients looked wonderful but just turned out very bland overall. I expected a stronger taste of coconut in the rice but not even much of a hint. Oh well….back to the search for tasty vegetarian suppers.

  19. I made this! It rocks! I love coconut rice. Thank you!

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