My leftover black beans and yellow rice make a pretty good lunch
For some reason, maybe related to all the news about Cuba lately, I have been craving black beans. Not the kind you might get at just about any taqueria but the kind you make at home. The kind you need to soak overnight, cook for hours, and eat all week when you have no money. I wanted to make the kind of beans I remember eating with bread and butter and white sugar at those Cuban Sandwich places that used to be all over Manhattan in the eighties.
I bought bulk black beans, very good white rice, a nice, firm yellow onion, and some chicken bullion. I forgot to soak the beans overnight so I covered them with water first thing in the morning and let them soak until around three, when I started cooking. We invited our friends Richard and Lisa over to join us for homemade rice and beans and picked up some Pacificos. Ene made an inspired rum drink with fresh pineapple, mint, orange juice, seltzer and lime.
I rinsed the beans and brought them to a boil. While the pot was heating up I diced the onion and chopped up some garlic, which I added to the pot, along with a couple of bay leaves and some coarse sea salt. After boiling for about 15 minutes, I let the beans simmer, uncovered, for almost three hours, stirring occasionally and adding water when needed. Oh, and I added a few cubes of bullion, coarse black pepper and a teaspoon of finely ground cumin to the pot too when it started to boil.
I texted my old friend Matt for his yellow rice recipe. His recipe called for another onion, 2-3 cloves of garlic, about a teaspoon of turmeric, and more chicken broth. He suggested a ratio of 2 ½ cups of water/broth to 1 ½ cups of rice. He likes to sauté the chopped up onion and garlic in olive oil, add the rice, mix around until everything is glossy and translucent, add the turmeric, get everything coated, then add the water or broth and bring to a boil. Then he recommends covering the pot and reducing to simmer for about 16 minutes (Matt is very methodical), then placing a towel under the lid and removing from heat for about another 12 minutes. The rice has a vivid color that contrasts the black beans, and a sweet, homey aroma.
I had a couple of plantains ripening from a few days ago, when I first got the craving for this meal. They were just right, not too green, not too yellow. I cut off the ends, made a slit down the length of the skin, and carefully peeled the fruit. Then I sliced them up diagonally into leaning ovals, a little under an inch thick. I heated about a tablespoon of olive oil in a large iron skillet and fried the plantain slices on both sides, about five minutes total. I kept the skillet on the flame but removed the plantains to a paper towel on a cutting board and smashed them flat with a block of wood (a potato masher would do). Then I added a little more oil to the pan and fried the smashed plantains again until they were slightly crisp and golden brown on the outside, but still soft on the inside.
I made a simple salad to round out the meal while we were sipping our rum drinks and catching up with our friends. I toasted about a half a cup of pepitas, which I added to a hearty, green leaf lettuce, along with sliced up avocado. I dressed the salad with a lemony olive oil dressing I like to make. I chop up a clove of garlic very fine with a pinch of coarse sea salt. I let this sit in the juice of half a lemon for about ten minutes. Then I stir in about a teaspoon of brown sugar, and drizzle in about a third cup of olive oil while whisking with a fork.
Everyone loved the meal, and the flavors, colors and textures blended wonderfully. We sat around the table afterwards eating strawberries and swapping stories. I mixed the rice in with the beans for an easy lunch later in the week.
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