Beans and Rice

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One of my most favorite activities of childhood was immersing myself in a good book while having something equally good to eat.  I loved it so much that I would actually tell my friends I wasn’t home just so I could stay in and do this.  Yes, I was totally that kid who preferred staying indoors with a book than running outside in the sunshine.  I admit my total lack of athletic skill may have something to do with this as well.  And holing up reading and eating is not, by any stretch of the imagination, an ideal activity for physical well-being.  But there you have it – food and books, a part of me since forever.

A dish I loved to have during these moments was beans and rice.  It was hearty, delicious, and, most importantly, it could be mixed in a bowl and eaten with a spoon, thus only requiring one hand…leaving the other hand free for the book (and one-handed page flipping…a skill I was most adept at, even if it didn’t make my parent’s list of approved sports).  The beans could be monggo guisado, lentejas, or, the absolute top of my list, my mother’s fabada.  Warm in a bowl, smushed together with the rice, and drizzled liberally with olive oil and vinegar.  Oh my stars!  Heaven.

So when I came across some interesting new beans and rice from some of my favorite local purveyors, I knew what I was going to do.  This is a lighter version of my childhood beans and rice, but satisfying all the same.  The tapilan (rice bean – they look like monggo but slightly longer and thinner) and black eyed peas were from my favorite general store in the universe.  The patani (lima beans) were from my neighborhood market.  And the purple rice is from the Cordilleras, and only harvested once a year.

Beans and Rice
  • Olive oil
  • 1 red onion, cut into wedges
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1/2 cup cooked tapilan (rice bean)
  • 1/2 cup cooked black eyed peas
  • 1/2 cup cooked patani (lima beans)
  • 1/4 teaspoon pimenton de La Vera (or any smoked paprika, or even chipotle powder)
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley
  • 1 cup cooked purple rice (or more, this is flexible)

- Heat a skillet or a wok over medium-high heat.  When hot add a couple of swirls of olive oil.  When the oil is hot add the onion and garlic.  Saut√© until the onion is soft and the garlic is golden brown.
- Add the beans and toss a couple of times.  Season with sea salt, freshly cracked black pepper, and the pimenton.  Toss again.
- Add balsamic vinegar and toss until it is mixed through the beans.  Add the parsley, another swirl (or two) of olive oil, adjust seasoning, toss once more, and take off the heat.
- Divide your rice between 2 bowls.  Top each mound of rice with the beans.  Serve with extra olive oil and balsamic vinegar for drizzling.

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I know what you’re thinking.  What this recipe fails to mention is that you need to cook 3 different sets of beans separately, plus the rice.  Before you get all up in arms, let me explain.  Yes, this requires a bit of prep and more than your fair share of washing up, but you can make batches of everything and keep the extra in the fridge -- and have the makings of many delicious salads, wraps, sidings, dips, soups, and even fritters!  So let me just put that out there as defense for all preliminary preparations. 

I make all the beans in much the same way except for their cooking time, which differs for each, thus the need to cook them all separately.  The patani, being fresh, cooks the fastest, and the black eyed peas take the longest, with the tapilan somewhere in between.  The patani gets peeled and just very quickly blanched until tender.  The tapilan and black eyed peas are simmered in a lot of water, each in their own pot, until tender.  I cook them until soft but not too mushy.  You want them to still maintain their shape.  The good news is that these are all relatively quick cooking, all taking under an hour.  Once soft, I strain the beans and transfer to a plate to dry a bit before storing in the fridge.  The rice, like most of my rice, was made (perfectly I might add) in my trusty rice cooker (an essential, non-negotiable appliance in my book).

Once you have your beans and rice ready, the rest is quick as can be.  In fact, you want the least time in the pan as possible.  The more you cook and “handle” the beans the more likely they are to become mush.  I prefer to toss the beans rather than stir as this is much gentler on them.  You should also make sure your pan is really nice and hot.  Everything told, this will all take less than 5 minutes.

There is just something so wholesome about beans and rice.  It’s good, honest food…the very type of food I enjoy most.  The earthy beans, the soft bed of rice, the flavorful slick of olive oil, and the sweet bracing vinegar -- piled in a big bowl, spoon in one hand, book in another, and I am transported back to one of my best loved memories of my childhood…which continues to be a well loved part of my life now.  A bowl of delicious sustenance and a journey through a good book gives me as much satisfaction and delight now as it did then.