Monday, October 19, 2009

Move over lobster and black truffles...

Being the food fiend that I am, I wanted to figure out some fabulous, wallet-friendly meals.  And what is more wallet-friendly than beans and rice?  (As my friend Sunny commented when I told her I was making beans and rice, “Oh, the poor man’s meal!”)  So I challenged myself to jazz up good ol’ beans and rice into 5 different meals.

To kick things off, I made beans and rice adapted from the April 2007 Gourmet recipe “Black Beans and Rice Your Way.”  The roasted sweet potato and toasted pumpkin seeds truly make the dish extraordinary.  In a sort of preamble to the recipe which follows, I thought I should mention that the combo of beans and rice is also very nutritious.  Together, they form a complete protein which means they contain all of the essential amino acids for the human diet.  Additionally, the combo is rich in iron, Vitamin B, and protein.

1 lb dried black beans (about 2 1/3 C)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 Tbsp olive oil
5 C water or stock
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 to 2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 to 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

Roasted sweet-potato cubes:
1 lb sweet potatoes or yam, peeled and cut into 1/2" cubes
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 1/4 C water
1 1/2 C long-grain white rice
3/4 tsp salt
Toasted pumpkin seeds:
1 C hulled (green) pumpkin seeds (also called pepitas; not toasted)
2 tsp olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cumin

Black beans:
Bring black beans, onion, oil, water or stock, and 1/2 teaspoon salt to a boil in a 6- to 8-quart heavy pot, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, until beans are tender, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.  Stir in remaining teaspoon salt, then soy sauce and vinegar to taste (start with 1 tablespoon each), and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes. Best made at least 8 hours in advance.

Roast sweet-potato cubes:
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 400°F.
Toss sweet potatoes in a bowl with oil, salt, cumin, cayenne, cinnamon, then spread in 1 layer in a large shallow baking pan. Roast, stirring and turning over once or twice, until tender and browned, 35 to 40 minutes.

Cook rice while sweet potatoes roast:
Bring water, rice, and salt to a boil in a 2- to 3-quart heavy saucepan, then reduce heat and cook, tightly covered, until rice is tender and water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Let stand, covered, off heat 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork.

Toast pumpkin seeds while rice is cooking:
Toast pumpkin seeds in a dry 10- to 12-inch heavy skillet (not nonstick; preferably cast-iron) over moderate heat, stirring, until seeds are puffed and pale golden, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and stir in oil, salt, and cumin to taste.

To serve:
Reheat black beans, then serve along with rice, sweet potatoes, pumpkin seeds, and accompaniments.  Enjoy!

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