Thursday, February 22, 2007

Rice Pilaf with Black Beans and Tomatoes

Face it: some days, you just don't feel like cooking. Let me rephrase that. Some days I just don't feel much like cooking. If you're lucky, you have a pantry full of canned goods that you can throw together for a quick yet tasty dish in a pinch -- at our place, we call this type of dish a mixup, in case you were curious. Such was our luck last night: while I napped on the couch, D prepared this delicious meal in less than a half hour. The speed it took to prepare this dish almost annoyed me because it meant I couldn't keep loafing about: it was time to eat. But after tasting it? I was in heaven.
This made a lot of food -- enough for leftovers, which I'll probably want to eat cold. There's nothing that I like more than cold rice and beans. Is that strange? Most likely, but... try it out sometime. They're good. And even though we used only one fresh ingredient, it was quite healthy. A little bit salty for my taste, but that's due to the seasoning in the pilaf and the beans. But I'm not that into salt anymore. When I was growing up, though... I used to shake salt, straight from the giant pantry canister, onto my potato chips. I am totally serious about this. It makes me shudder to think about it now.

Rice Pilaf with Black Beans and Tomatoes
Begin by preparing 1 box of Near East Rice Pilaf. See how easy this is going to be? I recommend buying this stuff whenever it is on sale and keeping it around until you need a quick and healthy side dish. It can be a bit expensive, so just keep your eyes out for a sale. My grocery store has a buy one get one free deal every month or so. You can make the rice pilaf from scratch, which doesn't seem like too big of a pain, but we're talking about adding an extra half hour at least (depending on what type of rice you use) so if you're making this in a flash, just go with boxed.
Making rice pilaf isn't that difficult, actually. Here's an adaptation of a recipe from Simply Recipes, which is a wonderful blog (it won the "Best Food Blog Overall" award in the 2006 Food Blog Awards.) Measure out 2 cups of dry white rice, preferably long grain. Measure out the amount of liquid for two cups according to the package directions, but instead of using water, you'll use chicken broth or any other type of flavorful stock. This is a great rice secret: always cook your rice in some type of broth or stock. It will give the rice so much more flavor and depth than it would have were it made with plain water. If you're running low in the stock department, you can substitute about half of the liquid with water.
Begin heating the liquid in a saucepan and bring it to a boil. In the meantime, add about 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a heavy saucepan over medium high heat. When the pan is hot, add the rice and stir occasionally so that it browns evenly. After the rice begins to brown, add 1 small chopped onion (or green onion) and 2 minced stalks of celery. At this point, season the rice with a dash of cayenne pepper and some fresh-ground black pepper. Salt is probably unnecessary, since canned broth or stock is usually salted. Cook until the onions begin to soften.
Mix the browned rice in with the now-boiling liquid. Pouring the liquid into the rice pan is the traditional way to make pilaf, but either way will work: use whichever pan is big enough to fit the rice and the liquid comfortably. Bring to a simmer and then cover the pan. Cook according to the package directions on the rice (usually about 15 to 20 minutes, depending on the brand.) Do not remove the cover while the rice is cooking: this will cause some of the liquid to evaporate, which might make your rice stick to the bottom of the pan. After you cook for the recommended time, remove the rice and let sit for ten minutes with the cover still firmly in place.
While your rice cooks, dice one medium-sized onion and cook in 1/2 tablespoon of butter or olive oil in a heavy-bottomed sauce pan (we used our much-adored dutch oven) until it is soft. Add 1 28-oz can of crushed or ground tomatoes and 1 14-oz can of black beans in sauce. You want to make sure that the directions on the can don't instruct you to rinse the beans: pick a bean that comes in edible sauce. Stir everything together and correct the seasoning, if necessary. Allow to cook for about 20 minutes.
Once your pilaf is done, simply add it to the tomatoes and beans mixture. With the heat still on, stir everything together until it is well-mixed. Serve with some fresh cilantro on top, and some tortillas or tortilla chips on the side if you desire. If you want more protein in this meal, I suggest cooking some chicken and throwing it in the sauce as you wait for the rice to finish. This would be a perfect way to round out the meal.
PS: Anyone have some great dessert recipes that they'd like to share? (Sarah, I'm looking right at you: I want your carrot cake recipe!!) I realize that the only sweet food on this whole blog happens to be chocolate chip cookies, and if you know me at all, you know I have a sweet tooth. So someone offer me up something sweet to make!


Sarah said...


note:i am including all my annoying changes due to living in another country. i assume it is only better if you do it the traditional way. man i didn't realize until typing it out how annoying it is to bake in this country!

4 eggs-i used 4 eggs whites and 2 whole eggs to make it less fatty and because i get cheap eggs from the market
1/2 cup veggie oil ( i use extra virgin olive because there is no veggie oil in italy)
3/4-1 cup applesauce (i peel and grate apples, once again, because there is no applesauce in italy)
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar (ha! i have to make this too, by mixing molasses with sugar)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (i use one packet of vanilla POWDER!)
2 cups all-purpose flour ( i use one specific to sweets, i have no idea if that makes a difference)
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
3 cups grated carrots(grate your own, it makes all the difference!)
handful chopped walnuts, if you so desire. i do, but i noticed daniele spit all of his out on his plate like a 12 year old. geesh!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9x13 inch pan. (Note, i have done this as cupcakes and also as 2 8 or 9 inch layers. i don't like flat rectangle boring cake!)

In a large bowl, beat together eggs, oil, applesauce sugar and 2 teaspoons vanilla. Mix in flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Stir in carrots. Fold in walnuts. Pour into prepared pan/s.

Bake in the preheated oven for 40 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely. (It didn't take this long for me at all but that makes sense because I was using smaller pans, I didn't watch the time at all but I would guess somewhere between 15-25 minutes. Then again, it totally depends on the oven!

oh, frosting! i think it's basically 2 parts cream cheese to 1 part butter, adding a little vanilla and confectioner's sugar to taste. I would just add a cup or 2 of sugar but if you like really sweet frosting, add more! then again you are in america so you can just buy, but i think it's more fun to make, plus you can lick the mixers! oh, and make sure butter is room temp! put more walnuts on top, or if you can get some marziapan and food coloring you can make a carrot. I REALLY want to make a marzipan carrot!

YUM! so jealous you get to eat this soon!

K8 said...

I like the sound of that: marzipan carrot. Rolls right off the tounge: marzipan carrot marzipan carrot marzipan carrot. I'm going to make this sometime very soon -- I see it in the weekend horizon (thank god it's the weekend, by the way, thankthankthankgod... you're probably weekending it up already over there in italy-land, jealous!)
I will send you some vegetable oil, peanut butter, brown sugar, applesauce, and vanilla. Just kidding. But I will send you something, soon -- it's on my radar, a letter to you.

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