Friday, October 22, 2010

Black Beans and Rice

I tend to be kind of obsessive when it comes to the things I like. Meaning that I’m the kind of person who, after Regina Spektor’s new album came out a couple of summers ago, listened to this song so many times on a road trip that Mike threatened to drop me off on the side of the freeway and leave me to the wolves if I pressed “repeat” one more time. It also means that I can eat the same thing for lunch day after day without getting sick of it.

I’ve never been much for the traditional packed lunch: a sandwich or frozen entree surrounded by odds and ends like yogurt, chips, fruit, etc. I like it best when my lunches consist of leftovers from last night’s dinner or some other form of “real food.” Not that this happens very often. Usually my mid-day meal is comprised of random stuff that I grab out of the fridge while running out the door to work. Lately I’ve been on quite the edamame kick (you can buy frozen individual bags at Costco), and for a while there when tomatoes were in season I would cut one into wedges, sprinkle with some sea salt, and call it lunch. Delicious, but not exactly filling.

Sometimes, though, I actually take initiative and plan my lunches in advance. For example, when I made this tzatziki, I kept it--along with some pita bread, grilled chicken, cucumbers, and tomatoes--in my fridge at work and ate it for lunch every day for a week. The beans and rice dish posted below was actually made with the intention of having it for dinner, but somehow we didn’t end up eating it that night* so it also turned into my week-long lunch. And boy has it been a good one. You wouldn’t think that something as simple as rice and beans would create a satisfying meal, but these beans are packed with flavor and, when you pair them with some cooked brown rice, you’re eating a complete protein that is cheap, filling, nutritious, and made with mostly pantry ingredients. Plus it ages well, actually getting more flavorful as I reheated it day after day. I will definitely be making this again. Or--more likely given my personality--again and again and again.

*By “somehow didn’t end up eating it”, I mean that our dinner that night consisted of pumpkin cinnamon rolls (recipe to be posted shortly). Don’t judge me.

Black Beans and Rice (adapted slightly from

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1/2 white or yellow onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 (16-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
3/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon cumin
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
4-5 cups hot, cooked brown rice

1) In a medium saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat.
2) Add the bell pepper, onion and garlic and saute, stirring often, for about 15 minutes, until all the vegetables are soft and tender.
3) Stir in the beans, tomatoes, chicken broth, thyme, bay leaf, oregano and water; bring to a boil. 4) Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens and the vegetables are tender, about 45 minutes. If the mixture becomes too thick, add a tablespoon or two of hot water to thin to desired consistency.
5) Stir in the fresh cilantro and season with salt and pepper; discard the bay leaf. Serve over the hot rice.

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