After all the cake, sweets, and overall indulgences that took place throughout my wonderful birthday weekend, it’s time to take it all down a notch and start getting back to eating food that makes me feel energized. I’m completely ready.
I had an amazing birthday. I started celebrating on Saturday night at one of my favorite restaurants, Dhaba, a vibrant, colorful Northern Indian restaurant in Curry Hill. Dhaba is a great place for a group outing with some serious curries on their menu. Some of my favorite dishes there are the saag paneer and malai kofta. After dinner, some friends and I continued celebrating at a local bar, keeping out of trouble, and enjoying a few pints of good beer.
On Sunday, my actual birthday, I requested that we head out early to my favorite NYC breakfast spot, Absolute Bagels, for everything bagels covered with a heavy handed schmear of scallion cream cheese (ooooh!! So good), which was followed by a couple of tums (totally necessary), ice skating at Bryant Park (falling children everywhere!) and dinner at Ai Fiori . The meal at Ai Fiori was truly incredible. Between the lobster soup, spaghetti with crab and chilis, and halibut with lentils, all of which were tastefully and flawlessly prepared, by the time I saw dessert I nearly cried out in desperation; I was so full! We headed home after dinner and caught the tail end of the Giants game (the best part!) before crashing. It was an exciting, very happy 26th birthday. Just how I like them!
Now that I’m back to reality, I’m craving familiarity and simplicity and meals that are easy, healthful, and economical. At times like these, when I feel like eating a little lighter and more thoughtfully, I head back to old favorites, and this time, I tried out a kicked up version of one of the best comfort foods that I can think of: rice and beans.
My love for this food truly knows no bounds. Having a pot of beans on the stove and a batch of rice in the rice cooker while I putter around the apartment, knowing that a satisfying, easy meal is just minutes away, is truly therapeutic after a long day at work.
This recipe, in particular, takes the usual notion of rice and beans and adds a bit more substance and flavor in the form of dried spices, chipotle peppers, and corn. The chipotle peppers paired with the rice, sauteed onions, oregano and cumin add a smoky background to the dish while the tender, soupy black beans add hearty warmth and a silky, hearty texture. I topped my version with a simple guacamole (just avocado, lemon juice, cilantro and salt), and some chopped cherry tomatoes, but you could add cheddar cheese, sour cream, diced green or red onions or anything you have around that might work well with this dish.
If you’ve never cooked beans from scratch before and would like to give it a go, it’s really not that difficult. All you need to do is plan a bit in advance (the morning of is fine).
For a 4 person serving:
1. Rinse and drain 2 cups of dried beans, pour them into a large bowl and cover them generously with water until they’re all submerged. Top with foil and leave in the refrigerator for 8-10 hours.
2. Drain the beans of their water after 8-10 hours, rinse them again, and then put them in a large pot and add water so that it comes up above the beans 2-3 inches. Add a few garlic cloves and some dried oregano or any kind of spices you’d like (or you can add nothing at all which I have done on particularly lazy days). Turn on the heat to medium, bring the mixture to a boil, and then reduce the heat and cover the beans for 1-1 1/2 hours, depending on the type of bean (chickpeas will take longer than black beans, for example).
3. Start to check the beans after 45 to see if they’re tender. This will help you gauge how long they’re going to take to finish cooking. Once the beans are ready, you can either serve them immediately or store them in the refrigerator in their cooking liquid for 3-5 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
One Year Ago: Apple Crisp
Kicked Up Beans and Rice
Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
For the beans:
extra virgin olive oil
1 red onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons cumin
4 cups cooked black beans (or 2 14-ounce cans)
1/2 cup water
For the rice:
extra virgin olive oil
1 medium red onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1½ teaspoons ground cumin
1 4 ounces chipotle peppers in adobo, diced
1 cup frozen corn
1 cup cooked brown rice
¼ cup cilantro, chopped
1. In a medium sized pot over medium, heat 1 teaspoon of olive oil and add the onion, bell pepper and a large pinch of salt. Sautee for 5 minutes until slightly soft. Add the garlic and cumin, toast for 2 minutes, and then add the black beans and water. Mix everything to combine, reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and let the beans cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, and adding more water if you feel your beans seem dry. After 20 minutes, season the beans with salt.
2. While the beans are cooking, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add the onion, sautee for 5 minutes, until soft, and then add the garlic, dried oregano, cumin, chipotle peppers and frozen corn. Sautee for 3-5 more minutes, until fragrant, and then add the cooked brown rice, stirring to combine, allowing to cook for 5 more minutes. Add the cilantro, season with salt, and then set the rice aside.
3. Once the beans and rice are done, serve them together, covered with toppings such as salsa, guacamole, cheddar cheese, sour cream, or diced red onions. It's up to you!
Adapted from Dana Treat