My middle school back in Ohio only offered two languages: French and Spanish. Since Spanish was the closest sounding language to Italian, I chose that one to study. Talented, patient, and positive teachers made a difference in my language learning experience, so much so that Spanish became one of my majors in college. Food parties were a staple in my middle and high school years, but the stakes became higher in 11th grade. I don’t remember why, exactly, but I do remember coming home to my Mom in a fit of stress, “What am I going to cook for Spanish IV? I have no idea what to do!”
We brainstormed for awhile. After a few hours of vigorous web-surfing, we found a recipe that looked manageable and delicious: black beans and rice. Beans and rice are two essential ingredients in Spanish and Latin American cooking, and though I worried about being too “cliché,” I realized there was validity in trying to perfect such an authentic, traditional dish. My Mom and I made the recipe together, and it came out better than expected. We were tempted to eat the whole pot of rice after our first spoonful, but I had a class to feed, alas.
Over the years, my family has tweaked the recipe and we’ve made it our own. On a day when I want to eat something filling yet healthy, this is an easy dish towards which to turn. I am going to provide the written recipe for you all, though I will note that in the batch I pictured, I used brown rice and carrots instead of celery.
Black Beans and Rice
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 stick celery, chopped
- 1 red pepper, chopped
- 1 cup uncooked rice (white or brown)
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1/4 tsp curry
- 1 can chicken broth
- 1 tsp oregano
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 tsp chili powder
Note: Measurements for seasonings are approximate. Add more or less of each to your taste.
1. Heat olive oil in a skillet and add the chopped onion, pepper, and celery (or any other vegetable you decide to add) and sauté for about 5 minutes.
2. Add the uncooked rice and continue sautéing for 2-3 minutes until the veg softens and the rice toasts.
3. Add the chicken broth, cumin, curry, oregano, salt, and chili powder. Note: In my most recent batch I added some smoked paprika (highly recommended).
4. Mix well. Cover the pan and let simmer on low for 15 minutes or until the liquid absorbs. Test the rice at this point. If your rice still needs too cook, just add a little more chicken broth and let that cook down.
5. Once the liquid absorbs and the rice is cooked to your liking, add the black beans once you have drained them and given them a rinse under cold water. Mix until the beans are incorporated into the rice.
6. Heat the mixture through until steaming.
You can easily add chicken, crumbled chorizo sausage, or sliced kielbasa to this dish if you’d like more protein. ¡Qué aproveche! (Enjoy your meal!)