Black Beans and Rice

Black Beans and Rice
Black Beans and Rice

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!)

Lessons in Chinese Cooking

Happy New Year everyone! I hope you all had a restful, joyous holiday season full of delicious food. My immediate family resides in Ohio, so I was there for about 10 days delighting in family recipes. This holiday was different for me, however, as I met my boyfriend’s family for the first time! His parents are from Shanghai and have resided in Atlanta for a long time now. His mother has the reputation for being an amazing traditional Chinese chef, so I was even more elated with the opportunity to bond and learn a few things from her repertoire!

My flight was delayed four hours, but this did not deter me from missing lunch. Thank goodness.

First, I witnessed Mrs. Chang make scallion pancakes. Her version is a little puffier than you’ll find in Chinese restaurants, but the flavor is the best I’ve tasted. She uses bread dough, fresh scallions, black sesame seeds, and sesame oil to create this masterpiece. The pancakes are placed in a skillet with a little olive oil and water. The pan is then covered so that the pancakes steam until the water evaporates. The heat is then turned on low so that the pancakes have a chance to brown on both sides without getting burned. Note: I am going to attempt these recipes for myself and then provide the full recipe on the blog to be sure I convey the best tips and tricks.

Scallion pancakes
Scallion pancakes

Then I watched as she created steamed pork buns, or shengjian bao. She used the same dough for these as for the scallion pancakes. The dough was broken apart into small balls and rolled out to be round and flat, about the size of a typical sand dollar and about a quarter inch thick. The main ingredients for the filling include ground pork, ginger, garlic, scallion, sherry, one egg, salt, and pepper. From what she told me, I am going to recreate these myself and post the recipe with exact ingredients and measurements. She put a small amount of the ground pork filling in the middle, and then made folds upwards that met in the middle. The buns are cooked the same way as the scallion pancake, with oil and water until the water evaporates, and then the bottoms are browned on lower heat.

Steamed Pork Buns
Steamed Pork Buns

The next day she taught me how to fold wontons and make wonton soup. Mrs. Chang used Twin Marquis wonton wrappers from the Asian supermarket. These have the same filling as the steamed pork buns. You just put a little filling in the center of the wrapper. Take a little water and wet the top edge of the wrapper. Fold the bottom edge of the wrapper “hamburger style” up so that it meets the dampened edge. You then fold the top edge in towards you, and finally fold the two sides down so that they meet at the bottom. You wet one of the edges and then press them together. They kind of look like Italian tortellini! The wontons are then boiled in water until they float to the top. In the meantime, take your bowl and add salt, pepper, sesame oil, fresh scallion, and fresh ginger. When the wontons are done cooking, all you do is ladle the wontons with the hot water into your bowl. So easy!

Folded Wontons
Folded Wontons

Finally, one of the best lunches we had there included a roast chicken stuffed with fried rice. Oh my goodness gracious. The chicken was marinated overnight and came incredibly tender. The fried rice absorbed the flavorful juice from the chicken – need I say more? Again, once I gather exact measurements and ingredients, all will be revealed on how to make this!

Roasted Chicken with Fried Rice Stuffing
Roasted Chicken with Fried Rice Stuffing

What new things did you learn while cooking over the holidays? I hope these discoveries inspire some of your culinary adventures in this new year!