Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Rice & Beans Bowl

The "bowl" concept is an ingenious way to reframe dinner.  Start with a rather plain, starchy base (rice and beans or noodles), and each person adds toppings to customize, whatever you have on hand.  Kind of like a taco salad concept. Or sometimes, I pour hot stock over the top and we go in an Asian direction, like that always-delicious pho.

Our latest version of rice and beans is very popular.  Our current favorite toppings are garden spinach, guacamole with lemon and scallions, spicy homemade salsa, cilantro, and grated smoked cheese. I thought I'd tell you how I make the tasty beans.

Thrift at Home Black Beans

Cook some dry black beans in twice as much water in slow cooker on low or high until soft.  Depending on the age of the beans, this could take 2-5 hours.  You can soak them ahead of time if you remember.  The average amount of dry beans I use is 2 cups.  Once they're soft, they can sit in their liquid for hours until you need them.  May divide into containers with the liquid and freeze.

In a heavy pan (I use my cast iron Dutch oven), saute an onion in at least a tablespoon or more bacon grease or another fat. Add these seasonings as it's sauteeing (I guessed on the measurements, but at least it gives you some idea of ratio):  1 1/2  tsp. dried oregano, 1 tsp. chili powder, 1/2 tsp. cumin, 1 tsp. salt, 2 tsp. sugar, some ground black pepper.  Turn down the heat and pour in the beans WITH their liquid.  Use a potato masher to mash roughly - I guess I aim to crush about half the beans. Now let the whole business simmer uncovered until the liquid is reduced.  Taste occasionally and add more oregano, cumin, or chili powder, but do not add more salt until the very end because the beans are getting concentrated and it's easy to oversalt at this point. We like to add hot sauce to our individual taste at the table. Cook the beans down as soupy or dry as you like them or as much time as you have.  Can be made ahead and set aside at room temperature for hours.  Serve hot or room temperature over hot rice. Leftovers freeze beautifully.


  1. Interesting, and I never thought of adding sugar...

  2. Black beans are our favourite. I love this concept, and will definitely try it. Thanks for sharing. I continue to enjoy your blog.

  3. WITH their liquid! ah! I've never done it that way!

    Beans and rice were a staple of my premarital diet, and I've never been able to reclaim them. (Beans do give my husband heartburn, so there's that.) I like your version--maybe the children and I can do this and my husband can have leftover-something-else....

  4. You inspired last night's supper: flat bread with leftover lamb stretched with white beans flavored with rosemary. We had little dishes of lettuce, pickled okra, radishes, sugar snaps, and homemade ranch dressing.

  5. Polly-leftover chicken can stand in for beans for your husband. Our youngest daughter despises beans but I think that now that she is grown and on her own she is seeing their inexpensive merit. I often had to find little substitutes for her or she would just not eat.

    Our youngest son and his wife used to go to Chipolte weekly for bowls and pay way too much. They finally realized that they were simple to do at home and are now saving a ton of money.

    I have been doing a little bean mashing for any kind of beans that I cook for 20 years or more and it really does make them so much better. It really makes blackeyed peas delicious. I call that yummy liquid bean gravy.

    I love the picture of Ben. He looks so grown up all of the sudden.

  6. Great idea! I agree: market something as a concept ("the bowl), and even hesitant eaters jump on board. I'm trying your black beans!

  7. Great idea, and everyone gets to enjoy the things they like on top.

  8. I do something similar with rice and lentils, but I do like the idea of the bowls of toppings.

    I make Megadarra, which is Arabic rice and green/brown lentils (I cheat and cook them separately. Authentically they're cooked together but apart is simpler). They're then topped with lots of onions caramelised in plenty of olive oil. It sounds rather dull, but it's one of those meals which is more than the sum of it's parts.
    I sometimes add chopped mint or a good splosh of cheap balsamic vinegar (off register but tasty).
    Made with split red lentils it becomes Masafi and I might add rosemary and lemon to that one.

    Definitely going to try your black beans.

  9. Hazel, that sounds familiar. I have a recipe that is rice and lentils cooked together (I use brown rice and they cook in the same amount of time), topped with a cumin-flavored tomato sauce, topped with caramelized onions. I forget what this is called, but I know it's Middle Eastern. And yes, definitely more than the sum of its parts. Love the flavor combinations you mentioned.

  10. sugar.... well I never tried that.

    Johny via Venus Puzzle

  11. Two of you commented on the sugar. It originally came from a copycat taco seasoning recipe, but now I just riff on it. Sugar can be quite useful in a recipe when it is used as salt is used - just to enhance flavor.


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