Gallo Pinto

As is often the case, I’ve spent the better part of the weekend afternoon in the kitchen, cooking, singing along to the Elizabeth Mitchell station on Pandora, and making games out of cleaning up disheveled cupboards, the consequence of being a messy cook and doing all with a toddler playing sous chef.

I do not spend half days in the kitchen during the week and do my best to have dinner ready in less than 30 minutes on weeknights. This goes far better when a bit of planning is involved and I spend at least part of the prior weekend prepping. A bit of planning and cooking ahead saves time later, a lot of money, and certainly makes mealtime less anxious Monday through Friday.

Part of the plan this week relies on having beans and rice done ahead of time. I started with dried local pinto beans and an enormous bag of organic USA grown brown rice from Costco. I’m also trying to mix up the whole grains and protein sources we eat. While my version is in no way authentic, I did learn to make simple rice and beans from scratch when I spent 3 months in Nicaragua a few years ago. Gallo Pinto, as it’s called, is served at literally every meal, breakfast to dinner, in every place I stayed coast to coast. The country is heart-breakingly poor, but has some of the most amazing food still. I may not have the climate to also rely on plantains, mangoes, and avocados, but I can use the lesson of making a large batch of rice and beans to round out meals for a couple days.

Gallo Pinto

2 cups dried beans (I used pinto. Red beans are traditional.)
lots of water
a few tablespoons of canola oil
1 cup brown rice
4 cups water
salt to taste
1 dried chili pepper, crushed
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 onion, minced

Soak the beans in a large bowl full of water overnight. The next day, drain the beans in a colander and rinse well. Put the beans in a pot and cover again with water. I recommend keeping at least an inch or two of water over the beans the whole cooking time. Add just a teaspoon of oil to the water. This will keep them from foaming excessively. Still, to avoid previous messes, I cook the beans in a rather large pot. Bring the beans and water just to a boil, reduce to low and cover. Stir occasionally and cook 60-90 minutes, depending on the beans you use. Mine took just over an hour and were al dente.

my dear friend hannah and her handsome mister dried these chilies and gave them to me at christmas.
they are so flavorful and SO hot! i treat them like gold – and lava.

While the beans are cooking, start the rice by rinsing it in the colander a few times. Bring the water to a boil in a large pot, then add the rice. Reduce heat to medium and cook uncovered for 30 minutes, stirring here and there. After the 30 minutes, pour the rice out into the colander again and let drain for 10 seconds. Return the rice to the pot and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Let it sit off the heat for 10 minutes. After the 10 minutes, uncover the rice and fluff with a fork. Set aside.

In a large skillet over low heat, saute the onion, garlic, and chili pepper over low heat. Allow the onion to become translucent and caramelize the whole thing for 15 minutes or so without it getting too much color. The taste of burnt garlic will just ruin the whole thing. If you want to add any herbs, now is the time. Sometimes I like a bit of oregano in the mix. Once it’s looking gorgeous, turn off the heat and add the rice. The beans should be done anytime now, so once they are, drain them in the colander and add to the skillet with the rice and onion mix. Stir everything together and season with salt to taste. My big batch needed a heaping teaspoon. Serve some right away or store in an air tight container in the refrigerator.

served at dinner tonight with marinated kale and swiss steak. finished the meal with this simply incredible pudding.


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