Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Beans and Rice

So lovely, so simple, such a perfect combination. Beans and rice, or rather, legumes and a grain, form a whole protein and contain all the essential amino acids one would need to...do whatever it is we do with amino acids (forming muscles, hormones, hair, eyeball juice, you name it). Aside from soy (which does contain the necessary amount of aa's to form a complete protein), other vegetables must be combined with the incredible edible bean in order to access the building blocks of life, and for a very low, low price. The combination of beans (easily grown, stored, and prepared) or a similar legume with rice or another grain (also easily grown, stored, and prepared), is exploited around the world as the basic foundation for any meal. Perhaps it's the perfect meal. It's certainly a proletariat meal.

In New Orleans, red beans and rice are eaten on Mondays because of laundry. I've heard two versions of this story, first, that laundry was simply done on Mondays and so the excess water was used to cook the beans. In another, slaves were given the laundry water to use for themselves after washing the clothing of their masters, and as I recall, this fell on a Sunday, so that the beans were able to soak for the night. RB&R is still the traditional Monday lunch special, my favorite being at Dunbar's on Freret (sadly defunct/moved), paired with the most incredible friend chicken on the planet.
(Here's a Dookie Chase recipe for red beans.)

While you can get a whole protein by eating peanut butter on whole wheat toast, I prefer to go the beans and rice route. However, I like to vary the form which my beans take. Last night I made black bean patties with pineapple rice, yet another recipe from the only place where I seem to be getting my recipes from. This is an incredibly delicious mix of sweet and salty, with a little bit of crunch, and it turned out to be pretty simple. It would also be easy to pull together a large batch for entertainment purposes, and I doubt that anyone would shy away from them. I recommend adding a little cornmeal to the bean mash, for consistency. Cooking Light also tends to do little things to cut back on the amount of cholesterol and fat that go into their recipes, but fie on them, I would toss the egg yolk in there, too. Oh, and boil-in-bag? Please, take the time to make your rice right.

Cuban Black Bean Patties with Pineapple Rice (Cooking Light, March 2007)

1 (3 1/2-ounce) bag boil-in-bag long-grain rice
2 teaspoons butter
1 cup diced fresh pineapple
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 teaspoon salt

2 cups rinsed, drained canned black beans (1 [15-ounce] can), divided
1/2 teaspoon bottled minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 large egg white
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese with jalapeño peppers
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1/4 cup cornmeal
Cooking spray
1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream

To prepare rice, cook rice according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain; place rice in a large bowl. Melt butter in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add pineapple; sauté 4 minutes or just until pineapple begins to brown. Add pineapple mixture, cilantro, and 1/4 teaspoon salt to rice in bowl; cover and keep warm. Wipe pan clean with paper towels.

To prepare patties, place 1 1/2 cups beans, garlic, cumin, and 1/8 teaspoon salt in a bowl; partially mash with a fork. Place 1/2 cup remaining beans and egg white in a food processor; process 30 seconds or until well combined. Add bean puree to mashed beans in bowl, and stir until combined. Add cheese and onion to bean mixture; stir until combined. Divide bean mixture into 4 equal portions, shaping each into a 1/2-inch-thick patty. Place cornmeal in a shallow dish. Dredge both sides of each patty in cornmeal.

Heat pan over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add patties; cook 3 minutes on each side or until browned. Spoon about 1/2 cup rice onto each of 4 plates; top each serving with 1 patty and 1 tablespoon sour cream.

Yields 4 servings.

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