It was a dark and snowy Tuesday night. The temperature outside had dropped to five below; even the moon was taking refuge behind a layer of heavy clouds. The day had been nearly impossible, with angry customers and bosses and bureaucracy closing in on all sides. Exhausted and thoroughly fed-up, it was the kind of day to make you rethink your occupation, your lifestyle, and your sanity. On a day like this, when you’re late getting home because of traffic and icy roads, when your head feels too heavy and Friday seems light years away, this is what you eat. No fuss, no finicky ingredients, no pretense. Just a simple bowl of hearty comfort food to help soothe a very weary soul.
Black Beans and Rice
I’m half Puerto Rican, so this meal really hits me- it’s childhood, a hug in a bowl. It’s also one of the only recipes I have memorized, making it even easier to whip together. The adaptability is crucial; its intent is simplicity, to use whatever ingredients are on hand. Red pepper or green, red onion or white, chili powder instead of cayenne- any way you take this, the result is delicious.
1 red bell pepper, diced
2 medium onions, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 can black beans, do not drain (I use Goya brand)
¾ cup water
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp adobo powder (see cook’s note below)
1 tbl white wine vinegar
Black pepper to taste
(Cook’s note– Many recipes for this call for Sazon, another Spanish seasoning blend. I don’t use it because the brands at my local supermarket contain MSG, and frankly, I just haven’t got around to making my own yet. Also, though adobo is a blend of salt, garlic, oregano and turmeric, I find a mixture of cumin, garlic powder, and kosher salt to be a good substitute. I highly recommend just buying a bottle, though, as the powder magically transforms even the blandest dish into something special. I use it on chicken, pork, in ground beef for hamburgers, even on roasted almonds.)
Sauté pepper and onion in olive oil until soft but not browned, about 10 minutes over medium heat.
Add garlic and cook 2-3 minutes more.
Add remaining ingredients and let simmer over medium-low heat until liquid thickens but does not evaporate completely, about 15 minutes.
Serve over a bed of fluffy white rice (I like basmati), with a dollop of something creamy on top. I use slightly melted cream cheese, but sour cream, Greek yogurt, or shredded cheddar are great, too.