Beans and Rice: A Recipe and a History

The easiest, simplest, most long-standing meal tradition in the OP household is that of beans and rice. Beans and rice is a classic Cuban meal, originating in my family from my Cuban great-grandparents who moved to America just before they had my grandmother. At the time of their move, Cuba was in a great state of turmoil and change. A revolution in 1933 sought to overturn the current dictator, and the country cycled through several leaders and governmental systems in the span of a few years afterwards. Growing up in America with Cuban parents, my Cuban-American grandma has incorporated both cuisines into many delicious traditions in my family. Dessert-wise, she makes the most amazing flan, stunning pecan pie, unbelievable tres leches cake, and perfect chocolate fudge. And I have her to thank for the tradition of a main course I practically grew up on: good ol’ beans and rice.

tostones (fried plantains) and beans and rice at a cuban restaurant in alphabet city

Beans and rice is a meal that is cheap, quick, and full of protein and nutrition for hungry little ones. I remember asking my dad to serve me only beans (avoiding peppers and onions) when I was young with a picky palate. Then, as an adolescent learning to love veggies, I would ask my mom to chop the peppers and onions into smaller, less noticeable pieces. And then I remember buying ingredients alone at my local Soho grocery store to cook beans and rice in my first kitchen in my sophomore dorm, astonished at how unsure I was about a recipe I had watched being made (and helped make) hundreds of times.

beans with yellow rice

In college, I served beans and rice to friends because it was the only thing I knew how to make. I served beans and rice to my roommate when I studied abroad in London, and I served beans and rice to my boyfriend, Luke, when we moved in together. Beans and rice is a meal that is constantly in rotation. After all, we almost always have rice, onions, peppers, garlic, and a can of black beaks around. Naturally, Luke started taking over the beans and rice cooking task on occasion, and he had his own ideas about the flavors and spices that would be best to include. Imagine my surprise when I came home to the heresy of Luke adjusting my age-old beans and rice recipe with cumin (!) and cayenne pepper!

I’m not one to complain about coming home from work to a hot, lovingly-prepared meal, though. So I tried his seemingly heretical creation and was surprised once again to find that it was actually quite tasty. In fact, in some ways I have updated the way I make my own beans and rice. I guess that’s the best thing about this dish – you can make it just how you like it in regards to flavors, spices, and heat. And if you have a picky eater at your table, you can dice the veggies like I used to demand. Check out the very customizable recipe below!

Print Recipe
Beans and Rice
Course Main Dish
Cuisine Cuban
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Servings
Ingredients
REQUIRED ITEMS:
  • 1 cup uncooked rice (white or yellow)
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 onion sliced
  • 1 bell pepper sliced
  • 1-2 clove(s) garlic minced
  • salt to taste
OPTIONAL FLAVORS:
  • lemon slices for serving
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne
  • 1 tbs jalapeño minced
Course Main Dish
Cuisine Cuban
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Servings
Ingredients
REQUIRED ITEMS:
  • 1 cup uncooked rice (white or yellow)
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 onion sliced
  • 1 bell pepper sliced
  • 1-2 clove(s) garlic minced
  • salt to taste
OPTIONAL FLAVORS:
  • lemon slices for serving
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne
  • 1 tbs jalapeño minced
Instructions
  1. Prepare your rice according to the package directions. While the rice cooks, chop the vegetables.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a sauce pan over medium heat. Add the onions, peppers, garlic, and spices, and sauté around 5 minutes or until they look like you want to eat them (e.g., slightly softened but not mushy).
  3. Add the full can of black beans (do not drain or rinse!) to the saucepan and stir. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the mixture just starts to bubble.
  4. Serve the bean and veggie mixture over the cooked rice. Optionally squeeze the juice from a lemon slice over the top just before eating.
Recipe Notes

Can also be served with Spanish farro (see video above)!

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WIP Wednesday [8-2-17]: Small Things Are Easier To Make Than Big Things

lost in time shawl work in progress with skein of yarn

It’s official. Small things are easier to make than big things.

I’ve been pretty productive crochet-wise lately. I made this adorable elephant for my friend’s birthday in just a few days. I don’t have much amigurumi experience so I get nervous about sewing all the pieces together properly, but this had minimal sewing steps and they all seemed straightforward and fool-proof (at least for the fool that I am).

English pattern from the awesome blog All About Ami here, Ravelry page for my project here.

I liked making it so much (and it got such a positive response from my friends) that I think i’ll have to make a few more before the year is up – already got another started on the hook (the WIP of this WIP post).

I’m also working on the Lost in Time shawl from Mijo Crochet using Schoppel-Wolle Edition 6 yarn in colorway “English Garden.” (Raverly project here.) This might be the thinnest yarn I’ve ever used since I have always felt too impatient to work with anything less than worsted before. But this yarn has changed me for the better – not only is the texture super soft and gorgeous, the colors in each skein are so amazing! Each color change is more exciting than the last. Five outta five stars for this yarn.

Not a WIP, but I also made a little crochet ball purely inspired by my stumbling across a pattern for a mathematically ideal crochet sphere. I whipped this bad boy up one morning when it seemed like more fun than getting out of bed to do real things. And the kitty loves it! Win win win.

herringbone scarf work in progress

This mini-herringbone scarf pattern from Purl Soho has been on my WIP-list for… many months now. If I don’t finish it by the time the weather is cold again, I will have failed everyone including myself. Knitting is much more unnatural to me than crocheting so it requires more dedicated effort and focus (notice the many lifelines I’ve included to ease my anxiety about losing tens of hours of work). This scarf is big. It’s too wide but it’s too late to stop. And I’m only halfway done. Sigh. So much wool to go!

So that’s the lesson today – small things are easier to make than big things. I have made countless small things in the time since starting this big thing. Similar to the way that I will watch hours of brief Youtube videos but not want to commit to watching a movie because it’s “too long,” I could have finished this scarf several times over by now. But as an impatient, instant-gratification-seeking millennial, I have left this thing sitting half finished since 2016. Summoning all crafty yarn inspiration to finish it before I turn into dust.

Wish me luck on my WIPs, and good luck to you and your WIPs!