Monday, March 2, 2009

poor man's food into a tasty treat

(entire recipe cribbed from ... blathering original)

Sometimes you're poor. Oh let's face it, often times you're poor. Actually, you're always poor, although occasionally you delude yourself into thinking that you're not. Unfortunately those bouts of delusion leave your pallet refined enough to recognize the inferiority of gruel upon which you subsist. I can't solve that problem for you in its entirety, but here's a good first step:
awesome beans and rice! The taste, texture, and even presentation of this dish is such that while you're eating it you can convince yourself you paid $12 for a side of it at a place you read about in New York Magazine. Seriously, and the work that goes into preparing it is minimal.

First: start your rice. 1 cup uncooked. It's easy to stop rice when it's done and fluff it, so just have this going on while you do other things.

Next you should chop everything. Lately I've become a huge fan of doing all of the chopping ahead of time. We have these nice little plastic containers from when we ask for leftovers from awesome thai and they don't warrant an actual sized container. I like to put the chopped things in those. Since they're just full of chopped fresh veggies, a simple rinse is enough to call them clean.

Chopping: 3 cloves garlic (minced!)
1 small onion (I used a medium one!)
1 Bell pepper. Here Elise called for half green and half red for color and taste. I did that once and it was awesome. Last night we used a green pepper and it was really good, but not quite awesome. The red ones cost about three times as much here, though, for some reason.

A brief aside on chopping: I find myself chopping so much these days that I'm looking to improve my technique. I think I've made some good progress. These are the three adjustments I've made if anyone cares. Make sure the skin is on the outside. If you have it at the bottom it might not get severed. When the knife hits the board push it forward ever so slightly to make sure you've got a clean cut. Finally, and this was the most difficult, only move the hand holding the veggie and not the knife hand at all. This slowed me down at first, but after I got used to it I was able to move super quickly without fear of chopping my fingers off, since there is no way to really shove your hand under the knife.

While you were chopping the last thing heat up the oil on your skillet or pan or whatever large flat metal surface you're using. It's so nice to hear that sizzle the second you add something to the pan. Also, it helps to control cooking times since the heat stays constant. This is especially important if you've got some turgid vegetables that you don't want to mushify. Only a very little bit of oil here. Don't go overboard!

Okay so throw on the onions and peppers. If the onions are going to caramelize or the peppers are going to wilt in a couple of minutes then you're too hot -- cool down fast!

When the onions just start to soften up add the garlic for only a minute. I don't know why this is, but several recipes call for this late addition of garlic and a short cooking time. I'm trying to figure out why that is and if I do I'll report my conjectures here.

Then all at once add 2 cans of rinsed and drained black bean
2 tbs white vinegar
some hot sauce or cayenne pepper.

I used more of either of the last ingredient than the recipe calls for, but not a whole lot. You don't want to eliminate the other tastes. You're cooking with fresh ingredients at home after all. One of the reasons restaurants that suck need such good sauces is that they can't keep anything fresh in those disgusting refrigerators that Chef Ramsey is always screaming about. If you're cooking at home with fresh stuff take full advantage!!!

Okay get this stuff up to a boil and then pop a cover on and reduce to a simmer for 5 minutes. I know, boil, what are you talking about, there's only 2 tablespoons of liquid in there! Just do it. You'll know what boil means.

Now the last step: add the rice and a TBS of orgeano. Stir around and then salt/pepper to taste.

Seriously, it sounds like nothing great, but the vinegar/cayenne infusion coupled with some crisp peppers and soft onions is heaven. Also, this makes enough for 2 main dishes and 2 sides, all for under $4. A delicious veggie full protine with some fiber to boot? You can't beat that with a beating stick the size of a Roman village.

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