We were recently married in beautiful Cayo Santa Maria, Cuba at the Melia Las Dunas (which, by the way, we highly recommend – great resort with great food). We had 17 guests and what we like to call a week long reception because there was nothing but fun to be had for the 7 days that our guests were with us. It truly was one of the best experiences I have ever had in the Caribbean – and the ONLY way to get married in my opinion.
One of the other best experiences we had while at the resort was the Frijoles Negros, Cuban Black Beans and Rice. Being vegan in Cuba was a bit of a challenge, and if I had been really smart (or had the time before we left) I probably should have prepared a little better and thought to bring more sources of vegan protein with me. Alas, I didn’t (think or have the time before we left – although I’m pretty sure the thought crossed my mind and quickly passed) and therefore lived off this traditional Cuban dish for 14 days.
You would probably think I’d be sick of this dish by now (and maybe I am a little), but I will tell you this: I love culinary challenges. I thrive on them. For me, rice has always been one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to cook (and I don’t get it because your average “non-cook” can do it with their eyes closed!). I can saute, roast, flambe, broil, make a roux, thicken a sauce, julienne, dice, make my pasta the perfect al dente….but can I cook rice? To save my life – NO! It always turns out mushy or crunchy or just gross (in my opinion). I follow the directions and measure the rice to water to salt ratio PERFECTLY and still I get yuck rice.
Ok, so not big deal because I don’t actually love rice. I can live without it. I love quinoa, barley, millet, the occasional cous cous, aborio rice (risotto) and many other great grains and starches. There are lots of alternative grains that I can cook and love to eat that have kept me out of the rice cooking line of work! But now that I’ve tasted another classic Caribbean rice and beans, it’s a challenge that I’m determined to overcome.
So what’s going to be different about this kitchen adventure that really should be one of the easiest things in the world to cook? Our new rice cooker. This may be my saving grace on the one thing that I have never been able to cook! There was a recipe for Orleans Spicy Beans and Rice in the rice cooker cookbook, so I’ve just taken the rice to beans proportion of that recipe and added Cuban Frijoles Negros spices. Here goes nothing!
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
1 15 oz can drained and rinsed black beans
1 cup long grain brown rice
1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
2 tsp olive oil for sauteing
1 celery stalk, trimmed and diced
1/2 cup diced yellow onion
5-6 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and minced
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp oregano leaves
1/8 – 1/4 tsp dried chipotle pepper (optional)
1 bay leaf
6 Tbsp fresh minced cilantro for garnish
1 lime sliced in 6 wedges, to serve with the rice & bean
1. Put Cuban guitar music in the CD player. Very important.
So here’s what I did in the rice cooker. If you are doing this stove-top, you would do exactly the same thing, but let the rice cook for about 30-40 minutes, until the stock has been absorbed) but really, lets be serious – what do I know about cooking rice!
Rice Cooker Method
2. Place the olive oil in the rice cooker bowl, cover and turn on for 1 minute. The covering part is quite important, because without the weight of the lid, the cooker will only turn to “warm mode”, at least on my rice cooker. I’ve determined that the rice cooker works on a weight basis (that’s my theory anyway).
Add the onions and celery and stir to coat with the hot oil. Cook for 3-4 minutes until the onions and celery are translucent. Add the garlic and stir in the rice and spices. Stir until the rice is opaque which will be about 3-4 minutes. Throw in the bay leaf, the vegetable stock and the rinsed black beans. Here my rice cooker turned to “warm mode” again, so I had to turn it back to cook (just be on the lookout for your cooker turning modes on you). Cook until the rice cooker switches to warm. It should be about 18 minutes all together from this point -but I don’t ask questions. Rice cooker, you are the boss.