Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Recipe: Quick Beans and Rice

Beans and rice with caramelized onions
Beans and rice are a staple of Latin America and the Caribbean, and have been feeding the people of the western hemisphere for nearly five centuries. While beans are native to the Americas, it wasn't until Europeans and Africans brought rice to the colonies in the 1500's that this combo could be created.

This recipe is quick, easy, and really tasty. The secret is to caramelize some onions, which creates sweet and savory notes that combine with salt to build an intense flavor profile. While I usually serve these beans as a side dish, they are worthy of a main course. Rice is of course a starch at heart, but packs vitamin B and protein as well. Beans are full of protein, iron, and many other minerals. Together, they provide all of the essential amino acids.

I used pinto beans here, but red beans, black beans, and even black-eyed peas are all fair game.

In addition to robust flavor, excellent nutrition, and a rich history... beans and rice are some of the least-expensive ingredients you can find. Que Bueno!

  • 1/4 medium onion, sliced
  • 2 cups cooked white rice
  • 1 cup Derek's (almost) Famous Pinto Beans (or any other pre-cooked, seasoned beans)
  • red pepper flakes to taste
  • salt to taste
  • oil
Heat a medium cast iron skillet on medium heat until hot—about five minutes. Add a thin coating of oil, and then toss in the sliced onions and a dash of red pepper flakes. Caramelize the onions for 5-7 minutes until they're beginning to turn golden brown. Be sure to stir or toss the onions regularly to avoid burning.

Once the onions are turning golden, add the cooked rice and beans, salt to taste, and warm everything for 2-3 minutes until the beans and rice are hot. Taste the dish to make sure you added enough salt!

Note: If you have the time, it's kinda nice to let the rice fry for a few extra minutes to remove some moisture and kick up the texture of the dish.

Serve immediately. Beans and rice are perfect next to scrambled eggs for breakfast, stuffed inside quesadillas for lunch, or served as a side dish with enchiladas for dinner.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Recipe: Flaming Bananas Foster (Video)

Bananas Foster comes to us from the great city of New Orleans, Louisiana. While the Big Easy is one of the oldest and most historically colorful cities in the United States, it wasn't until the 1950's that the fine folks at Brennan's Restaurant concocted this culinary gem.

Bananas Foster is one of my favorite quick desserts. It is utterly delicious, packs entertainment punch with the flambé segment, and is one of the few really simple gluten free desserts.

Ingredients (serves 2-3)

  • 2 bananas, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • dash cinnamon
  • 1-2 tablespoons rum or brandy
Heat a medium cast iron skillet on medium heat. After 5 minutes or so once the skillet is just beginning to smoke almost imperceptibly, add the butter. A few seconds later once the butter has mostly melted, toss in the bananas. 

Sauté the bananas for about 5 minutes, stirring or tossing every 2 minutes or so. You want to avoid burning, but you also want to allow the banana slices to develop a deep caramelization on each side. 

Once the bananas are sufficiently caramelized, toss in the rum or brandy, and immediately ignite the contents of the skillet with a match or lighter. You'll get a nice 18 inch-high flame... and while the flame is highest, toss in a few dashes of cinnamon for some sparkle (and flavor).

While flambé is exciting (especially if you burn your house down), there's more to it than fun. The high temperatures involved help finish off the caramelization reaction, and add more flavor to the dish. As noted in the video, the chicks also dig it. 

The flame will quickly die down... and once it is out, serve your bananas foster over vanilla ice cream immediately.