Today I spilled boiling hot tea on myself three times (and once on my office chair). I burnt my left hand on a hot pan while cooking dinner and whacked the other hand on the corner of the bench as I walked into it instead of past it. Finally I dropped beetroot on our telephone. Truly. It’s like I’m in a Florence & The Machine song or something. I’m not sure if clumsiness begets more clumsiness – I know from experience that it’s really, really easy to have one thing go wrong in the morning and then not even give the rest of the day a chance to do right by you, when that happens there’s no doubt you’re going to walk into doorframes. But today I woke up feeling relatively optimistic. I guess it just shows…I’m plain clumsy.
Such clumsiness is partially the reason why you’re more likely to see recipes on this blog that don’t involve sugar thermometers or weighing egg whites or…you know, that sort of thing. Rice and Beans involves – at least the way I make it – none of the above. It’s stress-free, one-pan, traditional comfort food. Not traditional to me personally, but sometimes just knowing it’s comfort food to someone is in itself comforting…right? And I always have room for adopting new traditions.
Rice and Beans
I kind of made this up on the fly, inspired by a dish I had at the amazingly good Amigos on Tory Street.
Heat a wide, non-stick pan and toss in a finely chopped onion and plenty of finely chopped garlic. The first time I made this I added a diced carrot, the second time I added a diced zucchini. Once this has softened a little, without browning too much, add a pinch of smoked paprika, a teaspoon of wholegrain mustard, a teaspoon of coriander seeds and 2/3 cup of long grain rice and stir through. Pour in 250mls water, cover, and simmer for five minutes. Add more water, stir, cover – the kind of rice you use affects the amount of water you need and basmati seems to need more water than other kinds. Add a splash of beer, a drained tin of corn kernels and a drained tin of red beans. Add more liquid if the rice still needs it, partially cover and let it simmer over a low heat for a further ten minutes. Serves 2 generously. Maybe cover with feathery, torn coriander leaves or stir grated cheese through if you like.
This is one of the cheapest, nicest, heartiest dinners you can make for yourself. It’s quicker if you use canned beans but cheaper if you take the time to cook up dried – up to you. The savoury warmth of the spices and the beer against the soft, grainy beans and rice is simple but incredible. And, as you will know once I’m done telling you, rice and beans are quoted in La Vie Boheme which put the idea in my head in the first place. (Truly. Was listening to it, thought, “huh, am now hungry for rice and beans”. Power of suggestion, right there.)
While you’re buying red beans for the above recipe, you might as well stock up good and proper for this Santa Fe Ceasar Salad. The recipe comes from Simon Rimmer’s The Accidental Vegetarian, and the first hundred times I flicked past it I was all “hmm, bit random” but all of a sudden on flick-through #101 it seemed like a something I wanted to try. Allow me to fast-track this process for you and just tell you to make it already.
Santa Fe Ceasar Salad
I didn’t use any chillies. I had some pita bread that I used instead of tortillas, and I didn’t have any parmesan to hand so just left it out. Still so good.
1 Cos lettuce, trimmed
2 soft corn tortillas
1 tin pinto or kidney beans, drained
2 red chillies, deseeded and chopped
1 ripe avocado, chopped
fresh coriander leaves
125mls good mayonnaise
125mls plain unsweetened yoghurt
1 garlic clove, crushed
Juice of 1 lime or lemon
2 Tablespoons white vinegar
100g freshly grated parmesan cheese
Whisk dressing ingredients together, set aside. Break up the corn tortillas, dry-fry in a hot pan till a little charred. Tear up the lettuce leaves, place in a bowl with the cooked tortillas, drained beans, avocado and chillies. Fold through the dressing, top with coriander leaves and sprinkle with parmesan to serve.
Clearly, the dressing is sublime, what with the eggy, oily mayonnaise, rich garlic and sharp vinegar coming together. The crunch of tortilla croutons against those grainy red beans and the crisp lettuce is marvelous. It’s surprisingly filling and while not entirely healthy, you could certainly do worse. You could have an actual ceasar salad.
Title comes to you via: Surprise! La Vie Boheme from RENT, the musical that inspired the title of this blog and also inspired me to go to both Levin and Palmerston North to see local productions of it. I love this bit of the musical so much that I’m going to direct lucky you to both a stealthy clip of the Original Broadway Cast in 1996 and the altogether shinier 2005 film version where most of the still-stunning original cast reprised their roles. Oh sure, you could be snide about a bunch of self-titled bohemians prancing about shouting out their carefully chosen influences, I say this is laziness and it’s much better to look beyond that and actually love it for the joyfulness, the inclusiveness, the catchiness, and the awesomeness of rhyming “German wine, turpentine, Gertrude Stein”…
Music while I type:
Laurie Anderson’s O Superman which you can find on the album Big Science. Breathy but direct, strangely meditative, this song made itself known to me via a few different channels – a John Peel compilation, an American Lit paper with a delightfully passionate teacher (“Language! It’s a virus!”) and RENT (as in, all roads lead to) with Idina Menzel’s character Maureen being clearly something of an homage to Anderson as witnessed in the sublime Over The Moon. Seeing The Groove Guide twitter about this song today, plus hearing another of her songs on Radio Active this evening made it feel like I’d be lying if I didn’t put it down here.
Bucky Done Gun by M.I.A from her album Arular. I first saw the music video to this song in a hotel room in Germany in 2005, it’s as acid-bright as her hand-penned album artwork. It was about the most exciting thing I’d heard in a year clogged with Razorlight et al. Five years on it still thrills and I still wish I could handle a jumpsuit like her.
Matthew and Son. It’s my absolute favourite Cat Stevens song. You know I could tell you why, but I’ll let Mr Cat Steven’s snake hips in this video do the talking for me.
Next time: I found this highly do-able recipe for vegan banana cake on the Savvy Soybean’s blog and long to try it. I appreciate both savviness and soybeans in a person so have no doubt this recipe will be good.