Monday, May 23, 2011

Lunchbox Recipes-Black beans with Saffron Infused Rice

Almost every Sunday night nowadays, I have a habit of staring blankly into my fridge and my pantry trying to decide what I'm going to eat at work for the next few days. Usually, I try to make something that will last me Monday-Wednesday or just Monday and Tuesday, and then I'll go through the same process of deciding my meals for the rest of the work week. Last week, I made some black bean dip in spirit of Cinco de Mayo. Well, it turns out I had an extra can of black beans sitting in my pantry so I decided why not make a meal out of this again. This time around I decided to make black beans and rice flavored with saffron and other spices that are common in Indian cooking. (Mom would be so proud of me because I'm embracing my heritage).

Like my other cooking attempts, this recipe is relatively easy to make. It just takes a few extra steps,  but still not at all time-consuming. As usual, I had all these ingredients at my disposal. There are plenty of ways to make this simple dish, but given my usual time crunch and my desire to make things as simple and as quick as possible without compromising the taste of the dish, I left out most of the ingredients.

For those of you who may not know a lot of saffron, it's a spice commonly used in Indian and Middle Eastern cooking. It may not be an ingredient that you'd typically find in your spice rack. Also, saffron is one of the most expensive spices in the market, so some of you may not want to buy it for that reason. The good news is that there is a substitute for saffron although it may not do the dish justice. Turmeric is an alternative to saffron. It still provides the dish with a yellow color, but it is stronger than saffron so use it sparingly.

1 (16 ounce) package white rice
1 (15 ounce) cans black beans, divided
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
1 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 tablespoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
Garnishes: additional chopped fresh cilantro

  • Prepare the white rice according to the package directions,using the amount of oil/butter and water as indicated on the package.

  • While the rice is cooking, rinse& drain the black beans in a mesh strainer to remove all the sludgey canning liquid and dump them into a small saucepan.

  •  Pour the entire contents including the onions and  chili peppers,liquid and all,into the same pan with the beans and stir to combine.

  • Cover the saucepan with lid,turn on the heat to low, and let bean mixture heat while the rice cooks, stirring occasionally- it should be ready when the rice is done.

  • When the rice is fully cooked, pour it into a deep, medium sized casserole dish.

  • Pour bean mixture into the center of the rice, leaving a border of the yellow rice peeking out arounds the sides.

  • I did not include tomatoes or onions in my version of this recipe, so you might find this a bit drier. Also, onions and tomatoes add an extra flavor to this dish. This can easily become Pilaf with just a few additonal spices and vegetables. I also skipped the jalepeno because I didn't have any in my house. Skipping the pepper made the dish less spicy. For once, I was actually okay with eating a relatively mild dish.

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