A classic. A standby. An economical meal. However you think of it, rice and beans can be a tasty and comforting experience.

Let me start with the rice. In my household, until about two weeks ago, it was white short-grain rice, end of story. Living with a Japanese national, there is just no other kind of rice to be eaten. I’ve been gently reminded on many occasions that to some Japanese people, brown rice is reminiscent of poverty, it’s what you eat only if you have to. White rice is the rice of plenty, of having made it.

Feeling bold, I bought my first batch of brown rice in ages last week. As a concession, I bought short grain, which I prefer anyway to long grain. (Not that Yuji will eat it anyway, long or short.) I like to soak the rice, just covered, on the counter, for a few hours before cooking. Mostly because this shortens the cooking time.

When ready to cook it, if I have homemade stock on hand, I’ll discard the soaking water and add the stock, otherwise I just cook with the soaking liquid. I add a dash of salt, and sometimes, maybe a splash of soy sauce, or a chunk of white onion. (Unless I plan to eat the leftovers for breakfast, then no savory additions.) I always take the rice off the heat in less time than instructed. For brown rice I might simmer it for 30 minutes, turn off the heat, and leave it covered for 20 minutes before serving.

Now about those beans. I am in love. Some of you have been in this relationship for ages already, but I am a relative newcomer to Cayuga Pure Organics. They grow dry beans and grains outside of Ithaca, New York, a place near and dear to my heart. Luckily I can buy these suckers at both the Union Square Greenmarket or the McCarren Park market on Saturdays. I’ve been buying their cornmeal for polenta for a couple years, but only in the last six months ventured to their beans.

And thank goodness I did! I love these black turtle beans. And in a future post I promise to publish the recipe I use for their luscious white Cannellini beans. The black beans are a mere $3 for about a week’s worth of protein. Because the beans are so fresh, you only need to soak them for 2-3 hours, covered with water, on the counter. Whereas with older beans that may have been sitting on a shelf for a year, you would need to soak overnight, which I know intimidates people, because who can plan ahead like that?

Then I discard the soaking liquid, transfer the beans to a large stock pot, and cover with a mixture of homemade stock and water. I throw in a carrot, onion, celery rib, salt, and make a little pouch of spices in cheesecloth: juniper berries, cumin seeds, fennel seeds, and black peppercorns. Bring to a boil, then simmer, partially covered for 45 mins. to an hour.

Then I might like to sautee these in garlic and olive oil on the stove, add some cayenne, maybe something green like spinach or broccoli rabe. Or just eat them over rice with a dollop of plain yogurt.

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