Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Great Pantry Challenge: Day One

Beren and I are "home" for the holidays, pulled into South Florida Thursday night and won't be returning north for a few weeks.  I'm happy to be here with my kids and kitties, looking forward to relaxing as well as catching up on some household chores.

One of my main focuses is my pantry.  I have so much non-perishable food in there, from cans of soup to beans to rice, I really need to clean out the shelves and start cooking! Today I pulled out a bag of black beans, a can of tomatoes and some rice, knowing I could put together something delicious.  I also around and found a neglected kitchen appliance: my pressure cooker.

I grew up on pressure cooking, but it was only done by my Dad as Mom was too afraid to use them. When she was a little girl, one exploded near her and she was terrified ever since.  I'd go over for a visit, find Dad in the kitchen, pressure cooker whistling away, Mom in another room nervously waiting for dinner to be done!  Of course, pressure cookers had come a long way since Mom's childhood, so when I got married and expressed an interest, my Dad bought me one of my own.  It's been tucked away for several years but today I decided to dust it off and put it back into action.

As you may know, Kali's beau is Cuban and now that they're living with us, there are lots of delicious new foods in my house! (If you grew up in South Florida as we did, you've been influenced by the Cuban culture, and the food is one of the best parts!) Unusual spices fill my cabinets and we've become more familiar with the local Hispanic market(Yesterday we had pastelitos for breakfast..groan..there goes the diet!) There are several bags of black beans (frijoles negros) and rice in the pantry, a staple in any Cuban kitchen.

So, using what I had on hand, I made a version of this recipe, and then gave it to Jesus for a taste test.  Other than suggesting we add more salt (and pork, if we weren't vegetarian), he gave his seal of approval! I wish I had a picture of the dish but though it tasted delicious, it didn't turn out pretty enough to photograph. 

                       Cuban Black Beans and Rice                           

--------  ------------  --------------------------------
  4               cups  water
  3        tablespoons  olive or vegetable oil
  1             medium  green bell pepper -- seeded and diced
                        ½ stalk celery -- finely diced
  2                     baby carrots -- grated
  1             medium  onion -- peeled and diced
  2             cloves  garlic -- peeled and minced
                        ¾ cup medium or long-grain white rice
  2               cups  chicken broth or water
  2          teaspoons  paprika
                        ½ teaspoon cumin
                        ¼ teaspoon chili powder
  1                     bay leaf
                        Salt and freshly ground black pepper -- to taste
  1                cup  dried black beans

 Rinse the beans and add them to a covered container. Pour in the water, cover, and let the beans soak overnight. Drain.

 Bring the oil to temperature in the pressure cooker over medium-high heat. Add the green bell pepper, celery, and carrots; sauté for 2 minutes. Add the onion; sauté for 3 minutes or until the onions are soft. Stir in the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds.

 Stir in the rice and stir-fry until the rice begins to brown. Add the drained beans, 2 cups of broth or water, paprika, cumin, chili powder, and bay leaf.

 Lock the lid into place and bring to low pressure; maintain pressure for 18 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow pressure to release naturally. Stir, taste for seasoning, and add salt and pepper to taste.

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Makes 6 servings

NOTES : In Step 2, you can substitute 6 diced slices of bacon for the oil. Fry the bacon until it begins to render its fat and then add and sauté the vegetables in the order given.



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