Almost two years ago two great friends of mine from college, Dana and Josiah, got married in Dana’s hometown of New Orleans. I had never visited “The Big Easy” and was intrigued and interested in experiencing Bourbon Street, eating Creole food and drinking at any time of the day. This was before I had figured out why I was constantly sick, suffering from migraines, gaining weight seemingly overnight and still craving wheat at every turn.
To say the least, I enjoyed New Orleans immensely and took advantage of the fabulous food and drink constantly available including pasta, cornbread, wedding cake, beer and daiquiris- yes I think every morsel I put in my mouth was completely gluten-fied. I arrived on Thursday and by Sunday, when I was at Dana’s parents house enjoying the post- wedding lazy day dinner, I was sicker than a dog. I just chalked it up to not having the same liver I did in college and partook in an amazing dinner of rice and beans. Everybody at the dinner knew it was my first time in New Orleans and had a fun time ribbing me on finally eating the “real thing” and when I spent a noticeably long time in the bathroom, giving me a hard time for not being able to digest the “real thing”. I was mortified- I had failed my New Orleans initiation- I couldn’t even hold on rice and beans- major bummer. I swore off rice and beans- we were over after they embarrassed me so.
That was in November, a few months later was when I found out gluten was the culprit of my sickness, migraines and weight gain and finally pieced together “AH! That’s why I was so sick- it wasn’t the spices in the Creole food but the gluten in the food that made me so painfully ill!”But I still hadn’t forgiven rice and beans. That took a bit longer.
My mother is a do- gooder, tree hugging suburban hippie. Being cut of that “cloth” she and her friends have gone on many service trips around the world including Central and South America. While building housing, providing medical care and teaching basic home skills my mother and her friends ate a lot of rice and beans. When I say a lot I mean a lot- beans and rice for breakfast, lunch and dinner. If you so much as say “rice and beans” to one of her friends she does a small dry heave and leaves the room. To say rice and beans are a staple in that part of the world is a bit of an understatement. Due to the abundance in crops of beans and the relative affordability of the dish rice and beans can be found in Cuba, Brazil, Nicaragua and everywhere in between. With my mothers experience in Central and Southern America and her flirtations with vegetarianism over the years she has been a big proponent of me adding beans and rice to my diet and constantly touts their nutritional value, especially since I have been following a gluten free diet.
Recently, after reading Jeremy Jackson’s essay “Beans and Me” in “Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant: Confessions of Cooking for One and Dining Alone” edited by Jenni Ferrari- Adler, I had an uncontrollable urge to following my mother’s guidance. Jackson writes about his decade long “friendship” with black beans throughout college, grad school and while teaching at his alma mater. He speaks lovingly of the sister dish of the dish I swore off of after my uncomfortable New Orleans rendezvous - despite my mother’s urgings. Jackson writes, “Of all the beans I have loved in my lifetime- and there have been many- no bean stands above the black bean. The black bean reigns supreme. The black bean has the key to my heart. The black bean and me go way back.” His relationship with black beans seemed a lot healthier than mine. I decided that every dish deserves a second chance and that I would follow my mothers advice and try out black beans and rice again . They may not have been the real “New Orleans thing” but they were darn good. Even if you aren’t gluten- free this is a fabulous flavorful, filling and easy dish to make in the fall.
Black Beans and Rice for the Solitary Celiac (and leftovers)
2 cups water
1 cup white rice
Swirl of Olive Oil
About 1 tbl spoon Garlic ( I always have a jar of chopped garlic onhand to quickly add to recipes or use 2 small cloves fresh garlic)
½ small white onion, diced
¼ red pepper, diced
1 can Goya Black Beans undrained and ¼ can of water (canned is fastest but you can use dry and soak overnight at well)
A few shakes of the following to taste:
Chili powder or similar seasoning (which has cayenne an oregano but I like adding more of those two)
1. Boil water for rice. When water comes to a rumbling boil add rice and turn down to medium heat
2. While rice is cooking, swirl olive oil around pan and cover bottom of pan with olive oil. Add diced garlic, onion and red pepper and sauté until onion is translucent
3. Add can of black beans with juice and ¼ can of water. Saute on medium heat
4. While beans are sautéing and add spices to taste
5. Enjoy aromas
6. Simmer beans for about 20 minutes or until there is substantial bean “gravy”
7. Serve piping hot beans over rice
You can visibly see the heat rising from the plate as the bean gravy dirties the white rice. Black beans and rice is the perfect example of contradictions or opposites working together: black and white, spicy and bland. It is like the culinary version of Will Smith’s song Miami “black, white, Cuban and asian”- all flavors and colors mixing together for an aromatic, filling, affordable and easy dish for all to enjoy- gluten free or gluten lover.
Gluten Free Maven's Product Tip of the Day:
Check out Goya's Nutrition Page for all of the Gluten-Free products! A fabulous tip for the gluten- free cook!