Monday, June 25, 2012

Sunday Dinner: Costa Rican Rice and Beans (Gallo Pinto)

Rice and beans for breakfast? Why not?! Those of you have had the pleasure of visiting Costa Rica, and enjoying the generosity of the Ticos--not to mention the scenery AND fabulous food--know what I'm talking about. Gallo Pinto is a classic Costa Rican breakfast dish. But, as many of you also know, part of the tremendous beauty of travelling is taking something that you "discover" and making it your own. I've been making Gallo Pinto since I "brought it home" after my first visit to Costa Rica. Thankfully I've enjoyed many repeat visits--and even taught a cooking class! Here are some photos  (below!) of my welcome there--and some of the treats they served when I arrived...and more.

Which brings me to my next bit. My "Gallo Pinto" teacher (pictured below) was Vivian Vargas, who I met, with her husband Wady in Mexico City. We subsequently became friends--and even set up a cultural exchange between their school (they have a school outside San José) and my kids' elementary school at the time. (OK, this is a longer story; I'll save it for another time!)

Back to the Gallo Pinto: Since she taught me how to make this dish (about 10 years ago?!), I've made it on many occasions. I like it because it can be made ahead of time--and because it's perfect when served at room temperature (perfect for barbecues/steamy days...)

 I published a version of this in a I worked on with Dr. Manny Alvarez,  The Hot Latin Diet (2008)--but keep changing it depending on the occasion and what I have available. By the way, if you can, you should cook your black beans. As I was reminded on Sunday, the ones you prep--as opposed to the ones you buy--are just so much better.  Anyway, I hope you like this--and do tell me about your variations!

Serves  12+ as a side dish 

2 tablespoons olive oil 
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced (or according to taste)
1 red onion, chopped 
1 red bell pepper, chopped ( I used orange this time, too)
3 to 4 cups of cooked black beans (with bean stock), or--in a pinch--canned...but cooked is so much better!
4 cups of cooked white (or brown) rice, at room temperature or warm
1 tablespoon Salsa Lizano (available in Latin markets or online) or Worcestershire Sauce to taste
Hot sauce, to taste
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup fresh cilantro (or more--according to taste)

Heat the olive oil in a medium sauce pan over medium high heat (until the oil is hot, but not smoking). Add the garlic, ginger, and onion and cook, stirring frequently. (Lower the heat if the onion starts to brown.) After the onion starts to wilt, about 2 minutes, add the red pepper and sauté until softened, about another 3 minutes. Add the beans, and cook, stirring frequently, just until the beans warm, about 2 more minutes. Turn of the heat and set aside.

Pour the rice into a large bowl. Stir in the bean mixture and mix well. Add the Salsa Lizano (or Worcestershire) and mix well. Add hot sauce, salt, and pepper to taste. Stir in the cilantro, and serve at room temperature.

On the day I was coming to give a talk and cooking class at Academia Guaitil, the students set up an amazing breakfast!

Not only did they set up the local fruit, they designed it beautifully--and labeled it.
Getting ready to eat my tamal, platanos, gallo pinto...and more! 

With my Gallo Pinto teacher, Vivian Vargas, and her husband, Wady Gutierrez. 

With Academia Guaitil's wonderful director,  Kathy Carvajal Ruffley--and the books they gave me!

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