Monday, September 5, 2011

Mexican Rice Bowl

We returned from our vacation to Portland a little later than planned (due to a hurricane on the east coast), but well-fed and rested. We ate and drank so many good things, I don't even know where to begin. I'll just give a few of the highlights for me:
  • Khao Soi Kai soup made vegan at Pok Pok
  • Beer battered giant onion rings at Brix Tavern
  • The Por Que salad at Porque No
  • Maggie Cassidy cocktail at the Sapphire Hotel
  • Quinoa, veggie and bean bowl from some rice and noodle joint on Hawthorne
  • Dirty Farro Curry at Meriweather's (sitting on their fantastic outdoor patio)
  • French Pear cocktail from Meriweather's
  • The rice bowl at the Korean BBQ food cart on Belmont St. (rice, kimchee, sesame spinach, cucumber and peanut sauce)
That list is in no particular order and is not exhaustive. Just some memorable items that struck a chord with my tastebuds. Portland is teeming with great cafes, coffeehouses, restaurants and food carts. It is also a vegetarian or vegan's Heaven. Every place you go caters to the non-meat eating and gluten-free crowd. While there are many many great restaurants to enjoy, I hold a special place in my heart for the food carts. I think it must be the variety I like or the casual nature of it. But, also I like that someone can have their own little food business for not a lot of overhead. It's a great concept.

We visited the Oregon Coast, which is beautiful to look at and hike near, but not much for swimming as it's too cold. We also did a nice hike along Eagle Creek in the Columbia River Gorge area which included some waterfalls as a visual reward for your hiking efforts. We got to experience Sunday Parkways where certain streets are closed to cars for several hours as many many cyclists and pedestrians make their way around the route. We watched a movie at Laurelwood Park, hiked around Mt. Tabor and Forest Park. We took a bike tour to see what makes the city so bikeable and then we rode to an amusement park that sits alongside the River Path via the floating pedestrian bridge (in photo above). I did some yoga and went to Saturday Market. I logged time in my favorite coffee shop: The Common Ground. And, of course, we got to spend time with good friends. Paul, Tricia, Grace and Abby were excellent hosts and took good care of us in exchange for iPad usage (these terms were set by Grace and Abby who are big fans of the Talking Tom app). I felt sad leaving and will look forward to returning.
Having been inspired by some of the food I experienced in Portland, I've tried a couple of new things since I've been home. I attempted a soup similar to the one we had at Pok Pok and didn't get it quite right. I've also been making more grain and veggie bowls. I've always enjoyed this type of thing -- noodle and veggies with a sauce or grains with veggies and beans, and I've been making them more often. One of the most simple ones is the Mexican Rice Bowl, which is essentially rice and beans but the ingredients are prepared separately. It's versatile and a fun thing to do for a casual dinner with friends, since everyone can prepare their own the way they like it.

Mexican Rice Bowl
1 yellow pepper, sliced
1 small red onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tblsp canola oil
1 cup of rice (brown or white)
2 cups of water (or a little less)
1 can black beans (mostly rinsed, but you can keep a little of their juice for flavor)
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp cumin
pinch cayenne pepper
salt to taste
grated cheese (cheddar or whatever you like)
fresh cilantro, chopped
salsa of your choice
1 avocado, diced

1. Put rice on to cook.
2. Heat oil in a sautee pan. Add garlic, onions and pepper. Cook for a few minutes, then add oregano, cumin and cayenne pepper. Cook until soft and then add a dash of salt.
3. Heat black beans lightly either in a small pan or the microwave.
4. Once rice is cooked, lay out all ingredients (rice, sauteed veggies, cheese, salsa, cilantro, avocado) and let people prepare their own bowl. This is probably enough for about 4 servings. Adjust amounts according to needs.