Monday, November 4, 2013

Rice and Beans with Coconut Milk

Last year I went to Philadelphia for dinner. My train ride was about 10 hours round trip and my total time in Philly was slightly longer than that. I had a friend who was going to be there for a visit from Colorado, so I figured that I might as well meet up with him while he was "in the neighborhood". I recall it was a very busy time at work and I had no business going away, but taking the train allowed me to work on my laptop so I could be productive and also get to take this little getaway. I've learned a few things about managing work stress in my days and one of those things is that I can't let work completely take over my life. In times when it gets super busy I used to forego almost all things fun so I could get my job done. But doesn't make for a very happy me. Now I'm more conscious of the benefits that taking a day off can have in the middle of a hectic period. It recharges me so I can be more productive and overall have a better attitude. Also, when I reflect back on my life, I'm not going to remember how busy I was and how much work I got done, but I will remember the time I met Claude for dinner in Philly. What I recall most distinctly about that trip was the rice we had at the sushi restaurant we went to for dinner. It was coconut rice and it was melt in your mouth delicious. I intended on trying to make it, but somehow have still not gotten around to it all these months later.

When I was messing around on the internet the other day looking for recipes, I came across Jamaican
Rice and Peas. It looked promising and reminded me of the Philly coconut rice so I decided to make it as part of that night's dinner. It was tasty and it will become a regular for me. It's nice to have some different rice and bean dishes to mix things up a bit since that is a staple dinner for me. From the comments I was reading, I gather that this isn't the traditional Jamaican rice and peas recipe, but rather a twist on that, so I don't feel comfortable calling it that. I'm not sure what else to call it, so I'm differentiating it by the use of coconut milk. If you don't like coconut, however, please don't be scared off. It's not a strong coconut flavor. The milk just sweetens it up a bit and makes it creamy and the mix of spices is fragrant, but not overpowering. Using the whole pepper gives it a very subtle flavor. Somewhere I read it described as the equivalent of using a bay leaf. I halved this recipe and still used the whole pepper and that was fine.

Rice and Beans with Coconut Milk

2 tblsp vegetable oil
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 cups basmati rice
1 tspn salt
1 tspn grated ginger
1 cup of water
1 cup veggie broth
2 cups coconut milk
1 15 oz can pinto beans, kidney beans or pigeon peas
2 tspns dried thyme
1 habanero pepper whole (or a Scotch Bonnet Pepper if you can find it)

1. Heat oil on medium high heat in a medium pot. Saute for about 4-5 minutes until the edges begin to brown.
2. Add rice and garlic and stir almost continuously for 2-3 minutes so it doesn't stick to the pan.
3. Add coconut milk, broth, water, ginger and salt and stir. Add the beans and habanero pepper and then sprinkle the thyme all over the top. Bring to a simmer, then turn heat to low and cover.
4. Cook for 15-20 minutes, until liquid is absorbed. Then leave covered for about 10 minutes. Fluff rice, remove pepper and serve. You can squeeze some lime juice on the top too to brighten it up a bit.

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