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Variations on a Theme

Updated: Apr 2, 2019

If there was one thing I could count on being a part of most dinners and every dinner party, it was rice and beans. I ate so much of it as a kid that I thought I didn't like it. As an adult, I realize it's actually really good (as long as I don't have to eat it every day).

Rice and beans are a staple of Haitian cuisine. Honestly, it's such a big part of the culture, a recipe for this probably should have been included in my first post. The reason it wasn't is because I was having trouble deciding which kind of rice and beans I wanted to post about.

There are so many kinds of Haitian rice and beans: red beans, pinto beans, black beans, peas, djon djon (black rice), as well as a healthy variety of bean sauces. My favorite of these is black rice, but since it's the hardest to make (given that getting your hands on a key ingredient is difficult), I knew I couldn't start with that one.

I mentioned in my last post that most recipes are very rarely named, and this is no different. Other than black rice, rice is usually referred to as just rice. Since beans are a given, I very rarely hear anyone mention the fact that the rice includes beans, let alone what type of beans. As a matter of fact, I don't think I realized that rice came without beans for most people. The first time I ever tried rice pilaf, I was very disappointed. Trust me, that's not the same experience.

Most of the recipes I post will likely contain the same set of spices with only slight variations on the main ingredients. In other words, if you don't like the kind of beans or rice I'm posting about, you can likely just switch them out for another type. Also, for my vegetarian or vegan friends, this recipe will work without chicken base; feel free to use a vegetable base or just leave it out entirely.

I will post a recipe for rice and peas, black rice, as well as various bean sauces in the future, but for now, I give you the most basic of basic Haitian recipes.

Before I post the recipe, I did have one favor to ask: if you’re reading this and trying the recipes, I’d love your feedback! Please let me know if you try any of them and how they came out.

Red Beans & Rice

Ingredients: 1 cup dried red beans 6 teaspoons olive oil 3 cups jasmine rice 1 habanero pepper 6 cups water 1 teaspoon black pepper 1/4 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoons seasoned salt 1 1/4 teaspoon chicken base 1 teaspoon adobo seasoning 1/2 teaspoon Creole Seasoning 4 large cloves garlic, minced

Directions: 1. Clean the beans (remove any bad beans; rinse with cold water).* 2. In a medium pot, add beans, water, 3 teaspoons of olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and ½ the garlic. 3. Boil the beans on high heat for one hour or until tender. Add water as necessary to keep from drying. 4. While the beans are boiling, clean the rice (remove any bad rice, rinse with cold water, and drain). Set aside.* 5. In another large pot, add the olive oil, black pepper, remaining salt and garlic, chicken base, adobo seasoning, and Creole Seasoning along with two tablespoons of cooked beans and stir on high heat for one minute. 6. Add four cups of water from the cooked beans and the remaining beans. If you don’t have four cups, add hot water. 7. Add the habanero and bring to a boil. 8. Add the rice and stir so that the beans are well mixed with the rice. Be careful not to pop the habanero! 9. Boil until water is mostly evaporated (about 2-3 minutes). 10. Turn the heat to low and cover the rice. Cook for 20 minutes or until rice is tender.

*When cleaning, “bad” rice or beans tend to rise to the top of cold water immediately. Be sure to take these out. Also, look for any overly shriveled beans, rice that isn't white, or any particles and remove them.

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