One of my college hangouts was a scruffy Austin restaurant called Les Amis, which my friends and I called "Lazy Me," in honor of the decidedly unhelpful service. The food was dependable even if the waitstaff wasn't, and a standby for me was a simple bowl of black beans, rice, and cheese, priced so even students without trust funds could afford it. Later, I learned that the combination of beans and rice is one of the most nutritionally complete vegetarian meals possible.
While beans are one of the vegetables that takes better to canning than others, if you make a pot of your own from scratch, the taste and texture are incomparable.
When Les Amis finally closed, torn down to make room for a new Starbucks, I missed not just the peasant's bowl, but those inattentive waitresses, too.
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground ancho chile
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano (preferably Mexican)
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
1 small shallot lobe, thinly sliced
3/4 cup cooked black beans, preferably homemade, with 1/2 cup cooking liquid or 1/2 cup vegetable stock
Kosher or sea salt
1 cup cooked brown rice
1 ounce Monterey Jack, Cheddar, or feta cheese, shredded or crumbled
1 small tomato, cored, seeded, and chopped
1 scallion, white and green parts, thinly sliced
A few dashes hot pepper sauce, such as Tabasco
1. Pour the oil into a medium skillet over medium heat. When it starts to shimmer, sprinkle in the cumin and ground ancho, swirling the pan and cooking until the spices bubble up and become very fragrant, about 30 seconds.
2. Add the oregano, garlic, and shallot and saute until they become tender, about 3 or 4 minutes.
3. Pour in the black beans and their cooking liquid, stir to combine, and cook until the beans are hot and the liquid has thickened, just 2 or 3 minutes for home-cooked beans and a little longer for canned beans and stock. Add salt to taste, decrease the heat to low, and keep warm.
4. Warm the rice by microwaving it on high heat for 30 seconds. Spoon it into a large dinner bowl. Use a spoon to push the rice to the edges of the plate and create an indentation for the beans.
5. Spoon the beans and their liquid into the center of the rice, top with the cheese, tomato, scallion, and Tabasco to taste, and eat.
From Serve Yourself: Nightly Adventures in Cooking for One by Joe Yonan (Ten Speed Press, 2011). Copyright © 2011 by Joe Yonan. Photographs copyright © 2011 by Ed Anderson. All rights reserved. Used with permission of Ten Speed Press.
Each week, The Splendid Table brings you stories that expand your world view, inspire you to try something new and show how food brings us together. We rely on you to do this. And, when you donate, you'll become a member of The Splendid Table Co-op. It's a community of like-minded individuals who love good food, good conversation and kitchen companionship. Splendid Table Co-op members will get exclusive content each month and have special opportunities for connecting with The Splendid Table team.
Donate today for as little as $5.00 a month. Your gift only takes a few minutes and has a lasting impact on The Splendid Table and you'll be welcomed into The Splendid Table Co-op.