I got the idea for this post on a vacation last year in Costa Rica. Keen has a lot of family down there, so we try to visit once a year. A classic breakfast dish is Gallo Pinto, literally spotted hen. It was invented in Costa Rica. Unless you go to Nicaragua in which case you’ll be told it was invented there. Unless you go to Guatemala, in which case you’ll be told it was invented there. And so forth… It’s a good way to use up left-over rice and beans, both of which are staples in Central America.
Heat a little oil in a pan, toss in some minced veggies (onion, bell pepper, carrot) and sauté for a bit. Add the rice and mix together, adding a generous amount of Salsa Lizano. It’s a tangy sauce that gets used for everything—it’s in that same savory group as steak sauce in America, Worcestershire sauce in England, and fish sauce in Asia. Once everything is coated and flavored right, toss in black beans and cook until heated. Top with an egg (I like over easy) and you’ve got breakfast. Well, that and some strong coffee with a lot of milk.
That is not, however, the recipe of the week. I was down in Costa Rica thinking about something to cook when I get back home. Having eaten my fill of black beans, I wanted to do something new with them. I love risotto and the thought occurred to me that black beans should work in a risotto. I did a little hunting around for inspiration and found a blog by Paula Jackson that had the right idea.
Paula was making dinner from what was in the cabinet and hit upon the idea of tossing in a couple of cans of black beans and a couple of cans of coconut milk. As it happens, a popular dish on the Caribbean coast is rice-n-beans. It’s flavored with a bit coconut milk and you usually get it with chilero on the side. Vegetables and hot (habañero) childes steeped in vinegar. Paula had a great idea, but it was a little heavy. I took a basic risotto dish and adapted for black beans and used one can of coconut milk. Give the black beans a good rinse before using them so that you get a nice contrast between black and white.
It’s great on its own, but also can be accompanied with something a little tropical. I like seared shrimp with pineapple or mango.
Black Bean Risotto
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup coconut milk (2/3 of a can)
½ cup dry white wine (or more broth)
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/3 cup finely minced onion
1 ½ cups Arborio or California short grain rice
1 ½ cups cooked black beans or 1 can, drained and rinsed
½ cup coconut milk (1/3 can)
½ bunch cilantro, washed, thick stems removed, chopped to make ¼ cup
Queso duro or fresco, crumbled for garnish
- Bring broth to a steady simmer in a saucepan on the stove. Add coconut milk and return to simmer.
- Heat the butter and oil in a heavy casserole or dutch oven over med. heat. Add the onion and sauté for 1 to 2 minutes until it softens.
- Add the rice to the soffrito, stir using a wooden spoon until the grains are thoroughly coated. Add the wine and stir until it is completely absorbed. Add the simmering broth, ½ cup at a time. Stir frequently until almost completely absorbed and add the next ½ cup. Add the black beans after about 10 minutes of cooking.
- Add coconut milk and cilantro and remove from heat. Stir completely to combine with the rice.
- Put the risotto on serving dishes. Sprinkle with crumbled queso. Garnish with shrimp, mango or pineapple.