Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Rice and beans, you haunt my dreams

I put it to you that gallo pinto might be the world's perfect food. Great topped with an egg for breakfast, filling and warm at lunchtime, a comforting and spicy dinner.

When I was in Nicaragua two weeks ago (Oh, did I mention I was in Nicaragua? Were you wondering where all this Nervous Cook radio silence was coming from?), I experienced gallo pinto, a.k.a. "spotted rooster, a.k.a. the National Dish™ of both Nicaragua and Costa Rica for the first -- but definitely not the last, if I can help it -- time.

I didn't make this particular plate, but I sure ate the heck out of it.

I get the sense that rice and beans is to Central America and the Caribbean islands what barbecue is to the North American South -- regionally specific, hotly contested. You've got your Cuban style platillo Moros y Cristianos (black beans, bell peppers, oregano, sofrito), your Puerto Rican arroz con gandules (rice with pigeon peas and pork), Venezuela's pabellón criollo (with shredded beef and, often, plantains)…

And then, there's gallo pinto. Delicious, delicious gallo pinto. I couldn't get enough of the stuff while I was there, and now that I'm home, I've decided it needs to become a staple of my diet.

Good thing I thought to buy a bottle of Lizano hot sauce in Matagalpa -- it really does make all the difference. Get your own, make your own, thank me later.
1 tbs olive oil
1 small onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp Lizano hot sauce
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
salt and pepper to taste
3 tbs fresh cilantro, chopped
2 cups cooked (or canned) black beans
1 cup cooked long-grain rice
Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add olive oil; when oil is slick and coats the bottom of the pan, add garlic and onions, cooking until soft (3–5min). Mix in hot sauce, spices and cilantro; cook until fragrant (2–3min). Stir in beans, heating through, then stir in rice (even better if the rice is slightly crispy-slash-overcooked). Warm through, and serve topped with more chopped cilantro or chopped onions. Fresh tortillas a bonus.

Serves 3

Do you have a preferred style of rice and beans? Heck, do you have a preferred style of barbecue? I'm still trying to learn about regional cuisine here, people…


  1. this looks awesome - i'm definitely going to have to try it soon!

    Mel's mom always cooks Congri when we visit, which seems to be regional to the eastern part of Cuba where she's from (at least, by that name and using black beans instead of red beans, i think). it's amazing.

  2. I love you, Nervous Cook! We've got a quart of Lizano in our fridge. Gonna make me some rice-and-beansy breakfast. Me gusto!

  3. Oh my, do I dare even attempt!? I think my quality of life depends on it...

    Thanks for sharing this!

    (On a separate note, I got all choked up reliving our trip through your flickr. You rule, 100 times over.)

  4. @SZ: Where did you find a quart of the stuff?! I'm having a dickens of a time tracking it down stateside (but don't worry -- there will 99% surely be gallo pinto at the Super Bowl party).

    @baughtronic: Do it! Deliciousness! (Thank you, you are the best. Miss you already!)

  5. Meister, my parents went to Costa Rica last year and brought some back for us. I will bring the bottle on Sunday and you can siphon some off.

  6. Nicaragua? wow. major trip. and warm, mmm.

    The food looks good. Memories of the south for the tummy...

  7. When I was single, I'd make a huge pot of rice and beans on Sunday and eat it down throughout the week. I must have secretly wanted to be a cajun, or something. But it was cheap and filling, and that's a good thing on a teacher's salary. Thanks for bringing that memory back!

  8. all hail gallo pinto!! my favorite discovery of Nicaragua...aside from Victoria...

  9. Amanda, Toña is the vastly superior national beer! I'm surprised at you…

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