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It started with a slightly sore throat. I chalked it up to sleeping with the air conditioner on…ya know, like I have most nights since mid-July and haven’t woken up with a sore throat. I am an exceptional deny-er.

Then my head started to feel like someone stuffed it with wet cotton. Hmmm…must be allergies. Ok at this point maybe I am an exceptional delusion-er.

Then the hacking cough that comes from the toes started. I had no easy excuse for this so I just plain decided to pretend that I felt fine.

I was far from fine. And totally pissed off about it. It should be illegal to get sick anytime other than winter. I truly think the WORST part of being sick, well outside of the being sick part, is that nothing tastes good or right. What is the point of eating if it doesn’t taste? Let me tell you…there isn’t one. My solution – burn that damn cold right out of my system with an array of spices. That’ll show that stupid cold who’s boss. Or something. For the record it didn’t work. But I did end up with a dinner that I could taste. It’s the small victories.

If you know me you know this is an ODD thing for me to want to do to myself. I’m that weenie that only dips chips in salsa to get the juice because the chunks are too hot. I like food that is well spiced, but I am a BABY when it comes to things that a normal person would consider spicy. I am finding, much to Hart’s happiness, that I DO like spice I’m just so used to not liking it that I don’t try it. I’m working on it.

I started out wanting to make a spin on red beans & rice with black beans. Then I found out I didn’t have any black beans, or red beans for that matter. Hart was already going to the store so I added them to the list and off he went.

Then I realized that what I thought was a plain white rice was actually arborio, the rice used for risotto. Well. That just won’t work. Hart was already gone from the grocery store and I really didn’t want to hear the bitching if I asked him to go back. Adapt it is.

This was an amazing adapt. I have had a crush on brown rice for awhile. I love the texture & flavor over plain old ordinary white rice, added bonus – so much better for you. I actually also dig it because it is great for leftovers. It doesn’t get all weird being reheated and is really good marinated for a cold salad if that’s what you like, which I do. I had brown rice. Not exactly what I had initially envisioned, but it’s not like I have to adhere to a menu description around here, so I ran with it and holy WOW am I happy that I did, the rice was absolutely perfect for this style of dish. I am actually amazed that it is ever made with white rice; I know I never will be again.

The only bummer to brown rice is the cook time is significantly longer than white rice, but that is pretty much the only con I can come up with. Its healthier, it tastes better, it works better as a leftover….who cares if it takes a bit longer with all that awesome!

This recipe is not vegetarian, but with a couple of easy modifications it can be – nix the bacon & sub veg stock for the chicken stock. The bacon isn’t a key ingredient, I have it listed in the recipe as optional, but if you like bacon go ahead & add it. That smokiness really adds to the depth of flavor. I used a fresh sliced slab bacon so the chunks had a nice meaty chew to them that I think also improved the dish, but it definitely didn’t make or break it.

My pepper (or chili) of choice for this magic was poblanos. Poblanos look like a funky bell pepper. instead of having a flat bottom they are pointed and instead of being a lighter green they are closer to a dark, forrest green. They do pack some punch, but no where near as much as a jalapeno. As with any pepper or chili the spicy part is mainly in the seeds. Not saying that is where ALL the heat is, but that is definitely where you find most of it. I rarely use them raw, although they are good like that for salsas and stuff, I either fire roast, grill or saute in some way. Remember…I am a spicy food baby. Feel free to ramp it up and leave the seeds in there, just please warn me first if I’m invited to dinner.

Safety Aside – wear gloves when preparing any chili or hot pepper and wash your hands often. The oils in the pepper quickly permeate the skin and if you don’t care to find out what it feels like to have chili rubbed in, oh let’s say, your eye or other more sensitive parts, heed my warning. Not ALL chilis burn like that, but I do not suggest finding out the hard way if the ones you are working with do or not. Poblano is about as hot as I would get without gloves. A scoville chart can be found here, the method in which pepper burn is gauged, where you can get LOTS of info on the potency of peppers. 

Black Beans & Brown Rice yield around 5/6 cups-ish

  • 4-5 slices Slab Bacon, small dice (optional but highly recommended)
  • 1/2 of a Large Sweet Onion, small dice (a heavy cup)
  • 1/2 Bell Pepper, any color, small dice (a heavy half cup)
  • 1/2 Poblano Pepper, small dice (around 1/3 cup)
  • 3 Tbsp Minced Fresh Garlic
  • 1 tsp Ground Cumin
  • 1 tsp Ground Coriander
  • salt & fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 cup Brown Rice
  • 1 1/2 cup Tomato Sauce (I used my homemade from over here)
  • 2 1/2 cups Chicken Stock
  • 1 can Black Beans, drained & rinsed (I totally cheat & use the cooked)

Put a saute pan or a pot with good bottom surface area on over medium heat. Get your bacon diced up and into the pan to render out until it is crisp. You want it to be on the underdone side of crisp, not the overdone. Takes about 4-5 minutes

While the bacon does its thing chop up the onion, peppers & garlic. When the bacon is nice & crispied add the vegetables & seasonings and saute over medium heat until everything has softened up & it all starts to smell incredible, about 3-4 minutes.

Add the rice & turn up the heat. Let it saute for a minute and, most importantly, let the pan get hot again. This takes about 3 minutes.

Add the tomato sauce and let it reduce but 3/4 at a hard simmer. You want to concentrate that flavor & boost the acidity. When the tomato sauce is reduced enough it should look like the photo below.

Add the stock and bring to a simmer. Cover with a lid and reduce the heat. Let it cook for about 45 minutes, but start checking it around 30 just to be safe.

The rice is cooked when all the stock has been absorbed. Give it a taste, the rice should be firm & toothsome, NOT crunchy. If it needs more liquid add some and continue cooking, though I haven’t had do that ever, but I still check. Add the black beans and stir in gently so as not to smoosh the bejeebus out of them. Taste and adjust with whatever you think it needs to taste right.

Re-lid and let it sit for 15-20 minutes, covered, to let all the flavors get it on. Give it a stir before serving. We decided after we ate it that some fresh minced cilantro & some thinly sliced scallions would have been perfect for garnish. We also decided that this rice would make a BOMB filling for a burrito, a meal for another day.

I served it with citrus cilantro cumin marinated & grilled chicken breast that paired perfectly and with a really bright fresh corn and tomato salad – recipe going up for that this week, too.

It was a spicy dinner. Not the kind that makes you sweat, but enough that I could taste!! And that was glorious!