Costa Rican Beans and Rice (Gallo Pinto Huevos)

The weight watcher's platter at "Costa Rican Joe's".
For a brief period of time last year, I took a bit of a dip in the waters of Latin American cuisine. More specifically, the food of Costa Rica, Brazil, Colombia, and Peru. Even more specifically, red beans and rice. I appreciated the simple, rustic, less-is-more appeal of this "peasant food". It isn't loaded with 101 spices and herbs (e.g. they like to keep their rice white, and separate from the beans). It is unpretentious and honest, but nevertheless, delish. I have now made a place for Latin America in my kitchen repertoire. I like the idea of centering a meal around beans, as it is a heart smart, healthy food. Less so the way I prepared it, with a fried hamburger and egg (see pic). That's not how I typically eat today, but many Brazilians do eat such meals daily. I guess if you're healthy enough and hunger for a "comfort food" dish (with meat), it would be okay to serve it this way, on occasion. Otherwise, stick to beans and rice, and a nice salad with fresh tomatoes.

I feature here an ingredient I found in a local Latin American grocer; "Triguisar". It's a powdered seasoning made from cumin, corn starch, rice starch, pepper, salt, garlic, annato, curcuma, coloring, etc. It's been a staple in some parts of Colombia for over 50 years. It is typically used for soups, stews and marinades for chicken, but may be used with beans and lentils. It may not be that easy to find in your area, so I listed most of the ingredients if you wish to try to approximate it (but it won't be the same). The closest commercial seasoning, one that is also more readily available, would be "Sazon Goya con Azafran". Note that both these products contain coloring agents, so they're not highly commendable. Of course, you can just use your own latin or mexican spices or spice mix, or not employ any seasoning in your beans. (Which would make for very dull beans...).


1 cup dried red, or kidney, or navy or pinto beans (or 2 cans of beans)
1 cup uncooked rice
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large clove garlic, chopped
1 small red chile pepper seeded and chopped (opt)
olive oil
1 bay leaf
1/2 tablespoon tomato paste
1 T Triguisar (or alternative, see notes)
salt and freshly ground black pepper


RICE: Rinse rice until water is clear, and let drain in sieve during the rest of the cooking process, so that the rice becomes dry, and the grains more separate once cooked. Once dry, sauté half a large onion in a pan or pot in olive oil on med. until just barely browned, add the drained rice and cook for one or two minutes, stirring to prevent sticking. Season with salt (optionally adding a bit of garlic powder or instead, garlic salt, leaving the rice white!). Add water to cover the rice by about 1/4", and let it boil until the water evaporates into the rice. Then reduce heat to low, and cover pan. When the grains on top are just cooked al denté (about 12-15 min.), rice is ready.

BEANS: If using dried beans, you can prepare them by soaking 8+hrs, then cook til just soft, according to the type of bean. A faster method would be to soften/cook them in a pressure cooker. (Fill pressure cooker with water to fill line, turn heat on high and boil water uncovered, turn heat off and place in dried beans along with a bit of vegetable oil. Leave sitting for 15-20 minutes, turn heat back on high to get pressure up and pressure cook on low heat for 35-40 minutes; drain, rinse). If using canned beans, you're ready to go.

VEGETABLES: In a med. size sauce pot (preferably cast iron) on med. low heat, sauté the other half of a large onion and garlic in olive oil (chili pepper as well, if you prefer) til transparent but not browned. To this, add the softened/cooked beans, and some of the water it was soaking/cooking in, barely enough to cover. Add Triguisar (or similar seasoning), salt, coarse black pepper, bay leaf, and optionally, tomato paste or ketchup. Cover the pot, cook simmering on low, stirring occasionally, while the sauce thickens. Once the bean sauce is thick and creamy (about 15 minutes), the beans are ready.

Serve with salad or, if going for broke, serve the beans and rice with a fried hamburger or steak, and a single fried egg with pepper, along with some green salad.

"Red beans and rice from kitchen windows
It's suppertime and the barrio is dark

- Paul Simon

"I Was Born In Puerto Rico"
Songs From The Capeman


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