The sun is making its way behind the brick building next door, Alex is sleeping after a ‘late morning’ at work and I can smell dinner percolating in the crockpot.
I started out to make chili, but slowly migrated to the Caribbean and decided to make, as my father called it, “Rice and Beans”. My dad was not a terrific cook, but he was unfailingly charming and confident at the stove, making this soupy red dish for us over and over again, each time calling it by a different name.
“Rice and Beans”
“Beans and Rice”
“Rice and Red Meat”
“Beans and Red Sauce”
“Red Sauce with Potatoes and Beans”
“Red Beans with Meat and Sauce over Sticky Rice”
“White Rice, Red Beans and Meat Sauce”
And so on. You get the idea.
I haven’t had this meal in many years and although I was tempted to run simply on my native Puerto Rican instinct and ‘wing it’, I decided to do an internet search instead. Smart lady.
It’s a little complicated, and I found myself scribbling notes on my legal pad as if my life depended on it, you really need to prepare quite a bit before you can actually get your pots dirty with the actual meal. I needed to make Sofrito – a sauteed seasoning made from vegetables and herbs, and Sason – another seasoning blend made from herbs. I remember big batches of these being made in the kitchen, then packaged up and frozen in portions for future use. Ah so.
2 green peppers
2 cloves garlic
1 sweet red pepper
2 tomatoes (or some tomato sauce)
cilantro and parsley
All of this gets minced to death in the food processor before being sauteed in olive oil over medium heat – for a long time. No one really said exactly *how* long it should take, but I just cooked it until it seemed Done. Native Instinct – invaluable kitchen appliance that is severely underrated.
I admit, I was pretty tired of reading and ready to get cooking, so my notes simply have a barely intelligible list of ingredients and scratched out directions to the local recycling center (I got a little sidetracked…) I decided to add the herbs to the big pot when I was ready…
But now for the Meal. Into the crock pot went two cans of tomato sauce and one of water, four potatoes chunked into bite-sized pieces, three half cans of beans (a half of a can of pinto, a half a can of black eyed beans and a half a can of kidney) which had been carefully and thoroughly rinsed (always rinse your beans. Always.), one whole cup of the sofrito, a smattering of oregano and coriander (about a 1/2 tsp each), three bay leaves, a kiss, and then I covered it and left it to work.
Green Olives are a traditional addition, but my husband is opposed to them, so tradition was thrown to the wind and we had olive-less sauce. Meat is also optional, and if this is your option, chunks of stew beef would be usable. Brown them before adding to the sauce. Because everything should be just a little bit fried… just a little.
The Meat-less Red Sauce with Beans has been cooking for hours, and will continue to cook a while longer, until everything is soft and lovely. Then it will be served over sticky, greasy white rice. When I was much, much younger, my dad would form the ‘sticky’ rice into small balls and feed them to us like that. We loved it. My parents raised a bunch of rice fiends – to this day I consider it a staple, a necessity of Life itself.
There you have it. No matter which name you call it, it is a filling and delicious meal you will be sopping up off your plate with small balls of rice…