beans and black rice combine in a main dish that also
packs in poblanos, corn, red peppers, queso fresco and
friends and family who eat out almost every meal. I just can’t
do it — I enjoy cooking, but mostly I covet control of my
food dollars and my nourishment. For most weeknight dinners
and lunches, I rely on a well-stocked pantry. Fortunately,
today’s supermarkets offer such wide varieties of staples
that it’s simple to keep inspiring options on hand.
two overflowing shelves devoted to whole grains, rices,
lentils and dry beans. These relatively inexpensive building
blocks generate dozens of highly nutritious opportunities
full of lean protein and fiber. What’s more, they can
serve as a meatless meal, especially during Lent.
that barley and steel-cut oats fill the house with
comforting aromas. In less than 20 minutes, I can cook
organic freekeh (cracked roasted green wheat) or imported
roasted buckwheat groats into pots of nutty flavor ready for
a sprinkle of herbs and a dash of oil. Quinoa and bulgur
prove even faster.
stash of heirloom dried beans from Rancho Gordo (ranchogordo.com)
practically begs to be cooked. I happily oblige to the
benefit of weekday salads and Friday night bean dip.
my pantry: Farro, an ancient grain of the wheat family that’s
currently in vogue at many restaurants for its toothsome
texture and versatile nutty flavor. I like Italian pearled
farro (the outer husk has been removed) because it cooks to
plump kernels in about 15 minutes.
weekends, I’ll simmer long-cooking brown and wild rice,
dried beans and wheat berries for weekday convenience. Most
of the time, I simmer grains and beans in water so I can use
them for either sweet dishes (like hot breakfast cereal) or
savory sides, mains, soups, stews. A pinch of salt in the
cooking water always enhances the final flavor. For an easy,
transportable salad, season 2 cups of warm cooked grains or
beans (or a combination) with a couple of tablespoons of
your favorite vinaigrette, then pile over salad greens.
general, cooked beans and grains keep at least a week in the
refrigerator; most freeze fine. To retain their toothsome
texture, I drain the grains or beans and then lay them out
on a baking sheet for rapid cooling. Once they’re cool, I
pack meal-size (or individual lunch-size portions) in
containers with tight-fitting lids. Try mixing a couple of
different grains for great flavor and texture.
beans save the day on many occasions. But when I take the
time to cook dried beans, the flavor and textural
differences prove astounding. All you need is a saucepan,
water and 2 hours of largely unattended cooking to upgrade
this inexpensive protein powerhouse. No need to soak beans;
in fact, you’ll retain color and flavor if you skip
my favorite basic cooked beans method: Put 2 cups dried
(rinsed) beans in a large saucepan. Add 2 quarts water and 2
tablespoons olive oil (or bacon fat if you dare). Cook over
low heat, stirring often, until beans are nearly tender to
the bite, about 1 ½ hours. Stir in 1 teaspoon salt and
simmer until fully tender, another 10 to 20 minutes. Cool.
cue from all those quick-service restaurants and turn your
grains and beans into main-course "bowls." I love
to eat this way — a luscious, warm mound of goodness with
tidbits of flavor, texture and deliciousness added. I have
included two bowls — one inspired by tacos and based on
black beans and black rice. The other pairs farro with
sausage and broccoli rabe. Either can be adapted for Lent or
other vegetarian meals, since the meat is not essential to
these recipes as starting points — change the grain,
change the veg, add cheese, omit the chicken. You get it.
Then stay in an enjoy dinner at home.
BLACK BEAN AND RICE BOWL WITH CHICKEN AND POBLANOS
rice, like the Heirloom Forbidden Rice by Lotus Foods, makes
this dish look super dramatic. Easiest rice ever? Cook 2
cups rice with 3 cups water in a rice cooker. Turn cooked
rice out onto a baking sheet to cool so you can pack it in
medium zucchini, halved lengthwise, sliced 1/4-inch thick
medium poblano peppers
canned crushed tomatoes or 1 can (14.5 ounces) small diced
tablespoons chili powder
drained, cooked black beans or 1 can (15 ounces) black
beans, rinsed, drained
cups cooked rice (such as black rice or long grain brown
corn kernels, thawed
large red bell pepper, seeded, cut into small dice
green onions, trimmed, thinly sliced
shredded cooked chicken
cup thinly sliced fresh cilantro
queso fresco, mild goat cheese or farmer’s cheese
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Put sliced zucchini on a baking
sheet. Add 1 or 2 tablespoons oil; toss to coat it with the
oil. Sprinkle lightly with salt. Bake, stirring once or
twice, until tender and slightly golden, about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, set poblanos directly over a gas flame or under
the broiler. Cook, turning occasionally, until peppers are
lightly charred on all sides, 2 to 5 minutes. Set on a plate
and cover with a towel; let rest until cool enough to
handle. Rub off the charred skin, remove the seeds and pith.
Cut peppers into 1/2-inch pieces.
poblanos and tomatoes in bottom of a large microwave-safe
bowl. Stir in chili powder and 1 teaspoon salt; mix well.
Stir in beans, rice, corn, bell pepper and green onions. Mix
well. Microwave on high, stirring once or twice, until
everything is warmed through, 2 to 4 minutes. Gently stir in
zucchini and chicken. Taste and adjust salt as needed.
Spoon into warm serving bowls. Sprinkle with cilantro and
cheese. Serve warm.
information per serving: 297 calories, 6 g fat, 1 g
saturated fat, 40 mg cholesterol, 41 g carbohydrates, 24 g
protein, 789 mg sodium, 10 g fiber
BOWL WITH ROASTED SWEET POTATOES, BROCCOLI RABE AND SAUSAGE
butternut can stand in for the sweet potatoes. Leftovers
reheat beautifully in the microwave. I like to serve them
warm over lightly dressed salad greens.
medium (1 pound) sweet potatoes, peeled, cut into 3/4-inch
tablespoons olive oil
ounces mild or spicy Italian sausage, casings removed
medium onion or 4 shallots, halved, thinly sliced
cloves garlic, finely chopped or crushed
pearled farro (about 12 ounces)
ounces broccoli rabe (rapini), ends trimmed, roughly
chopped, about 6 cups
2 to 4
cups baby arugula
1 to 2
cups shredded cheese, such as smoked Gouda, provolone or
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Mix sweet potatoes and oil on a
large baking sheet. Sprinkle lightly with salt. Roast,
stirring often, until tender and golden, about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, crumble sausage into a large skillet. Add onion;
cook over medium heat, breaking up sausage with a spoon,
until the sausage is browned and cooked through, about 10
minutes. Stir in garlic; cook, 1 minute.
Meanwhile, put farro and broth into a large saucepan. Heat
to a simmer; reduce heat to very low. Simmer uncovered and
stir often until nearly tender, about 15 minutes. Add
broccoli rabe; simmer until it is crisp-tender, about 2
minutes. Strain farro mixture into a colander set over a
bowl to catch the broth. (Recipe can be made to this point
up to 3 days in advance; refrigerate all the parts
drained farro mixture to skillet with sausage set over
medium heat. Stir in about 1/2 cup of the reserved cooking
broth and heat through; remove from heat. Stir in warm sweet
potatoes, arugula and crushed pepper flakes. Taste and
adjust salt as needed. Transfer to warm serving bowls.
Serve, sprinkled with cheese.
information per serving: 511 calories, 20 g fat, 7 g
saturated fat, 36 mg cholesterol, 62 g carbohydrates, 23 g
protein, 647 mg sodium, 8 g fiber
dinner bowls are easy to make if you have a few things
prepped in advance. Here are some goodies to keep in small
containers in the fridge, then combine to heat in a skillet
or in the microwave:
Cooked rices or grains
Cooked beans (or high-quality canned)
Roasted vegetables, such as squash, potatoes, Brussels
Green or red onions
Fully cooked sausages
Shelled nuts or seeds
Eggs: chopped hard-cooked, softly scrambled or fried