Somehow it’s almost been a year since my husband and I went on our honeymoon in Brazil. We’d actually planned our wedding date around the World Cup, making sure we got married in late May so that we could head down to the tournament in June. We started in cosmopolitan Rio and ended in a beautiful beach town, but in between we made a stop off the beaten path to the Pantanal, Brazil’s wetlands. The Pantanal is home to an amazing array of wildlife and beautiful scenery, but it’s certainly not your typical honeymoon spot. We were constantly surrounded by caiman (a kind of crocodile) and capybaras (the largest rodents in the world…) and seemed to go through a bottle of bug spray every day. Despite feeling like I was on a camping trip rather than a glamorous honeymoon, it turned out to be a lot of fun. And although the food was the most basic we had on the honeymoon, I ended up falling in love with the amazing simplicity of one dish: rice and beans. Its the kind of dish that everyone – vegetarians and meat-eaters alike – should have in their repertoire. This version, in which the beans are spiced with chipotle peppers and the rice is sweetened with coconut milk, is now my favorite way to have it.
This dish owes a lot to canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. Have you used them before? Equal parts spicy, sweet and smoky, it adds such incredible flavor to the beans in this dish. The spicy beans are tempered by the sweet rice and creamy avocado, and some fresh cilantro brightens everything up. With just a bit of chopping and some can-opening, you’ve got a filling and healthy meal on your hands.
I love using red kidney beans and pinto beans for a nice contrast in color, but feel free to use whatever you have on hand. The same goes for your choice of grain: I personally enjoy brown rice with the beans, but any sort of grain would be delicious. If you’re willing to peel fresh tomatoes, great – but if not, simply buy canned tomatoes. Really, this recipe is more of a blueprint that welcomes experimentation.
- For the rice:
- 1 cup brown rice
- 1 cup coconut milk
- 1 cup water
- Pinch salt
- For the beans:
- 1 tablespoon olive oil or coconut oil
- 1 red onion, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 4 medium tomatoes, peeled and roughly chopped (or 1 15 oz. can of peeled tomatoes, roughly chopped)
- 1 15 oz. can red kidney beans
- 1 15 oz. can pinto beans
- 1-2 slices of chipotle pepper from a can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce + 1-2 teaspoons of the sauce (depending on your spice tolerance)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 avocado, sliced
- About 4 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
- Combine the rice, coconut milk, water and salt in a large pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook until all of the liquid is absorbed.
- In the meantime, sautee the onion in the oil in a pot over medium heat. Cook for about five minutes, then add the garlic and tomatoes. Cook for about ten more minutes, or until the tomatoes are starting to soften and fall apart. Smash the tomatoes with the back of a spoon to break them up.
- Add the beans, chipotle pepper, adobo sauce and salt, starting with a small amount of pepper and sauce and then tasting the spice level. Add more until you have reached your desired level of spice. Cook for about 10 more minutes, until the beans are heated through and the tomatoes have become a sauce.
- Serve the rice and beans together with the avocado slices and fresh cilantro. Serve immediately.