Thursday, October 9, 2008

Veggie Might: Nuyorican Beans & Rice and Lucky 13 en Nueva York

Written by the fabulous Leigh, Veggie Might is a weekly Thursday column about all things Vegetarian.

Like many New York transplants, I mark the anniversary of my arrival like a major milestone. Being in New York a certain length of time is a badge of honor; it somehow denotes you a survivor, even if the worst you’ve come across is roaches and high rent.

This year was the most major, not just because, duh, the most years have ticked off, but because I’ve now lived in New York longer than each of my two home states: 12 years in Ohio, 12 years in North Carolina, and now 13 years in New York.

To celebrate the crossing over, I did some of my favorite New York stuff: ate out in my international ‘hood, saw musical theater, and shopped thrift. At the New York Musical Theatre Festival, I saw a friend’s terrific show, Jason & Ben. On the anniversary day, I saw In the Heights with my girl JB and our other girl, Britney. And Saturday, I went to my favorite thrift store with CH and scored some great pants. In between, I ate excellent Thai, Ethiopian, and Italian food.

Caught up in the New York state of mind, my plan was to share with you one of the first New York recipes I learned with the CHG twist. And then something even more New Yorky happened.

Get Me a Plumber, a playlet

L: Hi, V. This is Leigh in 2R.

V: Has the plumber called you?

L: No. It’s been two days. I can’t use my shower and now the kitchen sink is backing up into the tub.

V: Oh. Well, I’ll call them again.

L: Can they come in the morning before I go to work?

V: No, they won’t come before 10. They’re in the Bronx.

L: V, can I just stress that I have to go to work, and I haven’t been able to use my shower in two days.

V: (not getting it) I know. But they won’t come before 10.

L: No, V, I mean I haven’t been able to use my shower in two days, and if they don’t come tomorrow...

V: Oh. OH! I’ll call them right now and have them call you.

They still haven’t called.

Though plumbing prevents me from cooking the dish at all, let alone with the new spin (cooking = dishes = washing = more grossness in my tub), I can still share it with you. On its own, it meets all of CHG’s criteria, but I planned to DIY the store-bought spice combos. And, I can’t grace you with my bad photographic accompaniment.

I’ve made this dish so often over the years, I can smell and taste it just thinking about it.

It’s my friend MMP’s mom’s recipe, a Nuyorican suppertime staple. (“Nu-yor-ican” is Spanglish for Nueva York/Puerto Rican.) She served me this dish at her home, and I had to have the recipe.

She shared it under the condition that I once I practiced it a few times, I had to serve it to her. I was petrified when she came to my apartment for a tasting, but it was a success. It’s best served the next day, after the flavors have a chance to meld, and it goes great with sliced tomato and corn on the side. It’s tangy, mild, and just takes like home.

In case you’re unfamiliar with some of the ingredients, here’s a quick glossary.
  • Sazón—spice packets containing salt, garlic powder, cumin, coriander, and annatto
  • Recaito—comes frozen or in a jar alongside condiments; it’s a mixture of cilantro, onion, green peppers, and garlic into something of a relish. The frozen will keep forever in the freezer.
  • Adobo—spice mixture that typically contains salt, garlic, onion, black pepper, oregano, coriander, and turmeric; comes in a shaker
As soon as my tub is fixed, I will present a side-by-side comparison of this recipe prepared with the store-bought spices and their homemade counterparts. But in the meantime, if you have these items in your pantry or want to (they’re yummy, if a little high in sodium) give this a go. Ay mami, it’s so good, and so Nueva York.

Nuyorican Beans and Rice
Serves 6

1 29 oz can pink/pinto beans
1 pkt sazón w/culantro y achiote
1 tbsp recaíto
1 tbsp olive or corn oil:
1 diced potato:
1 clove crushed garlic:
2/3 can tomato sauce (8 oz can)
salt and pepper to taste negligible calories and fat, $.04
adobo to taste negligible calories and fat, $.02

1 cup uncooked white rice
2 cup water

Cook rice to package directions or as follows. P.S. Here’s a handy little rice cooking chart courtesy of the USA Rice Federation.

1) Add rice to boiling water and bring to a boil again.

2) Reduce heat to medium and simmer until rice is tender (about 15–20 minutes for 1 cup white rice). Add more water if necessary.

While rice is cooking...

1) Combine beans, potato, sazon, recaito, garlic, oil, and tomato sauce in large saucepan or stew pot.

2) Add enough water to just cover the beans.

3) Add salt and pepper, and adobo.

4) Cook 20 minutes or until potato is tender.

5) Serve with rice on the side. It’s even better the next day.

Approximate Calories, Fat, and Price per Serving:
255.7 calories, 3.4g fat, $.52

1 29 oz can pink habichuelas: 640 calories, 5.5g fat, $1.59
1 packet sazón w/culantro y achiote: negligible calories and fat, $.13
1 tbsp recaito: negligible calories and fat, $.10
1 tbsp olive or corn oil: 120 calories, 14g fat, $0.08
1 diced potato: 131 calories, .15g fat, $.10
1 clove crushed garlic: 4.2 calories, 0g fat, $.012
2/3 can tomato sauce: 39 calories, 0g fat, $.46
salt and pepper to taste negligible calories and fat, $.04
adobo to taste negligible calories and fat, $.02
1 cup uncooked white rice: 600 calories, 1g fat, $.48
Totals: 1534 calories, 20.5g fat, $3.12
Per Serving: 255.7 calories, 3.4g fat, $.52

(Photos courtesy of Flickr members caruba and lorihighfill. )

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Jaime said...

Leigh, this sounds awesome! Are there versions of Sazon and all that other stuff that come without MSG? As a major cilantro fan, I was *very* intrigued by Recaito, until I read the ingredients.

Well, at the very least, this means I'm really looking forward to your spices-from-scratch version.

Also, how does one get started thrift-shopping in this giant city? I have no idea where to start...

Stephanie said...

I like beans about any way, but that sounds perfect! Cilantro and garlic! YUM!

Natalie said...

Wow I have been to NY City (last time was '98 though and would love to go again. I have never had Ethiopion food though. Is it spicy or what? Sounds very interesting. Love spicy foods:)
Slick Mom
I Love My 3 Boys

Leigh said...

Thanks y'all.

Yeah, I'm with you on the MSG thing. I had no idea how laden with the stuff they were until recently. Stay tuned for the recipes with whole ingredients.

Natalie, come visit again. NYC is always fun. Ethiopian food is so delicious, and yes, it's spicy. The primary flavor combo is called berbere and is made up of chili, coriander, clove, and mystery. It's fun to eat too - no utensils, you eat it with a fermented bread called injera. Soooo good.