Friday, May 22, 2009

Gallo Pinto and Happy Accidents

Over at Casual Kitchen, Dan’s first rule of cooking from a book is this: read the recipe twice before you even think of approaching an oven.

And he’s right. It can’t be overstated. Scanning a recipe multiple times ensures you have all the ingredients on hand, the time to make everything, technical clarity, and no last-minute surprises. (“Crap! I needed a lime?”) Conversely, not reading instructions twice (or at all) can have horrific results, like disease, war, or – god forbid - Sandra Lee’s Kwanzaa Cake.

Occasionally, though, mistakes can’t be helped. You can memorize the damn thing, and still confuse a chop for a mince, a teaspoon for a tablespoon, or an onion for a Funion.

Case in point: Gallo Pinto. It’s a jazzed-up Costa Rican version of rice and beans, and Serious Eats recently posted a not-quite-authentic-but-much-faster recipe for it on their blog. The picture looked tasty and colorful, so I copied it into Word and went to town.

Stupidly, despite reading the directions approximately 400 times, I used a CAN of beans (with liquid) in my pot instead of a CUP. Yikes. This made the dish much wetter than it was supposed to be, and threatened to turn supper into a Waterworld-caliber disaster.

Then, something funny happened. Panicked, I added an extra 1/2-cup of rice and a few more seconds of cooking time, and *POOF* the food morphed into something completely, wonderfully edible. It was a little moister, I think, than the original recipe, but deliciousness nonetheless. Victory was snatched from the jaws of defeat, and dinner was saved.

Of course, if you should try it yourself, know the following:

1) Sometimes cilantro can seem kind of extraneous, but in this case, I really thought it was vital to the dish. A small handful at the end brightens up the whole shebang.

2) Gallo Pinto’s been taste-tested and approved for an office lunch, meaning it transports well and is just as good cold as it is warm.

3) I wondered if throwing four tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce into the mix would be insane, but went ahead with it anyway. Surprise! It melded quite nicely, bestowing a unexpected smoky flavor on everything.

4) Vegetarians and vegans! If you want to make this a non-meat dish, simply substitute vegetarian Worcestershire sauce in for the regular stuff.

5) This is a full, weeknight-appropriate meal. No need for a side or a salad, though a glass of wine makes all good food even better.

Ultimately, you should still peruse recipes as thoroughly as possible before stepping foot into your kitchen. But if you mess up, don’t worry. Everyone makes mistakes. And at least it’s not Kwanzaa Cake.

Gallo Pinto
Serves 3
Adapted from Serious Eats

1 tablespoon canola oil
1 onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1-1/2 cups cooked rice
1 can black beans, with liquid
4 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce (or Salsa Lizano)
Salt and black pepper
Handful of cilantro, chopped

1) In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and red pepper. Saute 10 minutes. Add garlic. Cook 30 to 60 seconds, until fragrant. Add beans and Worcestershire sauce. Stir thoroughly. Cook 3 minutes. If it gets dry (which it shouldn't, with the bean liquid), add water. Add rice. Stir. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve topped with cilantro.

Approximate Calories, Fat, and Price Per Serving
310 calories, 5.7 g fat, $1.40

1 tablespoon canola oil: 124 calories, 14 g fat, $0.07
1 onion, chopped: 46 calories, 0.1 g fat, $0.26
1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and chopped: 43 calories, 0.5 g fat, $1.38
2 cloves garlic, chopped: 9 calories, 0 g fat, $0.10
1-1/2 cups cooked rice: 307 calories, 0.8 g fat, $0.18
1 can black beans, with liquid: 350 calories, 1.8 g fat, $0.85
4 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce: 50 calories, 0 g fat, $0.88
Salt and black pepper: negligible calories and fat, $0.02
Handful of cilantro, chopped: negligible calories and fat, $0.45
TOTAL: 929 calories, 17.2 g fat, $4.19
PER SERVING (TOTAL/3): 310 calories, 5.7 g fat, $1.40

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Emily said...

Hi, I like your blog. It`s rich in content. Could you tell me your email address so that I can send you an email? thanks.

Liz C said...

I fell in love with Gallo Pinto on a trip to Costa Rica last year. I brought back a bottle of Salsa Lizano, started trying to make it at home, and finally ended up with a version of the recipe that suited me. It's very similar to yours and Serious Eats, of course, since there are only so many ways to combine the ingredients. I do drain off maybe half of the bean liquid and use stock or water though.

I want to try it with home-cooked beans. I think that would make a huge difference.

When I run out of Salsa Lizano it will be time to go back to Costa Rica!

Liz C said...

p.s. Since I am one of those to whom cilantro tastes like soap, I use fresh parsley instead. :)

Rebecca said...

I spent three months in Costa Rica in college. As tasty as Gallo Pinto can be, after three months of rice and beans, three meals a day, I got home and didn't want to see rice OR beans in ANYTHING for quite a while.

Veronica said...

Mmm, you had me sold with cilantro!

Ilana said...

I volunteered this past winter in Nicaragua, and we ate gallo pinto for nearly three meals a day. Like Rebecca, when I got home I never wanted to see another grain of rice or another bean again...but now I think I should make some gallo pinto.

Rachel B. said...

The first time I tried this recipe, I doubted the wisdom of 4 tbsps of worcestershire sauce and used maybe one. The result was very very boring! My second time through, I followed the recipe. So much better!

Rachel said...

Delicious. Made it twice this week. Once for a vegetarian friend coming over...two days later just for ME.
You are revolutionizing my collegiate culinary experience, THANK YOU!

Carol said...

It sounds like a delicious meal. Will definitely try this out this weekend. Who doesn't want an accident if it's as good as this?!

Recetas said...

It looks very good!