Monday, June 7, 2010

Yep, This is Its Real Name: Moors and Christians (a.k.a. Spanish Black Beans and Rice)

Later today on Serious Eats: Tabbouleh Salad. It’s like tabbouleh, but way better, and less likely to get caught between your teeth.

I’m always a little surprised when a recipe – any recipe - doesn’t work out. It's a recipe. It's supposed to have been tried and liked by other people, right?

Usually, I figure the problem is with me. Either I did something wrong, or my taste buds aren’t properly aligned with the rest of the world’s. Like, “Chicken and Broccoli Pasta at All Recipes and Orangette’s Butternut Squash Puree rate extraordinarily well with the whole universe. What’s wrong with my mouth?

Case in point: Today was supposed to be about Strawberry Gazpacho.


I made it, and it wasn’t good. Not terrible. Not awful. Nowhere near as bad as Dan in Real Life, which made me loathe my otherwise beloved Steve Carell for a full 90 minutes. In fact, the gazpacho lay just north of edible. But still – not good.

Fortunately, I had three friends to back me up on this one. Their verdict: the strawberries clashed with the garlic, and despite being completely ripe, never really asserted themselves. The soup had a weird consistency. Chopped green bell pepper, a relatively minor ingredient, left a strange aftertaste. The dish didn’t seem to have a dominant flavor, other than ... pink.

It’s surprising, because the recipe came from this week’s issue of New York Magazine. Created by Daniel Humm of Eleven Madison Park, a four-star restaurant in Manhattan, it looked to be a winner. And hey - if you’re gonna try a dish with no reader reviews, you can’t do better than one with that pedigree.

Ennnh. Wrong.

So, in a rush last night, I opted for ol’ reliable: Mark “The Minimalist” Bittman. (Note: Prospective wrestlers, this is a terrible nickname.) I almost always love his food, and we reference his How to Cook Everything tome pretty much everyday around here. Once again, he came up big.

Moors and Christians is a flashy name for Spanish Black Beans and Rice. Bittman explains the origin as follows: “The Muslim Moors ruled devoutly Christian Spain for seven centuries; what else should the world’s best-known bicolor dish be called?” The prominence of red and green goes mysteriously unmentioned, but we’ll assume both parties enjoyed rose gardens.

As for the food itself, the beans are the stars of the show, and can be made with or without the rice. Garlicky, savory, and possessing a pleasantly smooth chew, they wouldn’t be out of place in a burrito, either. Paired with the rice (Any rice. Pick a rice.), they become a full meal. Husband-Elect backs me up on this one, so you can trust my tongue here. (Er ... that sounded dirtier than I meant.)

Ultimately, so what if I'm not always on the same culinary wavelength as the rest of the planet? It's a dish like this - simple, satisfying, lacking a horrifying strawberry/garlic combination -  that reassure me that my taste buds aren't wiggedy-wacked to hell. Hopefully, it'll do the same for you.


If you like this recipe, you might also find yourself elated for:

Moors and Christians (Spanish Black Beans and Rice)
Makes 4 to 6 gigantic servings.
Adapted from How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman.

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, chopped
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 large cloves garlic, minced
3 cups canned black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup canned or fresh diced tomatoes
1 cup broth, bean juice, or water
1/2 cup parsley, chopped

1) In a large, skillet heat olive oil over medium heat. When warm, add onion and bell pepper. Salt and pepper to taste. Cook 8 to 10 minutes, until pretty soft, stirring occasionally.

2) Jack heat up to medium-high. Add garlic, beans, tomatoes, and broth/water/bean juice. Stir. Cook 10 to 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. By the end, beans should be softer and most of the liquid should evaporate. (Note: This took me a full 25 minutes. YMMV.)

3) Kill heat. Add parsley and stir to combine. If necessary, add more salt and pepper to taste. Serve on top of rice.

Approximate Calories, Fat, Fiber, Protein, and Price Per Serving
Four servings: 205 calories, 4.3 g fat, 11.4 g fiber, 11.9 g protein, $0.85
Six servings: 137 calories, 2.9 g fat, 7.6 g fiber, 7.9 g protein, $0.57

NOTE: I used vegetable broth for my version. The calculations reflect that choice.
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil: 119 calories, 13.5 g fat, 0 g fiber, 0 g protein, $0.12
1 medium onion, diced: 46 calories, 0.1 g fat, 1.5 g fiber, 1 g protein, $0.45
1 red bell pepper, chopped: 31 calories, 0.4 g fat, 2.5 g fiber, 1.2 g protein, $0.46
Kosher salt: negligible calories, fat, fiber, and protein, $0.01
Freshly ground black pepper: negligible calories, fat, fiber, and protein, $0.01
2 large cloves garlic, minced: 9 calories, 0 g fat, 0.1 g fiber, 0.4 g protein, $0.10
3 cups canned black beans, drained and rinsed: 540 calories, 3 g fat, 36 g fiber, 42 g protein, $1.22
1 cup canned or fresh diced tomatoes: 50 calories, 0 g fat, 4 g fiber, 2 g protein, $0.25
1 cup vegetable broth: 15 calories, 0 g fat, 0.5 g fiber, 0 g protein, $0.33
1/2 cup parsley, chopped: 11 calories, 0.2 g fat, 1 g fiber, 0.9 g protein, $0.45
TOTAL: 821 calories, 17.2 g fat, 45.6 g fiber, 47.5 g protein, $3.40
PER SERVING (TOTAL/4): 205 calories, 4.3 g fat, 11.4 g fiber, 11.9 g protein, $0.85
PER SERVING (TOTAL/6): 137 calories, 2.9 g fat, 7.6 g fiber, 7.9 g protein, $0.57

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Anonymous said...

Funny thing: beans in Spain are called *judías*, which can also be translated as (female) Jews. So it's a very ecumenical dish.

Valerie said...

Hooray! I put black beans on the soak this morning for a yet-to-be-determined meal and this fits the bill perfectly. Can't wait!

Jill said...

Spanish kids also used to play "Moors and Christians" instead of "Cowboys and Indians." Not sure if that is still true. I mean when was the last time you heard of anyone playing "Cowboys and Indians"?
Recipe looks tasty.

Jennifer said...

I loves me some Bittman, but that doesn't look like any Moros and Cristianos I've ever seen or eaten. The beans and the rice are supposed to be all mixed up together. That's kind of the point, that the cultures mixed. Otherwise, it's just plain old (delicious) black beans and rice.

Kristen@TheFrugalGirl said...

My goodness...strawberries and garlic sounds like an absolutely disgusting combination! lok

Colin said...

I've been burned by recipes out of a book too. Which brings me to Cas Clarke's Chick Peas with Banana and Mango, out of The Essential Student Cookbook. I liked her Chick Pea Curry, so I took her at her word when she said it was "utterly delicious". The author's comment where she wondered why she hadn't thought of the combination before should have tipped me off.

Take bananas, chick peas, yoghurt and hot mango chutney, mix and heat very gently to avoid separating. Serve over rice.

...and be appalled by how much it looks like a plate of vomit. Gingerly taste it and be repulsed by the cloying sweetness when you realise the chutney wasn't spicy enough. Then be hit by the sourness of the yoghurt and the salty, vinegary aftertaste that the chutney added. Try to finish it, as it's your dinner, but end up throwing it in the bin.

Daniel said...

There's nothing wrong with your mouth. You've just stumbled on further proof that food "experts" aren't always so expert after all.

Casual Kitchen

PS: Nice reference to Kris Kross.

midwestgrrl said...

I am making this right now! Live commenting as I cook! :)

Mattheous @ Menu Musings said...

Er, isn't 'moor' an old word for black people from Shakespeare's time?

Also: Strawberries and garlic? Why would anyone think that's a good combination!? There is definately NOTHING wrong with your mouth.