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Gallo Pinto, Sort-Of

January 11, 2011

I know I can’t be the only one, but the end of the holidays really bums me out, especially in terms of cooking. Coming off of an eating-fest that started with Halloween candy, sailed through a sea of Thanksgiving gravy, and culminated atop a pile of Christmas cookies, January is utterly uninspiring. After months of feasting, January is the month when everyone diets.

I have a couple of strategies when it comes to food-doldrums. The first is rice and bean burritos: I always have the ingredients and they are always satisfying, if a little dull. The second is breakfast: no one objects to pancakes for dinner (or bacon and eggs, for that matter.) Both of these back-up plans are quick to prepare, so it’s ok if I’m hemming and hawing over what to make until the last possible minute.

The less lazy strategy is to pose a challenge to myself. Usually, it takes the form of a dish I know really well, and an attempt to improve on it.

Gallo Pinto is a dish I know really well, ever since I spent a Summer living in Costa Rica. I really appreciate a country where the national dish is a bowl of rice and beans, especially when it’s alongside some of the best fruit and veggies I’ve ever had. It’s also served for breakfast, so Gallo Pinto is a combination of my two back-up plans.

At its most basic, Gallo Pinto is leftover rice and black beans reheated together in a skillet. (The name, meaning “Painted Rooster,” comes from the dish’s resemblance to a speckled bird.) After doing a little internet research, I’m not sure there is a “traditional” way to make this dish – everyone seems to have their own take, and I’ve definitely come up with my own over the years.

The quinoa was a new addition this time, and it serves to make an already healthy dish even healthier. See, I can cook in January.

First there’s a lot of chopping to do: red onion, garlic, jalapeño, and red bell pepper. (Yellow bell is also great in this, and makes it a bit sweeter.)

Heat olive oil in a pot and throw in the veggies. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring, until the onions start to brown, 10-15 minutes.

Add in cumin, coriander, and allspice, along with salt and pepper. Stir for a minute or two.

Add quinoa and stir to toast.

Add (there seems to be a lot of adding going on here) water and bring to a simmer for 15 minutes until the water is absorbed and the quinoa cooked.

Nothing special to cook the black beans. I just soaked them overnight and boiled them with an onion and 2 crushed cloves of garlic in the cooking water. I doubt bean-water garlic will be featured in any fancy restaurants, but this was a fantastic snack, spread on some bread.

Once the quinoa is done, stir in cooked black beans, cilantro and lime juice.

Serve with eggs if you’re in a hungry mood, or fruit if you’re on a January diet. Or both!

Gallo Pinto with Quinoa

Serves 2

1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 small red onion, diced
1 small red (or yellow) bell pepper, diced
1 jalapeño, finely diced
1 large garlic clove, minced

½ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon ground coriander
⅛ teaspoon ground allspice
⅛ teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
⅔ cup quinoa
1⅓ Cup water

1 cup cooked black beans
1 heaping Tablespoon chopped cilantro
1 Tablespoon lime juice

1. Heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions, peppers and garlic and sauté until onions are soft and start to brown, 10-15 minutes.
2. Add spices, salt, pepper and stir for a minute. Add quinoa and stir for another minute to toast.
3. Add water, cover and bring to a simmer. Simmer on medium-low heat until the water is absorbed, about 15 minutes.
4. Stir in beans, cilantro and lime juice. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until beans are cooked through. Enjoy with slices of avocado or mango and extra cilantro on top.

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