The Caribbean “Rice & Beans”

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Just before we left for Costa Rica, my best friend gave me a food challenge: To prepare a meal based on local ingredients using only the equipment available at our disposal.

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Luckily for us, our base camp on the Caribbean coast, Alby Lodge, had a communal kitchen 7 times the size of our tiny cubicle in the Big Apple. So the joke’s on my BFF! Not so much of a challenge…puhahahaha (***as I twirl my evil mustache***).

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Our private thatched-roof hut sat in the midst of a lush rainforest setting with troops of monkeys swinging from tree to tree directly above our heads. And I mean “directly above our heads”.
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In fact, one morning as we were sipping on a cup of coffee on our little porch, we suddenly heard a crackling sound and in the blink of an eye, a branch fell to the ground next to us along with a monkey scurrying quickly across the grass to seek refuge in a more stable tree.

Another morning, we discovered a Jackson Pollock-type masterpiece on the entire exterior of our rental SUV… but substitute the colorful oil paints for monkey feces. That’s right folks, when you park under a tree in the rainforest, it won’t be bird doo doo plastered all over your car. And is it wrong that I’m talking about animal feces in a food blog?!
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Okay, I digress. Back to the BFF Food Challenge. Like I said, it was quite the luxury to have such a spacious kitchen with THREE gas stove tops! Here in Manhattan, we’re slumming it with two teeny tiny electric burners. And although our lodge was situated in a natural monkey habitat, just a five-minute stroll on a gravel path led us to the village market stocked with enough ingredients to create a delicious meal.
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I decided to try my hand at one of the local staples they simply call “rice and beans”.  The obviously stated ingredients are simmered in coconut milk which adds a unique dimension to this Caribbean dish. Fortunately, our gracious host allowed me to quickly research on the internet any other ingredients that may be included. And unfortunately, I overlooked the small detail about the length of cooking time for the beans. Not extremely well versed in legumes, I failed to realize that it would take 2 hours for the beans to become tender.
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And when you’re on vacation, who wants to spend 2 hours babysitting a pot of beans? Not us. So we ate them… al dente. Very al dente.

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I also threw in a few peppers for a little kick. Except these were actually habañeros, unbeknownst to me, of course. Apparently I had culinary brain fart that day. So I innocently scratched my cheek after slicing a few of these bad boys which then sent a burning sensation on my entire face for about thirty minutes. And during those thirty minutes, I spent fishing out the diced segments of fire balls from the pot of simmering rice in fear of the same repercussions on our taste buds.
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Aside from my international Culinary Musings bloopers, our home-cooked dinner was truly unforgettable.
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We accompanied our less-than-perfect “rice and beans” with freshly caught grilled mackerel and shrimp skewers bought from a fisherman in Puerto Viejo.

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After dinner, we sipped on our glass of Costa Rican rum with freshly crushed pineapple while the howler monkeys and frogs serenaded us.
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We were in paradise.
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Ingredients:

2 cups long grain rice
1 14 oz. can kidney beans, drained (this is the shortcut version)
1 14 oz. can coconut milk
2 1/2 cups water
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 large shallot, minced
1/2 habañero pepper, seeded and diced
1 tsp paprika
3 whole cloves
salt & pepper to taste
vegetable oil
  1. In a dutch oven or cast iron pot, saute garlic and shallots with vegetable oil over low heat. Once the shallots begin to wilt, stir in cloves, rice, beans, coconut milk, water and paprika. Season with salt and pepper. Bring mixture to a boil.
  2. Once it comes to a boil, stir in the habañero and lower heat. Cover with a lid and simmer until all the liquid is absorbed, approximately 25 minutes. When the rice is done, remove from heat and keep the lid on for another 5 minutes. Fluff rice with a fork and serve hot.

22 Responses to “The Caribbean “Rice & Beans””

  • Joan Nova Says:

    What fabulous photos, particularly the 2 bbq shots! Also a beautiful presentation for the rice + beans.

  • Tasty Trix Says:

    I don’t think there’s ever a wrong place to talk about poo … but then, that’s me. Too funny about the “al dente” beans. You’ll know better for next time! What a beautiful environment for your trip (poo notwithstanding).

  • Alison Says:

    Hi Dhale!

    This is Alison, who you met on your first night in CR. It looks like you had a great time on the Caribbean Coast. Zach and I need to go there next time. Tell Pierre hi for me! It was really fun hanging out with the two of you!

    Alison

  • Sook @ My Fabulous Recipes Says:

    Oh lovely pictures, there! I love the way you presented your delicious rice and beans!

  • "One Mum" Says:

    Fabuleuses photos, délicieux commentaire…
    On s’y croirait dans ce petit paradis terrestre et on s’installerait presque sous les arbres, bercés par le cri de nos amis les singes, encensés par l’odeur du barbecue…

  • grace Says:

    gorgeously-plated mess o’ beans! this is something i’d really like.
    now, an important question: does monkey poo dent one’s car? :)

  • "One Dad" Says:

    It’s really a paradise on earth! Your pictures are so beautiful and the text so funny!
    I taste the delicious smell of the fish on the BBQ, and I hear the monkeys in the trees…
    I’d like to be there in a second live… maybe in the trees…

  • Richelle Says:

    Simply amazing!! I always look forward to your new blog entries. Everything looked amazing and yummy (as usual). LOVE IT!

  • Lazaro Says:

    Saw your profile on food buzz. Glad I read your blog. Look forward to following you here. Cheers!

  • Joy Says:

    Dhale I love your blog. The place you stayed at in Costa Rica looks amazing — I loved that yall stayed in bungalows opposed to a commercial hotel. Love all the pictures, love this post i just LOVE IT ALL!!!!

  • RV Says:

    Your vacation pics are awesome Dhale, I love that lily pic and the grill one

  • Dhale @ Culinary Musings Says:

    @Joan: Costa Rica is a wonderful place to do a photo shoot…. the scenery does all the work for you :) Thank you so much!

  • Dhale @ Culinary Musings Says:

    @Tasty Trix: Glad to know that poo is not off the discussion table during dinner time at the Trix house ;) And yes, I’ve learned my lesson with the beans. Always buy the canned ones when you don’t have two hours to cook!

  • Dhale @ Culinary Musings Says:

    @Alison: Hey there! Pierre and I were so glad to have met both you and Zach on our first night in Costa Rica. We had a blast hanging out with you guys and sharing a couple bottles of rum together, though you may not remember some of it since you fell asleep ;) Hope to see you guys for a visit in NYC soon and our doors are always open :)

  • Dhale @ Culinary Musings Says:

    @Sook: Thanks! We used the pineapple for our rum cocktail and I couldn’t waste a perfectly good serving platter ;)

  • joo! Says:

    Yay! More pictures please! I am obsessed! Bobby and I are heading over there this November – I can’t wait! P.S. Great job with the al dente rice and beans – they still look delicious!

  • Dhale @ Culinary Musings Says:

    @One Mum: Nous avons passé de belles vacances! Nos amis les singes sont trop mignon. Nous voudrions vous avoir avec nous! Vous nous manquez… Gros bisous à de nous deux

  • Dhale @ Culinary Musings Says:

    @Grace: No dents from monkey poo. But it does cover a great deal of surface area!

  • Dhale @ Culinary Musings Says:

    @One Dad: Nous avons bien ri de votre nom “One Dad”! Nous avons été vraiment au paradis avec nos amis les singes. Si vous avez été dans les arbres, ce serait dangereux parce que nous avons vu un singe tomber d’un arbre!

    Gros bisous à de nous deux!

  • Dhale @ Culinary Musings Says:

    @Richelle: Thank you SOOO much :) Still waiting for the premier of your baking blog ;)

  • Dhale @ Culinary Musings Says:

    @Lazaro: Thanks so much for stopping by and hope to see you on here more often :) Bon appétit!

  • Dhale @ Culinary Musings Says:

    @Joo: I’m sure Bobby is super excited to finally share with you one of his most favorite places ever! We need to catch up! I know, I’m a bad friend, I owe you a phone call!

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