Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Black Bean Bowls with Brown Rice, Sweet Corn Salsa & Spicy Chipotle Dressing

If I had to choose a single favorite "fast food," it wouldn't be chicken nuggets, burgers, or even fresh, hot french fries. It would be just about anything from Chipotle. My main faves are the salad (usually with chicken) and burrito bowls, but the dressing is the thing I really crave. So tonight I thought I would try making a burrito bowl with black beans, a sweet corn and cherry-tomato salsa, and a chipotle dressing experiment all over brown rice.

 Altogether, you will need:
1 (dry) cup brown rice
1 can black or pinto beans, or about 3/4 cup dry, soaked overnight and cooked
1 cup fresh or frozen corn
1 cup fresh tomato, chopped and seeded
1 handful of fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped
1 small can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (in the ethnic or Mexican food aisle)
1 teaspoon and 1 tablespoon lemon or lime juice, separated 
1 clove garlic, coarsely chopped 
1 teaspoon cumin
1 packet (about 1 teaspoon) of Truvia, Splenda, or white sugar (or an estimated 2 tsp brown sugar)
White, apple cider, red or rice wine vinegar
White and pale green part of 1 green onion, sliced
1 or 2 avocados for slicing, or guacamole
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

Beans & Rice
The black beans are super simple. I soaked some dry beans in the fridge overnight, and crock-potted them all day long on low. If you use this method, be sure to allow enough room in the soaking container for the beans to expand up to 50%, and cover with about two inches of water. Be sure to rinse your beans after soaking, and replace the water before crocking, again making sure there is at least enough to cover the beans with an inch of water.  When they're done, drain and let cool, then combine with about half of your chopped cilantro. I'll be honest, though: I'm just guessing at the "3/4 cup" business. I always make much more black beans than I think I will use in a particular recipe, because I love having some around for quick and easy salads with some chopped bell pepper, onion, cilantro and lemon juice, or some other concoction. This is a lunchtime life-saver.

If you're using canned beans, just rinse them super thoroughly before adding your cilantro and a little drizzle of olive oil. The rice, also, will be super easy: Just cook it according to package directions, adding a little salt and pepper. I like to serve everything on top of the rice, but you can combine the rice and beans if you prefer. I personally think that the rice should be warm, but you can serve the beans either warm or chilled. This might be dictated by your schedule, which probably means you're a busy person, in which case, look at you, hotshot! Good for you for cooking anyway.

Corn & Tomato Salsa
This is a fantastic way to use leftover corn-on-the-cob. Tomatoes have much, much more flavor at room temperature, so take them out an hour or so before making the salsa. For this recipe, you can use fresh or frozen corn, with any sort of fresh tomato that you have handy. If you choose frozen corn, add about a cup to boiling water and cook it for about two minutes. Drain and refrigerate for 10 minutes to a couple of hours before adding the tomatoes, depending on what fits best for your schedule. Combine the corn with a cup of chopped, seeded tomatoes, the green onion, a little salt and pepper, a small drizzle of olive oil and the teaspoon of lemon juice. Refrigerated, this salad-ish salsa will keep for a few days, but is definitely best when fresh.

Finally, the Dressing!
This is the fun part of this meal. I had never cooked anything with chipotle peppers, or adobo sauce before, but they are definitely the key to this recipe. I hear you can buy minced peppers in adobo. I used whole, but since I made this in a food processor, it didn't really matter. If you don't have a food processor or a blender, minced peppers are the way to go. Just whisk together a minced clove of garlic (instead of chopped), a couple tablespoons of olive oil, some salt and pepper, a couple teaspoons of vinegar, the powdered sweetener or sugar, cumin, and about a tablespoon of pepper-and-sauce mixture. You should finely chop the cilantro if you are using this method.

Some of you may be thinking, "Why would you put sugar in this dressing? Isn't it supposed to be spicy?", to which I would answer "Because I said so," and "Yes." Just kidding. I wouldn't say "because I said so." But yes, it is supposed to be hot. The sugar or sweetener enhances the flavor by slightly de-emphasizing the heat of the peppers, letting you focus more on the delicious flavorfulness of it. Isn't that handy?

I scooped up two whole peppers and the sauce mixture that came along with them. In a food processor, I blended the same ingredients as listed above. It was spicy. A bit TOO spicy. So I quartered a cherry tomato, added that, and blended a bit more, just to counteract the heat of it. (I'm sure everybody knows this by now, but if you eat something uncomfortably spicy, don't drink water! Drink milk, or eat a tomato or bit of bread to get rid of that burning feeling). This is a taste-as-you-go recipe, for sure. If you want more heat, add more pepper and sauce, or if it's much too hot, add more fresh tomato to mellow it out. It will be equally tasty either way. Similarly, if it seems too thick to you, add a bit more oil and vinegar. If you have a very basic vinaigrette around, you could also cut it with that, but I wouldn't want to introduce any new herbs to the equation.

I assembled this dish by spooning some cooked brown rice into a pasta bowl (or, paradoxically, "soup plates"), followed by the beans, then the corn salsa. I served the dressing on the side, on the off chance that it would pool menacingly with the brown rice, creating tiny whole-gran firebombs. I also served guac on the side, at which point I really wished I'd gotten tortilla chips. No matter! Chips or no, guac is a delicious addition. You could also serve this with some sliced avocado. Our grocery store had avocados in two states this week: Rock and Mush, so instead we picked up an all-natural packaged guacamole.
There is rice under there somewhere...
This is super delicious. Awesomely delicious. Deliciously awesome. I would never ask that obnoxiously ignorant question, "What DO vegans eat, anyway?!" because I have some idea. But more than that, I can tell you, this is what they/you ought to be eating. Along with everybody else. You could add some grilled chicken if you felt like it, but this is completely nutritious, satisfying, and hearty just the way it is. I hope you'll try it!

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