My sister, Renata, is a fantastic cook. Unlike me, she’s humble and understated; she doesn’t feel the need to spray her accomplishments all over the internet. But she is supremely accomplished in the kitchen, and a master of comfort food. I don’t mean that in some passive-aggressive denigrating way. Hers is the kind of food you crave when the weather is cold and blowy and you’re feeling a little forlorn. It’s the food you share with family and close friends.
This recipe is for Renata’s famous red beans and rice, which is adapted from a recipe by Nuyorican chef Joe Quintana. It’s a real keeper, made in the Caribbean style with citrus and pineapple and plenty of garlic and cumin. Renata has made this a vegetarian dish (Joe Quintana’s version is made with a ham hock and/or bacon). I swear you can’t tell the difference. Renata likes to cook the beans down until the cooking liquid is thick and soupy and the flavours are concentrated, and serve them in this sauce over rice. I’m afraid that I made her mix the beans in with the rice, this time, as I was the Capo of the Fourth of July. Served this way, it’s great picnic food. And since it seems summer is finally making an appearance in London (fanfare please), I give you the picnic version.
1 pound (about 400 grams) dried red kidney beans, pre-soaked overnight
6 cloves garlic (2 cloves smashed or coarsely chopped, remainder minced)
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
About 2-3 olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, coarsely chopped
1 medium green bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1-2 jalapenos, seeded and minced (optional)
1 cup orange juice
½ cup pineapple juice
salt and pepper to taste
Juice of 1 lime
1 bunch fresh coriander (cilantro), leaves picked from stems, and chopped
2 cups white rice
Cook the beans in a heavy stockpot in enough water to cover about an inch above the beans with the bay leaves, smashed garlic cloves, and spices until they are soft (about two hours). If more water is needed, add additional water. When the beans are soft you may still have some soupy cooking liquid; don’t discard this. Renata says it adds flavour to the beans.
Sauté the remaining garlic, onion, pepper, and jalapeno (if using) in the olive oil until the onions are transparent. Stir into your beans along with the orange and pineapple juice and salt to taste (one to two teaspoons), and simmer for an additional one to two hours (uncovered) or longer, to allow the flavours to develop.
While your beans are bubbling away, cook two cups of rice. Taste and adjust seasonings. To mix, toss the beans with the rice in a shallow tray. Stir in lime juice before serving and garnish with fresh chopped cilantro. Or you can serve the red beans over the rice, like Renata does.
Makes 8-10 servings as a main dish.