Project Weeknight: Gallo Pinto

Whew! I just checked the archives and it appears this edition of Project Weeknight won't be as much of a cheat as I had feared. See, I thought I had already discussed the recipe for Gallo Pinto in my Surviving Costa Rica post, but I didn't. So I will.

Gallo Pinto is the national dish of Costa Rica. Apparently everyone makes it and you can get it just about everywhere. And of course everyone's recipe is slightly different. I had it a couple of times during my trip and fell in love. I mean, as an almost-vegetarian, what's not to love about black beans & rice? I could probably eat every day, which apparently is not an uncommon practice in Costa Rica.

It took some serious web surfing and a couple of false starts but I finally found a recipe that I really liked. Then, of course, I modified it.
Gallo Pinto
adapted from Gallo Pinto at The Real Costa Rica Blog

1.5-2 cups of cooked rice
1 can of cooked black beans, drained but not rinsed, reserve the bean liquid.
1 med chopped onion
1 chopped red pepper (or orange/yellow)
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 Tblsp oil
¼ cup chopped cilantro (or parsley)
1 Tbs. Salsa Lizano (or Worcestershire sauce)
black pepper to taste
chicken stock or water as needed

Saute onion, red pepper, garlic and cilantro in the vegetable oil for a couple of minutes until the onion looks cooked.

Add beans, Salsa Lizano, and black pepper. Add a little (2T) bean liquid and a little (2T) chicken stock or water. Simmer for a few minutes, but don’t let it dry out.

Add the (cooked) rice. Add a little more stock/bean liquid if needed. Let simmer a few minutes until it looks like the rice is heated through.

  • The key ingredient is the Salsa Lizano. It's a distinctive flavor, kind of like Worcestershire sauce but less salty and more vinegary and somehow 'greener' tasting. I know it can be bought online, and I recently spied it in a Spanish (as in Spain, not Mexican) market near Pike Place Market in Seattle.

  • I have not made this with Worcestershire sauce.

  • The classic version uses white rice but I use the brown basmati that I use for everything.

  • Why the canned bean liquid? If I remember right, the name (spotted rooster) comes from the flecks of the bean liquid on the white rice. With home-cooked beans, you'd just use the cooking water. You can leave it out and just add more stock/water but I think it adds more bean-y goodness.

  • Since bell peppers are outrageously expensive, I've been buying bags of frozen (unseasoned) bell pepper strips. It's a 1 lb bag (I think) of mixed red, yellow, orange, and green pepper strips but I pick out the green ones cause I hates 'em.

  • Traditional toppings include sour cream, eggs (fried or scrambled, and friend plantains.

If I have cooked brown rice in the freezer (I portion it in 2 cup bags) then this recipe can be done in half an hour, well within the Project Weeknight guidelines. If not, sometimes I can remember to launch the rice cooker before I leave in the morning. And failing that, if I can get the bare minimum batch (1 c rice: 2 c water) going as soon as I walk in the door, I can just make the 45 minute deadline.

The acceptability factor is way high. My son and boyfriend love it. I usually make a double batch for a rerun dinner later in the week or a couple of lunches. A cup of it is good on a BAS, too.

See? What's not to love?

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