Rice and beans are an old standby at our house. It is cheap, relatively easy to make, and works well for dinner or lunch. We often make a large pot of rice and beans on Sundays, which we divvy up for weekday lunches. The other night, we were running low on groceries so I decided on rice and beans for dinner. To add some color and veggies to the meal, I stuffed the rice and beans into red peppers. This isn’t a quick meal to throw together, since it takes time for the rice to cook and then the peppers require oven time. Add some roasted veggies or a salad and you’ve got a complete meal (with a complete protein!).
I know that dried beans are cheaper and can offer better texture, but I just can’t be bothered with the overnight soaking. I feel like I’m already constantly meal planning and a meal with beans is usually my go to option for adding protein when I don’t have time to defrost meat. Plus, we’ve had dried kidney, cannellini, and pinto beans in our pantry for a while, and they remain unused.
So, this means I usually use canned beans. While many recipes use canned beans, including the liquid, I always drain and rinse canned beans. I don’t like all of the extra sodium that comes with the liquid and done correctly, I think you can still get a rich, “creamy”, rice and bean concoction.
6 large bell peppers (I prefer the sweetness of red peppers, but any color will work)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium-sized yellow onion, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup brown rice
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon fresh oregano or ½ teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon fresh basil or ½ teaspoon dried basil
pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
2 cans 15.5 oz. black beans, drained and rinsed (I like Goya)
¼ cup of red wine vinegar
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock to keep it vegetarian
freshly ground pepper
½ cup shredded cheddar cheese (optional)
Slice off the tops of the peppers and remove the seeds and the soft white flesh. If the peppers do not stand, slice a small piece off of the bottom of the pepper to create a flat surface. Try not to make a large hole at the bottom of the pepper or all of your stuffing will fall out of the bottom. A small hole is ok, and might be unavoidable. Place peppers in an oven safe baking dish, I used an 8×8 Pyrex dish. Pre-heat the oven to 425F.
In a dutch oven or heavy bottom pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and sauté. After 2-3 minutes, add the garlic and continue to sauté the garlic and the onions until the onions are translucent, about 5-7 minutes total.
Once the onions are soft and translucent, but before they caramelize, add the rice and all of the spices. Stir to coat the rice and onions with the spices. After 1-2 minutes, when the rice starts to turn opaque in color (but before it starts to burn!) quickly add the beans and stir. Add the vinegar, stir for about 1 minute, then add the stock and bring to a boil. Once the liquid comes to a boil, cover and turn down to medium-low heat and let it summer for about 25 minutes. This may take longer depending on your rice. Don’t peak until at least 20 minutes later and if you do peak, do it quickly, just to check on whether the rice is cooked.
Once the rice is cooked, remove from heat and salt and pepper to taste. Spoon the rice and beans into the peppers. Fill each pepper generously, but don’t pack them tightly. You might have some leftover rice and beans that don’t fit into the peppers (is that so bad?). Top with shredded cheese, if using.
Pour some warm water into the baking dish, until there is about ¼ inch of water in the dish. The bottoms of the peppers will be sitting in the water. Place in pre-heated oven for about 15-20 minutes. The peppers should be fragrant and soft, but not mushy. Serve immediately (great with a beer!).