Behind The Meal: Coconut Rice and Cuban Black Beans
How do you get your ideas in the kitchen? I admit that I am constantly thinking about food and how to create flavor profiles that are pleasing, and to me at least, unique. I read recipes for ideas, review food blogs, and ponder flavor pairings regularly. I also like to honor ethnic cuisines and traditions when I cook.
One tradition that led me to one of our most popular meals at Food for the Sole was sitting in my mothers-in-law’s kitchen, watching her cook. Diana, my M-I-L, was a truly remarkable woman. I often liken her to a cross between Katherine Hepburn and Julia Child (yes, I know- this dates me). Hepburn for her sharp wit and ready humor, as well as how she wore her hair, and Child because Diana glided effortlessly through the kitchen, turning out amazing meals, and she never even considered cooking “low-fat”. Butter and cream were her friends, and the food, though perhaps not always the leanest, was fantastic.
I would sit at the counter and watch Diana prepare a meal for us, while we chatted on a wide variety of topics. Diana had a mischievous smile and a great curiosity about the world. Even into her late 80’s she was current with the news of the day and had passionate opinions. She was a joy to be with for all of these reasons, but I was also fascinated to watch her in the kitchen. She would putter, stirring this and adding that, and the end result though seemingly simply prepared, was so much more than the sum of its parts, as great food should be. I would watch and think, “Why, it’s so simple, what she’s making, I can do this”. Then I would get home and try to recreate her meal and fail. She had a gift that I admired and can only hope to achieve by the time I hit my 80’s.
One meal that she made more than once was a rice and bean dish. So simple, and yet complex layers of flavor. Rice simmered in coconut milk, cinnamon and cumin, tossed with golden raisins and thinly sliced almonds. Onions and red peppers sautéed and added to black beans with more cumin, slow cooked until the beans melded with the vegetables, creating an earthiness that complemented the rice beautifully. Topped with chopped scallions and cilantro, sprinkled with a bit of fresh tomato and avocado, this dish was wonderfully fragrant and beckoned you to the table.
This is one dish that I was able to replicate at home, and made it frequently, adding my own twist to it after a while. Though 20 years have passed since I first tasted this meal at Diana’s table, I never tire of it, and never make or eat it without thinking of my dear, sweet mother in law. I think she would be very pleased to know that this simple dish made its way into the kitchen at Food for The Sole and remains one of our best-selling meals.
- Julie Mosier
To get a taste of the meal for yourself, click here.