This saucy black bean bowl with rice has a wonderful harmony of spicy, cool, sweet, and salty. Enjoy each flavor one by one, or give the bowl a good stir for a mixture of tastes in every bite. Vegan & gluten-free.
David and I have this goofy habit, where we like to randomly claim that it’s the other person’s “special day.” We just declare it on an ordinary Saturday or Sunday. Not an anniversary or birthday, simply a regular day.
It usually happens after one of us says, “What do you want to do today?”
The other will offer, “It’s your choice! It’s your special day!”
Admittedly, it probably started as a way of avoiding having to make a decision… But what’s funny is that even though there isn’t anything particularly special about that day, it somehow changes the whole tone.
I start thinking about the things I’m going to do and my plans for the day a little bit differently.
(And if it’s David’s special day, and he picks somewhere to go that hadn’t been my first choice, I feel a little more generous about going along. How could I refuse on his special day?)
What do I want to do on my special day? A Target run might be nice, a bike ride, hike, or a stroll around the farmers market… Maybe a saucy black bean bowl for lunch with fried plantains to make it a bit more fun.
So while, yes, those happen to be the things we could (and often do) almost any old weekend, when it’s “your special day” it makes all of those perfunctory tasks a bit more celebratory. It feels like I’m choosing them because they will make me happy in the moment, as opposed to just getting some chores done and having lunch.
So on my special day…
While I love a fancy, dress-up dinner just as much as the next person, some foods are perfect in their simplicity.
They’re not fussy or expensive. They don’t take long to prepare. Yet, they work together in such a way that you feel comforted from the inside out whenever you tuck into a bowl.
Saucy black bean bowl with fried plantains
Take this saucy black bean bowl with fried plantains.
Not only is the combination of beans and rice friendly on the wallet, it is nourishing, satisfying, and filling. Put them together with a dollop of guacamole and a side of sweet fried plantains, and it becomes my “happy place” of lunches.
For this kind of dish, I like my beans to be a little on the saucy side. I don’t want them overly soupy or liquidy, but they should have just enough moisture that they coat the plain rice alongside of them.
For the brown rice, you can either make the rice from scratch, or if you don’t have an extra 45 minutes to wait, pop some frozen rice into the microwave. I like to buy Trader Joe’s frozen organic brown rice.
(It’s one of my favorite vegan Trader Joe’s products.)
But you can also freeze your own made-from-scratch brown rice. Portion it into sensible amounts, pop the rice into Pyrex containers, and freeze until you need it.
It’s great for easy vegan lunches. Slide the rice into your lunch bag, and it will be thawed by noon, or use the defrost setting on the microwave.
Plantains really kick a black bean bowl up a notch. With a touch of sweetness and caramelized edges, they take a classic lunch, and make it something worth celebrating.
And obviously, every meal is better with avocado – whether it’s vegan avocado toast for breakfast, avocado caprese salad, vegan ceviche, or as a topping to a vegan tofu scramble. This quick guacamole uses just one avocado, which is a nice amount for two.
Top this saucy black bean bowl with jalapeño slices, cilantro, a squeeze of lime juice, and/or a handful of tortilla chips for dipping.
And hey, why not finish the whole thing off with a sparkling strawberry lemonade or ice cold Mexican beer? It is your special day, after all.
Saucy black bean bowl with fried plantains
Saucy black beans
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 1 avocado pitted and removed from peel
- 1 Tablespoon finely chopped onion
- 1 Tablespoon chopped cilantro leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon lime juice
- Pinch salt
- 1 teaspoon organic canola oil Or other neutral-flavored, high heat oil
- 1 plantain cut in 1/2 inch pieces on a diagonal
Brown rice bowls
- 2 cups cooked brown rice
- Jalapeños chopped cilantro, hot sauce, lime wedges, tortilla chips (Optional garnish)
For saucy black beans
- In a medium-sized pot, bring oil to a medium heat. Add onion and garlic and sauté several minutes, until fragrant.
- Add black beans to the pot along with water, cumin, ancho chili powder, paprika and salt. Bring the liquid to a simmer. Once it is simmering, turn the heat to low and continue cooking for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has reduced and the beans have thickened. Remove from heat.
For the guacamole
- In a bowl, combine all of the ingredients with a fork until mashed and fully combined.
For the plantains
- Bring a separate non-stick skillet to a medium high heat with organic canola oil. (Put a shallow layer of oil into the skillet. The amount will vary, depending upon the size of your skillet.) Test the oil to see if it is hot enough by putting in one plantain slice. If bubbles immediately form around it, you know it's hot enough.
- Put the plantain slices into the skillet, being careful not to overcrowd. (If necessary, work in batches.) Fry the plantains on one side until they are nice and brown, then flip them. Brown on the other side for a few minutes. Lower heat and continue cooking for several minutes more until the plantains have fully softened. (Flip again if the plantains start to burn.)
- Once they are fully browned and softened, move the plantains to a separate plate.
Putting it together
- Add spoonfuls of rice, beans, guacamole, and plantains to two serving bowls. Top with any extras you prefer.