A Tale of Two Rices

As I browse through my blog, I can’t help but notice how often rice seems to come up. I really can’t help it, I have a love affair with that little grain. My only hope is that I offer some variety for you. That said, this is a rice post. Yep. Mas arroz.

In Panama, we prepare rice in many different ways; sometimes with coconut milk, or various beans and peas. Anything you want, really. Two of my favorites are Arroz con Frijoles Negros (rice with black beans) and Arroz con Camarones Secos (rice with dried shrimp).

They’re both easy to make and follow the same process as the recipe for Arroz con GuandĂș. For the black beans, I used dried beans and cooked them in the coconut milk, as detailed in the recipe below, but you can use canned beans . For the one with the dried shrimp and guandĂș, I cooked both of those in the coconut milk first, then followed the recipe.

For the Arroz con Coco y Frijoles Negros (Black beans & rice)
2 cps rice
1/2 cp dry black beans
2 cps coconut milk
3 cps water
1/3 cp salt pork or bacon
1 tbsp vegetable oil

For the Arroz con Camaroncitos Secos y GuandĂș (Rice w/dried shrimp & pigeon peas)
2 cps rice
1 cp frozen guandĂș (pigeon peas)
1/2 cp dried shrimp
2 cps coconut milk
3 cps water
1/3 cp salt pork or bacon
1 tbsp vegetable oil

Method for both versions:
In a pot with a tight-fitting lid, brown the salt pork/bacon rendering some of its fat. Add the guandĂșes (pigeon peas), coconut milk. Bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat until it simmers. Cook it until the peas are tender, about 40 minutes. Strain the liquid and measure, add enough water to make 3-1/3 cps of liquid, set aside.

This recipe uses the frozen peas, however, if you are using the canned variety, just skip the step above. Instead, drain, rinse and strain the beans, then add coconut milk and water to  measure 3-1/3 cups. Fry the salt pork or bacon just before adding the rinsed rice.

Add oil to the pan with the peas, rinse the rice and add it to the pot stirring all the ingredients. Add the liquid, check the salt, stir this well. Make sure you remove any drippings that may have been stuck to the bottom of the pan. Bring it to a slow boil; once the liquid boils do not stir it again. Keep the temperature on medium high.

Once the liquid is almost completely evaporated, bring the temperature to low and cover with the lid. Allow to steam undisturbed for 40 minutes. When you remove the lid, all the peas will be at the top, go ahead and stir them into the rice. You’re done!

Note: The flavor of the coconut milk will intensify with time. You can cook the peas a day ahead to allow the flavors to meld together.


Jumping beans

Well, not really, but they are yummy beans. I have to begin by telling you that I’m not intimately acquainted with white or navy beans. We just don’t have these in Panama, at least *I* didn’t have them. We have the prepared cans of pork & beans, which I believe are made with these, but that’s it.

I had never really seen  them until I saw Martha Stewart cook them down and add mussels to it. I was so intrigued by the recipe that I had to try it and ended up loving the beans. I’ve made them since, but rarely, and always as a base for something seafood, such as this delicious Salt Cod & Clam Stew.

Considering how much I’ve enjoyed these little beans, I’ve been trying to add them more and more often to my repertoire. Hence this pot o’beans. I made them the same way I make all my beans, and WOW. Why did I wait so long?!

No need for a recipe here, let the beans move you.

White Beans a la Latina

White / Navy beans
Bay leaves
Bacon, diced
Onions, finely chopped
Cilantro, finely chopped
Sea salt & black pepper

Rinse and soak the beans in hot water for about 30 minutes. Drain and rinse again before putting them into a medium size pan. Add 1-2 whole cloves of garlic, peel and all, and 1-2 bay leaves and 1-2 slices of bacon. Cover with water and bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat until the water comes to a hard simmer. Cook for about an hour, or until the beans are fork tender.

*Note: Do not add salt to your beans before they soften, season them after they are tender.

In a small skillet, cook the bacon to render the fat, it doesn’t have to be crisp. Add the onions and cilantro, cook them until the onions have soften and are translucent.

Once the beans have cooked, drain some of the liquid reserving just enough to see some just under the top of the beans. Depending on the amount of beans you cooked, this would be close to 1 cup of liquid. Discard the bay leaves and add the bacon & onion mixture. Bring it to a simmer, check the seasoning and adjust with salt & pepper. Simmer it for another 10 minutes or so before serving.

We served these alongside some lamb & rice.

I hope you enjoy it too!
Cookingly yours,

Tostada burger

Disclaimer: These aren’t pretty pictures. Sorry. Did I mention we eat every dish you see on this blog? Well, we do, and these babies weren’t waiting for a photo shoot. Allz I can say is, these are incredibly delicious and messy, the way a good burger should be. Better pictures another day. Maybe.

The first time I had these burgers was on my first visit to San Antonio, TX. This was eons ago, close to 15 years or so. Friends took us to this little hole in the wall grill promising the best burgers we’d ever had. They were right and continue to be. Chris Madrid has been around and expanded since then. This burger, and I have to say ‘this burger’ because I don’t think I’ve ever ordered anything else; this burger has remained the same. Consistently. Deliciously. Wackily good.

These burgers are so good and coveted by my friend Dodo and I, that we have made the 3-ish hour drive, had our burgers and turned around heading back to Houston. Yep. We have driven 6 hours for this burger. What? Like you wouldn’t?

Let me tell you about this little jewel. The Tostada Burger is dressed with mayo, refried pinto beans, tortilla chips, sweet onions, and an obscene sea of melted cheddar. Real cheddar. Melted. Real melted cheddar, I still don’t know how they achieve that feat. When they throw that burger at you, you can’t see the bun or the patty because they’re both covered by cheddar. OH. MY. GAWD. !!!.

Here’s my attempt at a Chris Madrid Tostada Burger.

2 cps pinto beans, cooked
5 bacon strips, diced
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 medium sweet onion, coarsely chopped
8 slices sharp cheddar cheese
1-1/2 lb ground chuck
Fajita seasoning
Tortilla chips, coarsely broken
4 hamburger buns

For the Onions: This is a step you can skip if you don’t mind raw onions, but I do, so I cook’em in bacon fat. Cuz bacon…, you know, makes everything bettah! Render the fat from the bacon and cook until it is lightly browned. Remove the bacon from the fat and add the chopped onions. Cook the onions until slightly softened. Once the onions have softened, remove them from the fat and set aside to drain.

For the Refried Beans: I started off with dry beans, but I have made this with whole canned beans. Do make sure you drain and rinse the canned beans before using them.

 In the remaining bacon fat, add the beans, garlic and bacon together with about 1 cp of the bean cooking liquid, (if using canned beans add water or broth). Smash the beans into a chunky paste, it’s ok if you have beans that are just slightly mashed. Check the seasoning, adjusting the salt and pepper.

The beans should be loose, you don’t want them to be too thick. They will thicken as they sit around. Keep warm.

For the burger: Season the ground chuck liberally with fajita seasoning, try not to handle the beef too much. Once you have integrated the seasoning, divide it into 4 balls. Once divided, flatten into patties.

To cook, heat a flat skillet, preferably cast iron, over high heat and place the patties on the very hot pan. Cook to your preferred doneness, flipping them after a few minutes. In the meantime, preheat the broiler.

Once the burgers are done, top each with a couple of slices of cheddar and pop it under the broiler. Watch them through the little window, just wait until the cheese melts and is bubbly and beginning to brown.

To assemble: I toasted the buns in a bit of butter, your choice to do so or not. Spread some mayo on the buns, don’t be shy. Set the cheesy patty on the bottom half, top with a couple tablespoons of refried beans. Top the beans with the crushed tortilla chips and finally, the onions. Put the other half of the bun on top and go at it. You. Will. Lose. Your. Mind. I guarantee it!

Cookingly yours,

PS: Make sure you have plenty of napkins.

Not just beans. Perfect beans, even.

If beans aren’t on your regular menu, they should be. They’re good for you, y’know. They have all that iron and fiber. They’re naturally low-fat (not by the time I’m done with them, though). They’re filling and stttttttretch, which makes them economical. Every variety has its own particular taste, so you never feel like you’re eating the same thing twice.

Any way, here’s how I cook up a pot of pinto beans, come to think about it, I cook kidney beans the same way. I should mention I started with dry beans, but you can sub those for canned if you’re looking to cut some time.


2 cps dry pinto beans
2 cloves garlic, unpeeled
2 slices bacon or 1/4 cp salt pork
Remove any unwanted, damaged or broken beans, put them in a bowl and rinse, changing the water a couple of times. If you want to, soak in them in hot tap water for about 30-45 minutes, but this isn’t necessary.

Drain the water and put the beans, garlic and bacon in a medium pan and cover it with cool water. You’ll probably want to add about 8 cups of water, bring it to a boil over high heat, then reduce the temperature to medium and cook for about one hour or until the beans are tender. You will notice that the water will evaporate considerably. Turn off the heat and set aside.

You can remove the beans from the pan and cook the following ingredients

3 slices bacon or 1/2 cp salt pork
1 medium onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cp cilantro, chopped

Cook the bacon until lightly brown, then add the onions and garlic. When the  onions are translucent, add the cilantro. Now add the back the beans, including any liquid still left and turn the heat to medium high. At this point season the lentils with salt or chicken bouillon and black pepper. Once this comes to a boil, lower the temperature to medium low and simmer for another 20-30 minutes.

That’s it, they’re ready to be eaten. I promise you will love them

Cookingly yours, Anamaris

Bean me up!

Do you like beans? How often do you eat them? Panamanians LOVE beans. We eat lots of them and on a daily basis. There are always beans next to your rice; it’s just the perfect marriage. I’m going to show you how I cook beans, sometimes in a traditional Panamanian style, sometimes with a Mexican flair and sometimes in the American way.

This post is for Lentils, possibly my favorite of all legumes. Lentils are creamy and mild, easy and quick to cook. They’re also quite versatile; you’ll find recipes to use them in soups, combined with rice, sometimes served slightly dry. They’re just delicious.  If you haven’t, you should definitely give them a try. They cook quickly without an inordinate amount of soaking.

Lentejas (Lentils)
2 cps dry lentils
2 cloves garlic, unpeeled
2 slices bacon or 1/4 cp salt pork
Inspect your lentils, you’ll want to get rid of any damaged or broken beans, and also check for stones or leftover husks. Once cleaned, put them in a bowl and rinse them, changing the water a couple of times. If you want, you can allow them to soak in hot tap water for about 30 minutes, but this isn’t necessary.

After soaking, drain the water and put the lentils, garlic and bacon in a medium pan. Add cool water to the pot, covering the lentils about twice over. You don’t want to add any salt before the lentils are cooked, otherwise the bean won’t break open. Bring it to a boil over high heat, then reduce the temperature to medium and cook for about one hour or until the lentils are tender. The water will cook into the beans and will evaporate considerably. Turn off the heat and set aside.

While the lentils cook, chop:
3 slices bacon or 1/2 cp salt pork
1 medium onion
1 garlic clove
1/2 cp cilantro
Cook the bacon to render some of the fat, it doesn’t need to be browned, then add the onions and garlic. Cook until the onions are translucent before adding the cilantro. Stir it in until the cilantro wilts then add this to the lentils and turn the heat to medium high. At this point season the lentils with salt or chicken bouillion and black pepper. Once this comes to a boil, lower the temperature to medium low and simmer for another 20-30 minutes.

You’re done! Serve with rice.