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~ Island-Style Bejeweled Coconut & Black Bean Rice ~

IMG_2306 2In Jamaica, they make a dish called coconut rice and peas -- it's usually served as an accompaniment to Caribbean-style chicken- or shrimp- curry dishes and jerk-seasoned meats. This is sort of not it.  This is my twist on it.  In Jamaica, beans are called peas, more specifically, pigeon peas -- they’re a staple in Indian, African, Latin and Caribbean cooking and are sold canned, dried or fresh.  In the Caribbean islands, kidney beans are a common substitution, which is a good, because, up until recently, pigeon peas were not something I could find in my Central PA stores.  While I like kidney beans (a lot), I love black beans, so, I use them.  We cool so far?

Traditionally, the rice is cooked on the stovetop, rice-pilaf-style.  That means, the dish (liberally seasoned in the style of the cuisine being cooked) is simmered in a flavored liquid (like meat, poultry or vegetable stock), instead of plain water -- as the rice cooks it absorbs an array of flavors.  Prior to adding the liquid, the process often starts by briefly sautéing the rice and/or some vegetables (like onion and garlic) in some butter or oil.  "In the style of the cuisine being cooked" means:  use seasonings and add ingredients common to the country of origin.  In the case of Jamaican-style rice and peas, besides the rice and peas, those ingredients would be: onion, garlic, Scotch bonnet pepper, thyme, chicken stock and/or coconut milk.  We cool so far?

For convenience w/o compromise, try my rice steamer method:

Rice steamer vs. stovetop.  I love my rice cooker/steamer and I'm pretty certain everyone else who owns one does too.  These modern marvels take all the guesswork out of cooking rice on the stovetop.  I use mine for steaming broccoli and cauliflower too.  By using dried herbs and spices in place of fresh, which kept the flavor profile the same as the Jamaian-style stovetop version, trust me when I tell you, my rice steamer version compromises neither flavor nor texture. After learning that ginger and brown sugar are sometimes added to the stovetop version, I took it upon myself to bejewel my version, island-style, with bits of candied fruit common to the Caribbean:  ginger, mango, papaya and pineapple.  It's over-the-top great.  We cool so far? 

IMG_22332  cups basmati rice

1  15 1/2-ounce can coconut milk + water to total 2 1/2  cups

1  teaspoon dried thyme leaves

1/2  teaspoon each: garlic powder, onion powder and salt

1/4  teaspoon Scotch bonnet pepper powder

1  15 1/2-ounce can black beans, well-drained and rinsed, or:  

1 15 1/2-ounce can well-drained green or black pigeon peas*, or, kidney beans

IMG_2431 IMG_2431 IMG_2431*A bit about pigeon peas:  About the same size as a black bean, with the same nutty taste and grainy texture of all beans (not at all the taste and texture associated with green peas), feel free to use them.  If you use a brand packed in coconut milk, feel free to use the coconut milk they're packed in too.

IMG_2288To bejewel Coconut & Black Bean Rice island-style:

2  tablespoons small-diced candied ginger

2  tablespoons small-diced candied mango

2  tablespoons small-diced candied papaya

2  tablespoons small-diced candied pineapple

IMG_2248 IMG_2248 IMG_2248 IMG_2248~Step 1.  Using the measuring cup from the rice cooker, measure and place 2 level cups rice in steamer basket.  Using the measuring cup from the rice cooker, measure and add the coconut milk/water mixture to the steamer basket with the rice.  Rinse and drain the black beans.

IMG_2258 IMG_2262 IMG_2262 IMG_2262 IMG_2262 IMG_2262 IMG_2262~Step 2.  Add the dry spices (thyme leaves, garlic powder, onion powder, sea salt and Scotch bonnet pepper powder to the rice and coconut milk in the steamer basket and give the mixture a thorough stir. Add the black beans and do not stir.  Close lid on the rice cooker and turn it on.  When rice cooker shuts off, open lid and immediately rake through rice with a fork to separate the grains.

~Step 3.  To bejewel the rice, which adds sweet, tart and edgy zing, stir in the candied ginger, mango, papaya and ginger.  Rake the candied fruits into coconut and black bean rice and serve.

IMG_2290 IMG_2290 IMG_2290

Bejewel: a verb meaning to ornament or encrust, as if with jewels.

IMG_2298Want Oven-Roasted Jamaican-Jerk-Chicken with this?

IMG_2059Island-Style Bejeweled Coconut & Black Bean Rice:  Recipe yields 5 1/2-6 cups.

Special Equipment List: electric rice cooker/steamer; measuring cup from rice cooker; small colander; spoon; cutting board; chef's knife

IMG_2130Cook's Note: Bananas and plantains -- they resemble each other, and they're related too.   I eat a banana every morning, but, I can't say the same for the plantain.  By accident or out of curiosity, if you've ever tasted a raw plantain, you knew you weren't eating a banana.  That said, when sautéed, the taste and texture of the yellow plantain is remarkable.  ~ Sweet & Caramelized Island-Spice Yellow Plantains ~ is another side-dish common to the fiery curry dishes and jerk-seasoned meats of the Caribbean islands.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2018)


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