When it comes to making economical, healthy meals, it really doesn’t get much better than beans in my opinion. There were a few other options in last week’s poll, but I was excited that you all picked beans as the winner.
I knew I wanted to keep this dish simple, but still make something interesting so instead of making a normal rice and beans dish (which I normally do on the stove top), I thought I’d try to make it more like a casserole which means it’s a bit more hands off.
While this dish is really healthy, really cheap, and very flavorful, it does require a few hours of time – especially if you start with dried beans. You can shave off some time by using canned beans, but I think that dried beans have a slightly better texture.
1) If you're using dry beans, soak them overnight in cold water. Skim out anything that floats and pick out any pebbles. When you're ready to cook, drain the beans and rinse them.
2) Chop the veggies and add them to a heavy pan over high heat with the oil. Cook until veggies are soft, about 5 minutes. Add cumin seeds and continue to cook another minute.
3) Add dried beans and enough water to cover the beans by about an inch. Bring to a simmer, cover, and simmer until beans are tender, about an hour.
NOTE: If you're using canned beans, still cook the veggies, add in the beans and water, but only simmer for a minute or two to blend flavors.
OPTIONAL: If you want, remove half of your beans and mash them with a masher then add them back into the pot. This will give some different texture to your beans. I like the different texture this gives, but it's not completely necessary.
4) Add green chilis, rice, tomatoes, and cayenne (if you're using it) to bean mixture. Also add a good pinch of salt and pepper. Stir well to combine.
5) Pour mixture into a square casserole dish, cover with foil, and bake at 350 for about an hour. Check it after 30 minutes and add more liquid if it looks dry.
6) Taste for salt and pepper and add more if necessary.
7) As an optional step, crush up a cup or two of tortilla chips and sprinkle tortilla crumbs on top of casserole. Bake for another 15-20 minutes.
8) Serve with hot sauce! Use leftovers for burritos!
Cooking the beans
You definitely don’t need to use dried beans for this dish, but I like them and they are way cheaper.
To prep them, you just need to soak them overnight in cold water, picking out any bits that float. Also, be on the lookout for any pebbles that might have squirmed into the beans. Then drain and rinse them the next day right before you start cooking.
I also like to throw in a few whole cumin seeds while the beans are cooking which gives them kind of an earthy flavor. I like to use whole cumin seeds because you can be a bit more liberal with them and the flavor isn’t so in your face as the ground variety.
They cook for so long in this dish that they almost dissolve away by the end.
To start cooking the beans, add your olive oil to a heavy pan over high heat and once the oil is hot, add the diced red pepper, onions, and garlic. Cook this for a few minutes until the veggies are soft. Then toss in the whole cumin seeds and cook for another minute. This will give the cumin seeds a chance to toast a bit.
Add water to this dish until it covers the beans by about an inch and bring it to simmer. Simmer the beans, covered, until they are tender, probably 45 minutes to 1 hour.
If you’re using canned beans, go ahead and cook the veggies and cumin, then add in the canned beans and water and bring to a simmer, but then you can just simmer it for a few minutes to blend the flavors. You still need the water though to cook the rice in the next step.
Blending the Beans
As a optional step, I like to take out about half of my beans and lightly mash them with a masher. This gives the beans two different textures in the final dish. Some are kind of creamy and some are firmer. You could skip it though if you wanted.
Finishing the Casserole
Whether you mash your beans or not, for the next step you’ll need all these things.
Add the tomatoes, chilis, and rice to the pot with the veggies and beans and add a good pinch of salt and pepper. If you want it spicier, feel free to add a pinch of cayenne.
As this simmers, give it a good stir and cook for just a minute or two. Then pour the whole mixture into a square casserole dish.
This will look kind of murky and strange, but trust me. It’ll work out okay.
Cover this with foil and bake it at 350 degrees until the rice is nice and soft. It’ll probably take about an hour. If you use brown rice like I did, you might need an extra 15 minutes.
If you use instant rice, you’ll have a big pot of mush. So don’t use instant rice.
Check it after 30 minutes or so and if the casserole looks dry, add more water to it so the rice can continue to cook.
This was mine after about an hour. At this point, be sure to taste it again for salt and pepper and stir in more if needed.
You can 100% just serve the casserole as is, but I thought it’d be fun to put a topping on it.
Tortilla chip crumbs were the obvious choice and also a great way to get out some aggression!
Smash up a few chips and add them to the top of the casserole.
Stick this back in the oven for another 15 minutes or so and the tortilla chips get a bit golden brown and nice and crunchy. They also absorb any extra liquid that might be in the casserole.
I obviously served mine with hot sauce, but it’s pretty good just like this.
This was really good on day one, but it was maybe better on day two because I rolled it in a tortilla with some cheese and made an awesome lunch burrito with the leftovers!