The Recipe - Revised 2013

Nicaraguan Beans and Rice
Gallo Pinto
With cabbage and lime salad and sauteed bananas

As Jenny Sanchez, from Leon, Nicaragua, taught Lindsay Sterling in Freeport, Maine, 2009

"Gallo" means "rooster" in Spanish;"pinto" means "spotted." The rice and beans cooked this way look mottled like a rooster's feathers.

Total Time: 1 hr with pressure cooker, 3-4 hrs without
Serves 4-6

1/2 lb. dried pinto beans
1 cup white rice
1/2 tsp achiote powder
1/2 tsp ground coriander
2 cloves garlic
1/4 c. + 1 Tpsp. olive oil
1 ½ Tbsp green pepper, medium dice
1 ½ Tbsp red pepper, medium dice
½ small yellow onion, medium dice
½ tsp + 1/8 tsp salt
16 cilantro leaves
4 bananas or plantains
8 oz. sour cream
8 oz. salsa
1/2 small cabbage
2 tomatoes, large dice
1 1/3 limes
¼ cup cheddar cheese, in ½ inch cubes

Part 1: Ahead of time, cook rice and cook beans. 

The night before, rinse beans in cold water, spread out on a cookie sheet, and pick out any stones. In a large bowl cover beans by a couple inches in hot water. Let sit over night.

If you have a pressure cooker, put the beans in the pot covered by 2 inches of water. Add achiote, smashed garlic, ground coriander. Lock down pressure cooker lid (follow manufacturer's directions) and turn on high. Once pot is under pressure, turn heat to low, and the beans will take just 7 minutes to become soft, like cooked potato. Release pressure and strain beans.

If you don't have a pressure cooker, follow the same directions (minus locking down the lid and releasing pressure). It'll just take a lot longer to cook the beans until soft, more like 45min to 2 hours, depending on how old the beans are. Make sure to add water if you need to so the beans always stay submerged while cooking.

While beans are cooking, cook white rice separately. Put 2 cups water and 1 cup rice in a small pot. Bring to a boil, then turn to low, cover, and let cook for 20 minutes. Keep rice and strained beans covered separately in fridge if you'll be finishing the dish the next day.

Part 2: Start preparing the rest of the dish about an hour before serving.

Make the gallo pinto. In ¼ cup olive oil in large pan, saute yellow onion, red and green peppers until soft, mix in beans and let cook for 5 minutes on medium high, so beans are sizzling in the oil and beginning to brown. Turn over gently with spatula to brown the other sides of the beans. Once beans are slightly browned (10-20 minutes), scoot the beans into a ring around the outer edge of the pan so the center of the pan is empty. Pile the rice into the center. Sprinkle ½ tsp salt onto beans. Fold beans and rice together. Once rice is hot, add cilantro leaves, cover and turn off heat.

Sautee the bananas (or plantains). Peel bananas and slice each lengthwise, then across, so you have 2-3 inch segments each with a flat side. In 1 Tbsp olive oil in a large sautee pan on medium heat, saute bananas flipping once so both sides are golden brown.

Prepare the cabbage salad (while bananas are cooking). The lacy, crunchy texture of the cabbage dressed solely with fresh lime and salt is what makes this simple salad mind-bogglingly refreshing. To create it, try this knew way to cut cabbage. Slice off two inches from sphere. Hold the piece, inside up. Instead of slicing straight up and down, as you shave thin pieces off with a paring knife, flick your wrist as if you are drawing with the tip of the knife the letter “c” away from you. (Use only lacy thin shavings for salad, save any large thick pieces for some other purpose.) Pile cabbage on the top half of each serving plate, top with diced tomato, squeeze fresh lime all over (about 1/3 of a lime per person), and sprinkle more salt than seems sane.

Assemble the rest of the plates. Getting the rice and beans and the bananas onto the plate in a cool, appetizing way is like making a sand castle with small dishes as your moulds. Fill a 1 c. sized rounded dish or measuring cup with rice and beans and press down. Flip over onto the center of the plate. Now make two banana piles with a smaller dish in the same way on each side of the rice and beans. Below the row of rice and beans and bananas, put a generous dollop of sour cream and a couple spoonfuls of salsa. Sprinkle cubes of cheddar on top of the rice and beans.

copyright Lindsay Sterling 2013