It was Day 3 of construction in my apartment. In Panama, labor is cheap but you need to feed the workers as part of their pay. I was out of chicken and was trying to think of something suitably rib-sticking to fix for these young men who may typically eat several thousand calories each day for lunch. (A simple sandwich and a bag of chips produces sad eyes that make you feel like you just pulled your cat's tail.) Chaos makes me crazy, and it would be fair to say my apartment was a disaster. I had no creativity left for cooking.
I found two cans of black beans in the cupboard and some leftover brown rice in the fridge. That's where I started. Even after i spiced it up with onion, bell pepper, cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper, my taste buds were ready to wilt from boredom.
That's when I got creative.
I typically keep a variety of local produce on hand, such as pineapple, limes, jalapenos and cilantro. I remembered a pineapple/cilantro salsa that I'd had recently, and my first thought was to make tacos with the bean portion and have a separate pineapple salsa. Then I looked around at all of the gypsum dust and made the snap decision not to dirty another pan. I added the sweet and spicy components directly to the beans and let it simmer.
After about ten minutes, I scooped the finished product into a bowl and brightened it with lime juice and cilantro. I'm sure I frowned because it wasn't the prettiest thing I've ever seen. I took a small taste before serving it to the workers, and my senses did the Flamenco. Beans and rice and pineapple... where have you been all of my life!
Now here is my guilty confession. I liked it so much that I didn't want to give it to the workers anymore. My mind raced devilishly to think of some other suitable substitute I could cook for them, but I came up empty.
When I gave the men their lunch, I told them it was picante. Unlike Mexico, Panama cuisine is on the bland side, and the average Panamanian doesn't like spicy food. Yes, I was still angling to have some leftovers for tomorrow, If they thought it was too spicy, there'd be more for me. No such luck. They cleaned their plates and wanted more.
There were nothing left when lunch was over.
Aside from a bit of dicing, this is a super easy recipe that takes less than thirty minutes to make. My advice? Double it. You'll thank me tomorrow.
Spicy Pineapple Rice & Beans
- 2 cups brown rice, prepared
- 2 cans Black beans, rinsed
- 1/2 onion, diced
- 1 yellow bell pepper, diced
- 1 T. Olive oil
- 2 T. Cumin powder
- 1 tsp. Salt
- 1 tsp. Black pepper
- ½ cup Water
- 2 cups Pineapple, finely diced
- 2-3 Jalapenos, seeded and finely diced
- 2 T. Coconut cream
- 2 Limes
- ½ cup Cilantro
Saute onion and bell pepper in olive oil until soft and brown. Add black beans, water and dry spices. Simmer for 15 minutes. Add pineapple, jalapenos and coconut cream. Simmer for another 10 minutes. Spoon onto plate as a side dish, in a tortilla for a taco, or in a bowl as a main course. Squeeze half a lime and a generous amount of cilantro. Serve immediately.
If you make it, post a comment and let me know how it turned out. If you change the recipe, let me know... I may try it, too!