Something to rely on

Beans and Rice
As life goes on, time isn’t the largest thing to think of,
it’s the smallest.
Growing, going
in drought or monsoon, mold or blight —
what is the rice if  not alive?
— from "Rice-Field Road at Dusk" by By Suji Kwock Kim

I've become one of those weekly recipe rotation people. You know, someone who makes the same thing over and over again.

The first reason for this is because I haven't been as diligent about meal planning ahead of time, so come Saturday morning I'm scrambling to fill in my notebook before heading to the farmers' market. In those moments it's easier to flip back and see what I've made in weeks past rather than open a cookbook.

Also, there is predictability of it. When I'm busy during the day and don't want to spend an hour prepping in the kitchen, it's useful to be familiar with the dish or the method, so come dinner time I don't have to rely on a recipe.

I actually meant to tell you about this recipe weeks ago. OK, months ago. I've been making it nearly every week since March, when I first read about it in blogger Amelia Morris's memoir Bon Appetempt. This was one of several middle-of-the-night-feeding books I'd read to pass the time while I pumped at 3 am.

It's the simplest of recipes, perfect for easy memorization and even easier mealtimes. And it's really become something to rely on. Beans and rice. I immediately know what I need (rice, beans, a can of coconut milk, cilantro, and avocado), how long it will take (just shy of 20 minutes), and the outcome (satisfaction). It also tastes fantastically good, especially thanks to the creamy coconut milk and hint of cumin.

Beans and Rice

When I'm not reading my kindle in the middle of the night, I'm usually scanning my Facebook feed or browsing the New York Times app, which makes me more and more nervous of late. It seems so many mornings I wake up to more devastating news, home or abroad, and occasionally I've considered ignoring the news altogether to simply avoid it the onslaught of fear and confusion that follows.

But there's only so much of that we can do. Besides, it doesn't actually protect us, the not knowing. It's still difficult, though, feeling simultaneously numb to news stories yet helpless to do anything. Simultaneously fearful about the world my son is growing up in yet optimistic about the future. I'm not the first mother to grapple with this, certainly. My parents questioned the world they brought me and my brother into, too. Every generation has its struggles, so at least there is some comfort, however slight.

So a recipe like this, or any recipe you cling to for ease and reliability, can be a small way to tame the chaos. It gives you something to control, something to manage when the world is unpredictable. 

Beans and Rice


In her memoir, Amelia shares this was one of the first meals she made without a recipe after a coworker from Panama described the dish. Truly, after you make it once or twice, you'll see how simple it is to remember all the ingredients and measurements. The original recipe calls for black beans, but I've gotten in the habit of using pinto, and finish it with tomatillo salsa, sour cream, avocado, and a mound of tortilla chips on the side.

Serves 2 generously

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 (13.5 ounce) can light coconut milk
1/4 cup water or vegetable stock
1 cup white basmati rice
1 (15-ounce) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 teaspoon ground cumin
For serving: Tortilla chips, salsa, sour cream, sliced avocado chopped cilantro, lime wedges

Heat the oil in a wide skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and saute for 4 to 5 minutes, until softened and the edges are beginning to brown a bit. Add the garlic and saute just until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes more. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper. 

Add the coconut milk, water, rice, beans, and cumin; stir to combine. Once boiling, cover the pan and reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. Simmer 16 to 18 minutes, or until the rice is plump and the liquid has evaporated. Remove from heat and let rest for 10 minutes.

Scoop into bowls and adorn with toppings.