Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Beans Not So Musical - Arroz Con Gandules

Arroz Con Gandules – or – Pigeon Peas and Rice

The LOML (Love Of My Life) and I are especially fond of Caribbean and Latin American dishes.  We have lived in (a few) and visited (more) Latin American countries and Caribbean Islands and we are especially fond of Puerto Rico.   Many of said country and island meals include lots of beans – mainly pinto, black, red, chick pea (garbanzo), and pigeon pea (gandules).  Oops, not from the Caribbean Islands and never heard of pigeon peas aka gandules?  You would not believe the abundant number of beans not sold in the typical US market.  The good news is that they are available on line.  (Note – beans are a wonderful source of protein and some fiber – see ‘Nutrition Notes’ following the recipe.) 

Our family prefers using dried beans over canned beans.  Although canned beans are a good substitute for quick results, dried beans tend to have deeper flavor because the added flavors from a recipe’s ingredients have a longer time to meld (it is OK to just re-hydrate your beans in water, but better yet, substitute stock, add a ham hock, add onion and garlic, whatever). 

Soaking dried beans prior to cooking achieves two important actions: 1) reduces the cooking time by softening the beans  and 2) reduces flatulence (very important to loved ones and dinner guests).  Traditional recipes advise soaking the dried beans overnight but I have read several sources that claim long-term soaking can cause fermentation of the beans which can cause flatulence.  No absolute study has been made with the LOML who tends to fart often and loudly, but I think that there was no more than normal farting following this favorite dish.

I don’t want to be stuck with long bean cooking times only to eat at 9:00 PM on a work night or be reduced to only fixing bean dishes on the weekends.  What to do?  What if I could begin soaking beans in the morning before work and return home to cook up a sumptuous recipe to enjoy in an hour or two after work?  And if I pre-prepped the entire chopping, etc. the night before this could translate to a very relaxing evening.  Here is a link to an informative blog about soaking beans and quick cooking in a pressure cooker (the emphasis is on “informative” – bending towards being over the top! (please see notes about pressure cooking beans following the recipe)

Some beans such as black beans, garbanzos (chickpeas), and gandules (pigeon peas) cook up faster than kidney beans – it takes some experimentation.  Lentils are the fastest cooking and do not require soaking.  The age of the bean is also a consideration.

Following is my recipe for a popular Puerto Rican dish - Arroz con Gandules (Rice with Pigeon Peas)  If you don’t have a local Puerto Rican or Cuban grocery store nearby you can find these beans (they aren’t considered to be peas despite the name) on line.  Or you can also substitute lentils which are very quick cooking and do not need to be pre-soaked.  I would also suggest using black beans which are fairly quick cooking but they will turn the entire dish a black color.  If you have a pressure cooker, you can reduce the cooking time of the beans to under half an hour (see the above website for pressure cooking times).  But you still need to allow time for the rice to cook.

Arroz con Gandules

Rice with Pigeon Peas

Serves 4

2 TBSP annatto oil (recipe follows) or olive oil
½ cup Spanish chorizo, sliced (or diced bacon)
½ cup diced smoked ham
1 small yellow onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and diced
2 sweet chili peppers (pasilla), seeded and chopped
1 cup dried gandules which have been soaked for 3 to 8 hours or 2 cans (14 ounces)
½ cup tomato sauce
1 cup long grain rice
1 1/2 cups water
3 TBSP cilantro, roughly chopped
6 olives stuffed with pimientos
1 tsp capers

Heat the oil in a large pot with a tight-fitting lid.  Add the chorizo and smoked ham (or bacon) and fry lightly.  Add the onion and peppers and sauté for about 4 minutes.  Add garlic and sauté for another minute.  Add gandules and tomato sauce.  Mix well and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes.  Add the rice and water.  Turn the heat to medium and cook until the water is mostly absorbed.  Add olives, capers, and cilantro, stir, and turn the heat to low.  Cover and cook for 30-45 minutes.

To serve, turn the rice out onto a platter.  Scrape off the crusty layer that hopefully formed at the bottom of the pan, and top the rice with it.

Annatto oil – Heat 2 cups of olive oil in a small saucepan.  Add ½ cup annatto (achiote) seeds and cook about 5 minutes over low heat.  When the oil is a rich orange color, remove, let cool, and strain.  Store the oil in a jar in the refrigerator.  Achiote/annatto seeds can be found in Hispanic and Asian shops.

Nutritional Notes:  Apparently recent studies have shown that beans and fruits are not that high in fiber.  The best fiber comes from whole grains.  However, this recipe calls for white rice, not brown rice (whole grain)  If you choose to use brown rice you will need to double the amount of water and cooking time.
Dried beans such as pinto, black, kidney, garbanzo, etc. are considered to belong to both the vegetable and the protein groups by the USDA.  Green peas, green lima beans, and green string beans are not considered to belong to the protein group because they compare more closely with starchy vegetables such as onions, lettuce, celery and cabbage because their nutrient content is similar to those foods.

Pressure cooking beans:·  Before cooking, check your equipment.  Always check the rubber gasket (the ring of rubber that lines the lid of the cooker) to make sure it isn't dried out or cracked. Some manufacturers recommend replacing the gasket annually, depending on how often you use your cooker. You might want to order an extra to keep on hand in case you discover yours is ripped just as you're starting a recipe. Also check to make sure that there is no dried food on the rim of the pot, which could break the seal.
·  Don't overfill the cooker  For most foods, don't fill the pressure cooker more than two-thirds full, to avoid the potential of food blocking the vents. Foods like beans and grains, which tend to swell as they cook, should only fill about half of the cooker.
·  Use enough liquid.  A pressure cooker needs liquid to create the steam that cooks the food. A good recipe will take this into account, but if you're creating your own, you'll need at least 1/2 cup of water or other liquid. If the steam doesn't seem to be building with this amount, open the cooker (releasing any steam first) and add a little more until you reach pressure.
·  Avoid cooking foods that froth. The frothing can block the steam valves and the pressure release vents. Foods that froth include pasta, rhubarb, split peas, oatmeal, applesauce and cranberries. If you do want to cook these foods, follow a trusted recipe and make sure that the quantity in the pot is well below the recommended maximum fill line.

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