Jake and I are trying to make an earnest effort to dine out less and eat more simply at home.

Eating more simply at home means that I will try to make smaller amounts of dishes so we’ll be less apt to waste food. Let’s face it. We just don’t eat leftovers that we freeze. This means exploring the depths of our pantries and eating what we have. To Jake’s dismay, this also means eating less meat.

Sounds like common sense, but somehow we’ve gotten away from this.

Last week, I dug into my pantry and found a bag of organic, white Navy beans and a bag of jasmine rice. I recently made a huge batch of spicy chili and wanted these rice and beans to have a different flavor.

This dish was inspired by meals prepared by friends who were from or had spent time in West Africa and this concise recipe for West African Beans and Rice. Concise does not equal bland or boring. Cooking the dried beans in stock and caramelizing the onions and tomato paste creates a lot of flavor from minimal ingredients.

The super spicy chilies didn’t hurt, either.

Spicy Beans and Rice

If you don’t have dried beans, you can substitute canned beans. You can also substitute another green such as arugula or kale for spinach or frozen spinach for fresh. I found Goya Sauzon seasoning in the International section of my local grocery store. It does contain MSG. 

Spicy Beans & Rice

Dried beans (I used about two cups of white Navy beans)
Chicken stock
Optional: Goya Sauzon seasoning
Olive oil
1 onion, diced
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
Tomato Paste, about three Tablespoons
Black Pepper
Brown sugar
Spinach, several handfuls, long stems removed
Optional garnishes: Parmesan cheese, diced onion

Steamed rice

Examine beans for stones and other debris. Rinse and drain.

Soak beans overnight. If you don’t have this much time, soak for as long as you can and simmer until tender. It will just take longer.

Drain beans and replace liquid so it covers beans, plus an inch or two extra. I used mostly chicken stock, a little water, and a dash of Goya Sauzon seasoning.

Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer until the beans are tender. After soaking the beans for eight hours, this took 1-1 1/2 hours.

Preheat a saucepan over medium heat. Cook the diced onion until it begins to caramelize around the edges. Add the hot peppers and stir. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant but not burnt.

Add about three tablespoons of tomato paste. Smush with the onion and garlic and cook until the color turns rusty. You may need to add a splash of the bean liquid to make the tomato paste easier to work with.

Add the beans and bean liquid. Simmer until the flavors meld and the liquid slightly thickens.

Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed. Add a little brown sugar to round out the flavors.

Before serving, tear up fresh spinach and stir until wilted.

Finish with a tiny piece of butter or drizzle of olive oil. Serve with steamed rice and garnish with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.

Steamed Jasmine Rice:
Rinse rise until water runs mostly clear. Drain.

In a saucepan, saute rice with a little olive oil or butter until it smells toasty.

Add twice as much water and a pinch of salt. Stir.

Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low.

Cover and steam until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender. This should take about 20 minutes.