Monday, June 1, 2009

Gallo Pinto (Beans and Rice)

Gallo pinto (or just pinto) is a Costa Rican (or Tico) breakfast I was introduced to when I lived down there several years ago. In typical Tico thriftiness, the leftover black or red beans and rice from dinner the night before are mixed together, put in the fridge overnight, and fried in the skillet the next morning. Ticos serve pinto with bistek (a cube steak-like cut of meat), fried plaintains, or a scoop of sour cream; orange juice; and coffee. Tico restaurants serve it as a breakfast meal like American restaurants serve eggs.

I don't quite make it the traditional way, nor do I make it only for breakfast. It's great any time of day.

Gallo Pinto
15 oz of cooked black or red beans (if using canned, drain)
3 cups or so of rice (I like about equal parts rice and beans but the proportions vary based on how much rice I have)
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp dried cilantro (not everyone likes cilantro, so you might want to adjust based on taste)
1 clove garlic chopped
1 tablespoon butter

Melt butter in a skillet on medium-high heat. Put the beans, rice, and spices (except salt and pepper) in the skillet and fry. In Costa Rica, the beans and rice are crisped on the bottom of the pan ; this works best with beans and rice mixed the night before.

Salt and pepper to taste. Ticos don't use a lot of black pepper, so I tend to skip it. Besides I think too many American dishes use pepper as a substitute for real flavor.

Serve with bacon, thinly-sliced beef, fried plantains, eggs, or sour cream.

The first time a Tico suggested adding sour cream, I was skeptical. Then I tried it. The creamy tang of the sour cream really brings out the flavor of the beans and is a nice contrast to the crisped rice.

Pinto works well as a meal for any time of day. In the hot summer months, serve with a side of corn for a full protein and skip the heavy meat.

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