Spicy Black Beans with Sausage, Rice, and Avocado

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It has been HOT here. The kind of heat that makes you feel limp, constantly damp, and supremely unmotivated; the heat that gives pause even to the most avid home bakers considering firing up their ovens (but only a brief pause). I know I’m a huge wuss compared to the rest of the country, but still: it’s been really hot. If only I could lay under the Dursleys’ living room window; I’ve heard it’s a great place for a warm summer afternoon.

Work has kept me busy recently, with a lot of fast turn-arounds and challenging projects. It makes me feel like a spy to say that I can’t disclose any more information, but it’s true. Which leaves me with no other anecdotes to divulge except those about my super exciting lunch breaks. Usually, in an attempt to feel like something other than a cave troll staring at a computer all day, I walk a little ways to the smallest park ever made (literally one path in between two swathes of grass and six trees), plop down on the grass as far from the street as possible, and crack open a book. I usually see the same people since I go around the same time every day, and recently I’ve been perplexed and annoyed by one park-comrade. I’ve seen her from the start, and already didn’t like her much because she smoked cigarettes right next to me (also in full view of the non-smoking sign). But the last couple of times I’ve seen her, she’s been lying on a blanket. On the concrete path. Literally centimeters from the grass. Each time she chooses to put her blanket on the ONE surface in the park that is a) the dirtiest and b) the least comfortable spot to lay on. It honestly boils my blood (which is so ridiculous, I know) and one of the most LA things I’ve ever seen someone do. So yeah, that’s what I do on my lunch breaks: go to the park and simmer in rage at the sheer ignorance of where to lay a blanket.

On a more exciting and important note, Jonji recently applied to residency programs! Now we wait to see who gets back to him for an interview. It’s basically an extended sorting ceremony, with each program whispering, “You could be great at our school, you know, it’s all here in your head!” and Jonji replying to each one, “Not the East Coast, not the East Coast.” No offense to the East Coast—we just really want to be closer to home if we can. And I wouldn’t be surprised if all of the programs do want to schedule an interview with him, since he’s done so well in med school. Pardon me while I brag for one second: he’s the president of his class and was just welcomed into a small honor society for excellent 4th year students, among many other accomplishments. I am so proud of him, and so excited to see what his (and our) future holds in the coming years.

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We’ve had some pretty relaxed weekends lately, mostly consisting of hanging out with Todd, Jessica, Dan, and Tiff. Each time finds us eating lots of good food, playing games, and laughing almost constantly. We spent Labor Day with them at the beach, where Jonji and Todd got sand-chafed from body surfing so much and I accidentally took the mother of all mango pieces from Dan’s bag of fruit. Last weekend Emma and Nicolette spent some time with us on their way to a hip hop festival. It was so fun to have them here, even for a brief time. On Saturday morning we did what we always do with guests—take them to Venice for food and coffee and people watching—before they had to take off.

Extravagant cooking has now been relegated to one day a week, if that, but I still fit in the odd galette, long roast, and weekly bread into my schedule. Summer fruit is coming to an end, and who am I to deny the fruits’ last hurrah as jam, pie, or cake? I also managed to try my hand at making blaas, traditional Irish rolls, which actually turned out very well. My Sundays are for cooking; what may seem like work to others is actually all I dream about during week days.

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Until I have more time, I have to come up with multiple quick and delicious meals for week nights. One of our favorites is a bowl full of black beans, rice, spicy sausage, pickled onions, sour cream, and avocado. If you cook the black beans on Sunday, the meal prep on a week night is really quick. But if watching a simmering pot of beans for an hour or so isn’t your idea of an ideal weekend, maybe consider just buying them canned. Either way, try it; Jonji calls this recipe “one for the record books.”

If you do want to make your own beans, simply soak 2.5 cups of dried black beans overnight. Drain the next day, add to a large pot, and cover with cold water. Add some salt (a couple hefty shakes is fine), bring to a boil, and then simmer for about an hour. Taste a couple. If not done, keep simmering and checking periodically. Drain and store in the fridge for up to about 5 days.

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Spicy Black Beans with Sausage, Rice, and Avocado
serves 4

4 sausages (I get spicy chicken Italian)

1 cup basmati rice, rinsed and drained

1 small yellow onion, diced
2 medium peppers, not spicy, diced
1 jalapeño pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin
3 cups cooked black beans
1 can diced tomatoes
2/3 cup water or chicken stock
1 tsp salt

1 clove garlic, minced
zest of 1 lime
pinch of salt
a few large spoonfuls of sour cream

pickled onions*
limes
chopped cilantro
sliced avocado

First, start the rice. Bring a small pot of water to boil. Once the water boils, add 1 tbsp coconut oil and the rice and cook at a gentle boil for 11 minutes, or until the rice is cooked but not mushy. Drain and let cool.

While you’re waiting for the rice water to boil, heat a little olive oil in a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Brown the sausages on four sides, leaving them to cook for a couple of minutes after each rotation. Then pour in about 1/8 cup water, turn the heat to low, cover, and cook for 10 minutes. Remove the lid and turn the heat up to medium-high and cook, turning occasionally, until the liquid has evaporated. Turn off the heat and leave to cool.

Meanwhile, make the beans. Heat a large 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Add a couple glugs of olive oil and, after a minute or two, add the onion and all the peppers. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes, or until the vegetables have softened slightly. Stir in the garlic, oregano, and cumin, and cook for a couple of minutes. Then add the beans, tomatoes and juices, water, and salt. Simmer for 25 minutes.

While the beans cook, add the 1 clove minced garlic, lime zest, and a pinch of salt to the sour cream. Set aside. Slice the pickled onions, chop up a good handful of cilantro, and then slice the sausages into bite-sized chunks.

Serve by letting everyone build their own bowl; I like doing rice, then beans, sausage, onions, avocado, sour cream, and cilantro. Enjoy!

*I like to pickle my own onions. It’s really easy, and if you’re interested I highly recommend grabbing a copy of Saving the Season by Kevin West. An alternative is to make this quick onion pickle.

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