Cheap and healthy meals don't have to be boring. With a variety of options, a classic beans-and-rice dish can be served in lots of ways. And many cultures have mastered this dynamic duo. So whether you're making a satisfying meal for lunch, or a tasty side dish for dinner, here are some easy recipes to get you started. Each one is meatless and uses canned beans. However, cooking dried beans from scratch is even more cost-effective, and can add more flavor if you simmer the beans in broths and spices. That's the beauty here: With just a simple spice adjustment or vegetable addition, this dish can taste entirely different each time.
Brittany Volk, Times staff writer
Black Beans and Rice
This is my go-to desk lunch. I've changed this recipe around a lot, but this is the original one with which I started. To make, cook 2 cups long-grain rice according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Saute 1 cup chopped onion, 1 ½ cups green pepper and 1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic (about 2 medium cloves) until softened, about 5 minutes. Add 2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, 1 cup vegetable or chicken broth, 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, 2 bay leaves, ½ teaspoon black pepper, 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin and 1 teaspoon salt. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and let simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the bay leaves. Spoon the beans over the rice and sprinkle with chopped scallions. Serve warm. Serves 6. Recipe from realsimple.com.
Poached Egg With Rice and Edamame
I feel like a real adult when I make this quick meal instead of tossing a frozen pizza in the oven after a long workday. Thanks to my awesome rice cooker, I always have some cooked rice on hand, which is helpful when making this tasty bowl for one. In a medium skillet, heat 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil over medium heat. Add 1 sliced garlic clove and a pinch of red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add 2 cups chopped kale and cook, stirring, until wilted, about 2 minutes. Add 1/2 cup thawed frozen edamame and cook until heated through. Season with salt. Transfer to a bowl with ¾ cup cooked brown rice and top with ¼ cup shredded red cabbage. To poach the egg, bring 2 inches water to a boil in a small pot, then reduce to a simmer. Crack 1 egg into a small cup, then gently slide the egg into the water. Cook until egg white is just set but yolk is still loose, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and serve over rice and vegetables. Season with salt and red pepper flakes. Serves 1. Recipe from marthastewart.com.
Italian White Bean and Rice Soup
It's not soup season, I know, but sometimes I just want a taste of home. First, cook white or brown rice according to package instructions, to make 1 cup. While rice is cooking, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large stockpot. Add 3 minced garlic cloves, 1 small chopped yellow onion and 1 rib finely chopped celery and cook until soft, about 4 minutes. Add 6 cups chicken or vegetable broth or stock, 1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes and 1 1/2 teaspoons Italian seasoning and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, stir in 2 (15-ounce) cans Great Northern or cannellini white beans, and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in the cooked rice and serve. Top with grated Parmesan cheese, if desired. Serve with crusty bread. Serves 6 to 8. Recipe from moneycrashers.com.
Mixed Bean Masala with Yellow Rice
Indian flavors are the star of this hearty dish. Instead of using plain white or brown rice, take the time to make a fragrant yellow rice. To make, rinse 2 cups jasmine rice and add it to a medium pot with 2 cups water, 1 bay leaf, a 2-inch piece of cinnamon stick, 3 whole cloves, ¾ teaspoon turmeric and 1 teaspoon salt. Cover, turn the heat to low and cook for 10 minutes. Remove pot from heat and let sit, still covered, for 10 minutes. Uncover and remove bay leaf, cinnamon stick and cloves. Add 2 tablespoons butter or olive oil to the pot and stir. Set aside as you make the masala. Chop 1 onion and drop it into a food processor with 2 cloves garlic and a 1-inch piece of ginger and blend until a smooth paste forms, adding up to 1 tablespoon water if needed. Set aside. Heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in a large saucepan over medium heat and add 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1 teaspoon garam masala and ½ teaspoon ground coriander. Fry the spices for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring frequently, until fragrant. Add the onion-ginger paste and cook for another 2 minutes, stirring, until most of the added water has evaporated. Add ½ teaspoon salt, 1 (28-ounce) can chopped tomatoes, 2 (15-ounce) cans beans (I like garbanzos and black beans, but red kidney beans are good, too) and 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped cilantro. For a little more kick, add a pinch of chopped fresh chiles or red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil then lower heat. Simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste and adjust seasoning. Garnish with more cilantro and serve over rice, with a dollop of Greek yogurt on the side. Serves 6. Recipe from thekitchn.com.
Red Beans and Rice
My dad constantly made the boxed version of this when I was a kid. Being the picky eater I was, I probably hated it because it had flavor. Now I've realized that making it yourself means you can adjust the spice. Cook 4 cups brown rice according to package instructions. Dice 1 yellow onion, 4 stalks of celery and ½ green pepper. Mince 4 cloves garlic. In a large saucepan (or dutch oven), warm 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Saute the onion, celery and pepper for 8 to 10 minutes over medium heat until softened. Add the minced garlic and cook for about 2 minutes more; watch the pan to avoid burning the garlic. Meanwhile, drain and rinse 2 (14-ounce) cans red kidney beans. When the vegetables are ready, add the beans, 1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes (I like to use the fire-roasted kind, but plain is fine) with their liquid, and 1 cup vegetable broth. Stir in ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1 teaspoon paprika, 1 teaspoon oregano, 1 teaspoon thyme, 2 bay leaves, 1 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper. Simmer over low heat for 20 minutes, until the sauce thickens. Meanwhile, roughly chop ¼ cup parsley leaves. When simmering is complete, remove the bay leaves and serve the beans over rice. Garnish with chopped parsley and hot sauce. Serves 4 to 6. Recipe from acouplecooks.com.