Alma De Cuba sat right on Walnut Street right next to Bistro Perrier which was one of the nicest restaurants I had ever eaten at as a young man. I used to walk by these two restaurants on Walnut and wonder what it’d be like to work in the back of the house.
In college, I spent more time coming in the backdoor of Alma De Cuba than walking past it on Walnut. The 200 seat Nuevo Latino restaurant turned people in and out with some of the best cuisine in town.
The Lechon Asado was slow-cooked in pork fat and served with a citrus mojo, the selection of ceviches and starters was outrageous including an outlandish creamy seafood soup that was topped with a poached egg and fresh cilantro.
I worked saute and one of my jobs was to make about 10 cups of rice each night. While the ratio of rice cookery is 2:1 I screwed it up a number of times. I would let it steam too long while I was slicing and chopping, moving from the basements of the restaurant, looking for the cat-sized rats that would rarely be spotted dashing late at night.
However, I hit that rice on the head many more times than I messed it up. I wasn’t responsible for the black beans but we sold so many simple bowls of black beans and rice, even in these swanky restaurants in Philly.
I was out of work around 1am on Saturdays and the last thing on my mind while riding the El Train back to my car in West Philly was the fact that all those grains of rice and beans would show up again in my life as a prepper.
Cooking rice is difficult if you haven’t done it before. You are doing a lot of things in a short period of time and if some of them are done too long or not long enough it can ruin your rice.
You are also going to need to understand the rice cooking ratio and process to have success.
Your rice is covered with powdery starch and God knows what else. Step one should always be to wash your rice off. I just put it in a pot and soak it with water before draining the water off carefully.
The first time you do it the water will be milky with the residual starch. This can make rice gummy.
Two parts of water to one part rice is about the best ratio for cooking rice. At home, I do it with a coffee mug. I use a scoop of rice from the mug and two fills of water to get the ratio just right.
I also put in plenty of salt and oil at this point.
You are going to boil the rice until it gets to be the consistency of porridge. At this point, you need to put a lid on it and turn the stove down as low as possible.
While you were boiling rice you are now steaming it to finish. These are two very different cooking methods. On electric stoves, you should take the pot completely off the heat until it cools down to a simmer or you are just going to boil the rice longer with a lid on and the top layers will overcook.
After about 10 minutes of steaming at low temp, I add some more oil and salt. Then I break all the rules and use a fork to lightly stir the rice before allowing it to steam for another couple of minutes.
I also add lime and cilantro at this point when I am cooking dinner because we like that sorta thing.
The Kryptonite of most preppers food storage are the beans. We store beans but how many people cook beans on a regular basis? Dry beans?
If you add salt to a pot of beans early on during the cooking process they will never get soft.
If you don’t soak the beans thoroughly the night before they will never get soft.
10 cups to 1 lbs of beans is great way to remember it.
Rice is 2:10 Beans are 10:1
Soak your beans overnight in the fridge. Give them at least 8 hours completely covered by several inches of water. Be sure your container is large enough that they can expand.
When it comes time to cook them you want to place them in a pot with your water and bring the whole thing to a simmer. Simmer this mix for about an hour.
Add your aromatics and flavorings here. These can be onions, bay leaves, or whatever else you like to flavor your beans with. Many people like to add smoked pig parts (hocks, necks, feet). These add great flavor.
The key to good beans is to soak them again! This time you soak them in the cooking liquid as it cools. You will be cooking the beans till they are essentially tender. This could be 30 minutes to an hour more and then turning off the heat.
Let them soak and season them up with plenty of salt. This part is crucial.
Moros y Cristianos
This is a dish where you cook the beans and rice together. I add some ham and bacon in the beginning to add exceptional flavor but this is an easy one-pot meal.
- 1 cup of white rice
- 1 cup of cooked black beans
- 1 bell pepper
- 1 onion
- 1/2 cup of diced ham
- 1/4 cup diced bacon
In a large enough pan to cook your rice, you are going to start by sauteeing your bacon and ham. Once they are getting crispy add your onion and peppers. Cook these until they are starting to soften.
At this point, you can add your rice. I like to add about a teaspoon of smoked paprika here but you don’t have to. Stir the rice and let it heat up a little before adding the 2 cups of water.
At this point you can also your beans to mix and bring it all to a simmer.
Cook this mixture until it gets to that poridgy consistency and then add a lid and steam the whole pot for about 5 -10 minutes.
Once your rice is tender this is ready to go.
Black Bean and Rice Soup
Good black bean soup starts with blackened onions. Its a Cuban secret but it gives the soup such a great flavor.
- 2 medium sized onions
- 4 cloves of chopped garlic
- 2 teaspoons of chili powders
- 1 teaspoon of cumin
- 2cups of cooked black beans
- 4 cups of vegetable stock
- 1/2 cup of white rice
Take the two onions, leave the peels on and bake them in a 400-degree oven for about 1 hour. The skins will blacken and you might even lose some of the layers inside the onion but whats left will have this incredible smell and flavor.
Peel away the blackened portions and set the onions aside.
In your soup pot start your garlic in some oil just until it gets fragrant. Then add the onions and spices. Let this mix simmer for a bit over low heat.
Add 1 cup of your beans and 2 cups of your vegetable stock and bring this up to a simmer. Then with a stick blender, you can buzz this whole thing up. Get it nice and smooth. If you don’t have a stick blender just whizz it all up in a blender on low with the top open a bit.
Stir in the rest of your stock and rice, cooking until the rice is tender.
Season this soup and then serve. I like a little sour cream on top of mine!
Urban Homesteaders Apocalyptic Dinner
This is a recipe for that kind of post-collapse meal that you might be having on a regular basis if you have chickens and you have broken into your long term food storage. It requires that you understand how to scramble eggs well.
However, its more of a mix of ingredients rather than a recipe.
- 2 generous pats of butter
- 6 eggs
- 1 cup of warm black beans
- 1 pot of finished rice ( finished with lime and cilantro if you wanna live on the edge)
- A mix of fresh herbs or wild edibles and herbs. (Dandelion Leaf , Cilantro, Flat Leaf Parsley, Violet)
The best-scrambled eggs happen at low temperatures. I hate when I brown eggs in a pan and get that awful wet dog smell.
Start your butter in a pan over very low heat. Add the eggs, whisked, and be patient. I like to season with salt and pepper at this point. Stir them frequently.
When the eggs are about 3/4 of the way done, still kind of runny, take the whole pan off the heat. The eggs will continue to cook and will be perfect if you take them off the heat.
In a bowl pile some rice, black beans on top, and then some of your scrambled eggs. Add some fresh chopped herbs and edibles to the top and you have a great meal to take in the apocalypse.
If I am completely honest I would add some kind of cayenne, hot sauce or Thai chili to this bowl of goodness.
Fried Black Bean and Rice Cakes
Leftover rice is a perfect breeding ground for dangerous pathogens that are associated with foodborne illness. There could come a time when you are keeping lots of leftover rice and you should be warned about this.
However, if you cool it down quickly you can certainly use the leftovers and that’s what this recipe is all about.
- 1lb of cooked black beans
- 3/4 cup of precooked rice
- 1 tsp of cumin
- 1 tablespoon of good chili powder
- 1 tsp of garlic powder
- 2 tablespoons of chopped garlic
- 1 Jalapeno seeded and diced
Add your beans, spices, and jalapeno to a food processor and buzz until nice and smooth. Mix in your rice and portion these out using a quarter cup measuring spoon. They make a great size and shape.
In a pan with hot oil you are going to fry these on either side until both sides are nice and crisp.
Place them on a pan and bake for about 15 minutes just to heat them all the way through.
I like to serve these up with a little homemade Chipotle mayo
Black Bean and Rice Empanadas
This final recipe is a quick hack for turning your black bean and rice cakes into a filling for delicious empanada.
Basically, instead of frying the filling on both sides, you can just stuff it into some empanada dough but, you are going to need a stellar recipe for empanada dough.
Good news is, I got you covered.
- 2 1/4 cups of flour
- a few pinches of salt
- 1/2 cup of cold pork fat or butter
- 1 large egg
- 1 cup of ice water
- 1 tablespoon of distilled vinegar
Sift your flour and salt together in a bowl. Add your cold fat and use your fingers to mix and mash it into the flour. Be quick about this because the cold fat can warm up fast with the friction. You want the mix to be coarse and crumbly.
You can use a pastry cutter to cut the fat into the flour, also. This avoids the heat of your fingers.
Mix together your egg, water and vinegar and add this to your flour/fat mixture.
Bring the dough together, add a little flour if it’s sticky, and knead it just enough so that you have incorporated all the ingredients. Allow this to rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes
To make empanadas you are just going to cut out circles with a cup or lid and fill the center with your black bean and rice mix. Fold them over to make half-moons. Brush with a whisked egg and crip the open edges with a fork.
You can brush the whole thing with egg to get a nice shine during baking.
Bake the empanadas at 350 for about 20 minutes or till they are nice and brown.
Rice and beans are a tremendous prepper standby. You might eat them often now. Cooked beans in cans and rice might be part of your prepper pantry.
I am sure, if you have long term food storage, that you have some buckets of rice and beans. I keep pintos, black beans, and simple white rice. I know brown is better but white is cheaper.
A basic bowl of rice and black beans is something that sustains populations all over the world!
Get proficient at making both of these ingredients because if you store them and cannot cook them you will hate life when the time comes to use that long term food storage.
Then take it to the next level by trying some of these great recipes that focus on beans and rice.