Saturday, March 21, 2009

Brown Rice and Black Bean Soft Tacos

A few weeks ago I inadvertently recreated one of my old favorite fast food items. I had not eaten anything from any fast food restaurant in at least 5 years, probably even longer, but nonetheless I found myself experiencing a bit of food déjà vu. I was pretty sure I had never made a burrito (actually it was more of a taco due to over-stuffing) with this exact combination of ingredients, but I knew I had eaten it before. Then it struck me, the Seven Layer Burrito from Taco Bell - rice, beans, sour cream, guacamole, cheddar cheese, lettuce, and tomato (I looked it up). Of course, my dinner was slightly different as I had mashed avocado rather than guacamole, crumbled goat cheese instead of cheddar, and salsa instead of tomato, but the essence remained the same. Fond fast food memories came flooding back, making me feel all nostalgic, as well as slightly nauseous, for times spent with good friends driving around and...well, eating at fast food restaurants.

The amazing technique for cooking the brown rice used in this recipe comes from Cook's Illustrated Magazine, and it has been a revelation for me. I know it sounds pathetic, but I have never been able to cook brown rice with any type of consistency. This technique has you bake the rice in the oven, which was completely new to me. I have made brown rice this way at least ten times now, and its always come out exactly the same, that is to say, absolutely perfect. I'll never simmer it on the stove top again. The only down side is that you need to start 1 hour and 20 minutes before you want to use the rice, so some planning ahead is definitely required. Alternatively you can make a large batch of rice in advance, and freeze it in smaller portions to defrost and reheat as needed.

Start by preheating your oven to 375 degrees. Measure out 1 1/2 cups of brown rice into an 8-inch, oven safe baking dish. Measure out the spices and bring the water and oil to a boil.

Stir the spices into the boiling water and pour it over the rice. Pouring the water into the dish will move the rice around, so just use a spoon to coax it back into a nice even layer.

Cover tightly with a double layer of foil and place into the oven for 1 hour.

While the rice cooks, open up a can of black beans, rinse them and drain them well. When the rice is done, make sure to uncover it carefully or you can get a pretty nasty steam burn.

Fluff the rice with a fork, and place the foil loosely back over the top for 5 minutes.

While you are waiting for the rice, mash the avocado. You don't want to do this too far in advance because the avocado tends to discolor quickly. Stir the beans into the rice and allow it to sit uncovered for a few more minutes.

To assemble your soft tacos, start with a medium size (about 8 inch) flour tortilla. Spread as much sour cream as you like in the middle (I generally use about 1 tablespoon per taco).

Spoon approximately 1/8 of the rice mixture onto the sour cream and top with some goat cheese. I got the idea for goat cheese in tacos from this great recipe by Rick Bayless, the undisputed king of authentic Mexican cuisine in America. I know goat cheese sounds a little weird for tacos, but I think it adds a really nice tangy flavor and creaminess that you don't get from grated cheddar or jack cheese, but you can use whatever you like of course.

Next comes a little of your favorite salsa spooned over the top and a generous dollop of mashed avocado. If tomatoes are in season, I'm sure some fresh, diced tomato would be great, but if they're not in season, skip the tomato and use the salsa.

Top with some nice crispy romaine lettuce and you're ready to eat.


Brown Rice and Black Bean Soft Tacos
1 hour 30 minutes (about 10 minutes if rice and beans is cooked in advance) Makes 8 to 10 tacos
  • 1 1/2 cups long grain brown rice
  • 2 1/3 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 15 ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained well
  • 8 to 10 flour tortillas
  • sour cream
  • 4 ripe avocados
  • crumbled goat cheese
  • your favorite salsa
  • romaine lettuce, washed, dried, and cut into bite size pieces
To make the rice and beans:
  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven t0 375 degrees
  2. Place rice in 8-inch square, oven safe baking dish
  3. Place water and oil in small saucepan and bring to a boil
  4. Stir spices into boiling water
  5. Pour boiling water over rice, smooth rice into an even layer with a spoon
  6. Cover tightly with a double layer of foil
  7. Place into oven for 1 hour
  8. Remove from oven and carefully uncover
  9. Fluff rice with fork, then place foil loosely over top and allow rice to sit for 5 minutes
  10. Uncover, mix in beans with fork, and allow the rice to sit uncovered for 5 more minutes
To assemble the tacos:
  1. Prepare flour tortillas according to package directions
  2. Place a tortilla on a plate and spread about 1 tablespoon of sour cream evenly over the middle of the tortilla
  3. Place 1/8 to 1/10 of the rice and beans (about 1/2 cup) onto the tortilla
  4. Top the rice and beans with a few crumbles of goat cheese (about 1 to 2 tablespoons)
  5. Place a few spoons of salsa on top of the cheese (about 1 to 2 tablespoons)
  6. Top the salsa with a generous dollop of mashed avocado (about 1/3 cup or more if you like)
  7. Sprinkle a few pieces of lettuce on top
  8. Repeat as many times as you like

Brown rice is much healthier for you than white, but it takes considerably longer to prepare. The cooking method in this recipe makes delicious rice, is very simple, and is hands off for almost all of the cooking time leaving you free to prepare the rest of your meal. Use the brown rice cooking technique above whenever you need brown rice, simply omit the chili powder, cumin, oregano, and beans.


Kevin said...

Those tacos look really good. I like using brown rice whenever I can.

Anonymous said...

I just got a recipe from someone on how to make home made, whole wheat tortillas. So, I found your recipe at a perfect time!

This sounds AMAZING. Seriously. I can't wait to try it tonight.

- Sarah

we are never full said...

i think using goat cheese was a brilliant idea! you could also try a bit of feta next time as it tastes similar to the mexican cheese often used in street food called cotija.

Natalie said...

I can't wait to try out that method for the brown rice. Thanks for sharing with detailed instructions and pictures!!

Holler said...

That sounds absolutely delicious! I haven't tried rice this way before, but I bet it was very tasty.

Darron said...

Thanks to everyone for the nice comments! I hope the rice method works as well for you all as it does for me.

SARAH - Homemade tortillas are really great and I always try to make my own if I have the time...good luck with your recipe!

never full - I love feta and will definitely give that a try next time.