Serious Eats: Recipes

Sack Lunch: Mark Bittman's Red Beans and Rice

As a devoted user of How To Cook Everything, I’m always interested in bloggers’ strong opinions about Mark Bittman. I haven’t run into any anti-Bittman animus in a while, but every once in a while someone really lets him have it. HTCE and the Minimalist have at times led me astray with recipes that were disappointingly bland or didn’t quite work, but successes have far outnumbered failures.

This week I tried his curried rice noodles in hopes that they would make a good sack lunch. I’m afraid, however, that this is the kind of recipe that makes people turn against Bittman. The noodles were completely bland because the curry powder never really got integrated, and now I have a pot completely encrusted with cooked-on noodles. I probably should have used a bigger (10 quart?) pot and gotten it hotter, but I’m not going to try again to find out; the one thing I demand of his recipes is that they be idiot proof. In the meantime, for your lunch I propose one of my old Bittman favorites, red beans and rice.

I like the vegetarian version, so that’s what I’m adapting here. It’s filling, cheap, and healthy; in fact, I think it’s also the recipe that convinced me that cooking dried beans instead of using canned is not so scary. This is not Louisiana-style red beans and rice; the lack of meat and addition of coconut milk makes it different and very good. As far as I’m concerned, HTCE is about teaching you how to get dinner on the table, not how to knock people’s socks off (Bittman co-wrote the very good Simple to Spectacular for that), but thanks to the coconut milk I always feel like I’m getting a special treat when I eat these leftovers for lunch.

About the author: Robin Bellinger recently escaped a career in book publishing, which was cutting into her cooking time. Now she's a freelance editor and can bake bread on Tuesday afternoon if she feels like it. She lives in Midtown Manhattan with her husband and blogs about cooking and crafting at home*economics.

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