There’s a lot to love about food, but one of the things I like most is that every culture has its own “rendition” of the same general food. For example, dumplings. When I say dumplings, you probably think of dozens of dishes: gyoza, ravioli, pierogies, empanadas, the list goes on. We’re all essentially eating the same thing, just presenting our local food and flavors. My favorite “we all have it” dish is beans and rice. In the south, red beans and rice was the staple I grew up with. My mom made amazing red beans, seasoned with chili powder and ham hock, and I mopped them up with a chunk of cornbread. 

But when I would go to my favorite Tex-Mex spot, I HAD to get the refried beans and Spanish rice, all smashed on my tortilla building the perfect fajita bite. That is, until senior year of high school, when my friends and I discovered this family-owned spot, the epitome of a hole in the wall. It eventually became the meetup place whenever we were back home from college, and now anytime we’re all in town. 

This place had amazing food, but the real star was their green rice and black beans. Green rice is a thing of beauty. You make a herbaceous green sauce consisting of spinach, roasted jalapeños and tomatillos blended together with additional herbs and spices, to create a savory rice. Served with flavorful Cuban-style black beans, together they make a hearty meal or a tasty side. If we’re being honest, I needed to make this recipe as my friend goes there three times a week just for their beans and rice. In this economy?! We got beans and rice at home, girl.

Rice and beans is a worldwide dish. From lentils, chickpeas and black eye peas, there are a multitude of legumes to choose from and the combination with rice makes a complete protein. Use this combo as the base to a protein bowl, or eat it on its own; either way, the flavor will not disappoint. 

Green Rice and Cubano Beans 

Prep time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes 

Serving: 6-8 

INGREDIENTS

Green Rice 

  • 1½ cups long grain white rice, uncooked and rinsed 
  • 8-10 small tomatillos, cleaned and husk removed 
  • 2 jalapeños
  • ½ bunch spinach (about 2 cups) 
  • Approx. 2 cups cilantro (not packed)
  • 4 cloves garlic 
  • Juice from 2 limes
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2¾ cups chicken broth (or water)
  • 2 teaspoons neutral oil 

Black Beans 

  • 2 cans of black beans, low sodium variety 
  • 1 tablespoon neutral oil 
  • 1 medium onion, diced 
  • 1 green bell pepper diced, 
  • 5 cloves of garlic (I like mine with a lot of garlic, feel free to reduce the garlic)
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano 
  • 2 tablespoons, cumin 
  • 1-2 bay leaves 
  • 3 tablespoons of distilled white vinegar 
  • Salt and pepper to taste 

STEPS

For Green Rice 

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. 
  2. Line baking sheet with foil, and place tomatillos and jalapeños. Drizzle olive oil to lightly coat. Place in oven for 20-25 minutes, shaking halfway through. If making black beans, prepare bell pepper and onion while tomatillos and jalapeños are in the oven. 
  3. In a food processor, combine cilantro and garlic until slightly smaller than pea size. Set aside. 
  4. Place tomatillos, jalapeños (remove seeds to reduce spice level), spinach, ½ cup of chicken broth and lime juice in a blender or food processor. Blend for 30 seconds. Season with salt and pepper. 
  5. In a pot, heat neutral oil over medium heat. Sauté rice for 2-3 minutes, add cilantro and garlic mixture. Sauté an additional 2-3 minutes. Stir often as to not brown the rice. 
  6. Add 2 cups of the tomatillo mixture to rice and the remaining 2½ cups of chicken broth. 
  7. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to low.
  8. Cook for 18-20 minutes. 
  9. Remove from heat, wrap cloth towel under lid and cover. Let sit until time to eat, at least 5 minutes.
  10. Serve with black beans and enjoy. 

For Black Beans

  1. In large skillet, heat neutral oil, sauté chopped onions, bell peppers, dried oregano and cumin. Cook until fragrant, about 5-8 minutes.
  2. Pour canned black beans into the pan with liquid. You can also use leftover cooked black beans and ½ cup chicken broth. 
  3. Add salt and pepper to taste, one bay leaf if you have one and vinegar. Simmer slowly while stirring occasionally.
  4. Cook until reaches desired thickness, about 8-10 minutes (add liquid to thin out or reduce to thicken). Optional: Smash the beans with a spoon for a creamy consistency.
  5. Serve over rice. Garnish with cotija cheese, hot sauce and cilantro.