It was very tempting to write another column about the latest dessert I’m craving during this pregnancy, but I decided to give you all a little peak into Costa Rican culture this week.
The very first time I came to Costa Rica, back in 2009, I was making small talk with my taxi driver and I asked him what kind of yummy foods Costa Rica was known for. He thought about it for a brief moment and then laughed, “We’ve got rice and beans. That’s what we eat.” I thought he was exaggerating, but five years later I know all to well that he was not.
In Costa Rica rice and beans are served with every meal and more often than not ARE the meal. Red beans are the preferred choice in most homes, but the Caribbean side tends to favor black beans. In fact on the Caribbean “rice and beans” refers exclusively to rice with black beans. Rice with red beans is called “beans and rice.”
Breakfast is usually a mixture of rice and beans called “gallo pinto” – and yes, for all you Spanish-savvy speakers, that translates to “spotted rooster.” Gallo pinto is a great way to use up yesterday’s old rice and to make a dent in that big ol’ pot of beans you’ve made. It’s typically served with a dollop of sour cream, a fried egg on the side and a corn tortilla. We like to add fresh tomatoes and avocado on top of ours, and sometimes we’ll throw in last night’s leftover beef or chicken.
And though we eat this almost every day, I honestly never get tired of it. It’s delicious, a great balance of complex and quick carbs, and a good dose of protein for the morning. Add some hot sauce and you’ve got a winner. When I do find myself tiring of gallo pinto I add my own special little ingredient to help liven it up: a sliced banana. Yep. Sounds crazy, and I promise this isn’t crazy pregnant hormones talking, but a sliced banana goes really well on top of rice and beans.
— 2 tablespoons cooking oil of choice
— ½ medium onion, diced
— ½ medium bell pepper, diced
— 2 garlic cloves, minced
— 2 cups day old rice (fresh is okay too)
— 1 cup beans with a little bean juice (if using canned beans, just throw in the entire contents of the can)
— 2 tablespoons Lizano* sauce (optiona)
— 2 tablespoons minced cilantro
— Sour cream for garnishing (optional)
In a large skillet heat the oil and then sauté the onion, pepper and garlic until onion is translucent. Add the rice, beans and Lizano and cook until heated through, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and sprinkle in the cilantro. Serve alongside an egg and corn tortilla with a dollop of sour cream.
*Lizano is akin to ketchup here in Costa Rica—it’s used on everything and is every Tico’s preferred condiment. It tastes like a mild A-1 sauce to me and you can find it at most world markets and sometimes even at a regular grocery store.
Darla Antoine is an enrolled member of the Okanagan Indian Band in British Columbia and grew up in Eastern Washington State. For three years, she worked as a newspaper reporter in the Midwest, reporting on issues relevant to the Native and Hispanic communities, and most recently served as a producer for Native America Calling. In 2011, she moved to Costa Rica, where she currently lives with her husband and their infant son. She lives on an organic and sustainable farm in the “cloud forest”—the highlands of Costa Rica, 9,000 feet above sea level. Due to the high elevation, the conditions for farming and gardening are similar to that of the Pacific Northwest—cold and rainy for most of the year with a short growing season. Antoine has an herb garden, green house, a bee hive, cows, a goat, and two trout ponds stocked with hundreds of rainbow trout.