After eating gallo pinto - black beans and rice, Costa Rican-style - at a welcome brunch in Costa Rica, I muddled through a stilted conversation with Marta, the cook, maid, and general go-to gal for the hotel in which we stayed, and figured out what I need to buy at the market to make it. And, like most traditional recipes, I'm certain that everyone has their own version. Many other countries have their own version of this dish: Cubans make Moros y Cristianos; in El Salvador it's called casamiento; and in Peru they use kidney beans and call it tacu tacu. Whatever you want to call it, with the beans and rice it's a complete protein if you do not feel like making anything else for dinner!
This Costa Rican-inspired version has become a Mann family favorite. Marta told me to buy: black beans, white rice, boullion, chili powder, and garlic. Getting the 'garlic' portion of that recipe was comical.
I was standing in the doorway of her kitchen and she smiled at me, "ajo," she said. "Ajo," I repeated and shrugged my shoulders. You would think that was close enough to the Italian aglio that I would have been able to get that cognate. Maybe I was jet-lagged. She made the shape with her hands, "ajo." That was not helping. Finally, the doorman interjected, "ajo...like an onion, but not." Ah, garlic! We were all relieved. And gallo pinto became a staple on our vacation table. Gallo pinto and eggs for breakfast, before our adventures. Gallo pinto and a protein, usually fish, for dinner.
Over the years, my recipe has changed based on what I have in the on-hand. Cook the rice either in water or boullion; tonight I used brown rice. Simmer the black beans till cooked in boullion with a bay leaf till fork tender. I caramelized turnip greens from my CSA box, added the cooked black beans, and seasoned with fresh oregano and pink Himalaya salt. Stir the cooked rice into the black beans. I add a splash of olive oil.
Tonight I served this with beer-braised mahi mahi and honeyed turnip salad.