Saturday, October 23, 2010

Freshly Revamped Black Bean Mango

No matter how tired you are, watching your cat try to be a Monorail Cat in order to cheer you up always makes everything instantly awesome.  Check him out:  he not only folds his feet underneath himself but his tail, too!

I came running when the boyfriend called "Oh, come look!  He's sitting on his feets!" and this is the ridiculously adorable spectacle that presented itself.  This cat actually stayed put while I went, got the enormous camera, folded up the huge strap that holds the camera around the wearer's neck so he wouldn't jump up and paw at it, accidentally took a picture with flash, and then tried to take them without flash before realizing the focus light was still, basically, Simon got flashed in the face a lot for this picture and he still looks breathtakingly cute and trusting.

He fascinates me. =)

This evening's kitchen experiments were all about trying to make my own Black Bean Mango, one of my mother's favorite Kashi frozen entrées.

I've always loved the general idea, but the price is an issue and it also bothers me that everything's frozen and you have to nuke all the ingredients in the microwave.  I realize there is an option to heat it in the oven, but come on--I'm not wasting all that money and electricity to power the oven for 30 minutes just for one frozen dinner.  So the next best plan is--find a way to make it myself!  And I think it's better, cheaper, and much, much fresher.  Bow down, Kashi!

Although I will add that if you can make this with the actual Kashi 7-grain pilaf, you might want to try that.  I've still got to talk our Kroger into carrying it, sadly.

These pretty jars carry my makeshift pilaf:  millet, cracked wheat, and whole grain bulgur, and although I thought those last two were exactly the same thing, apparently this is not the case, hence the color difference between the two on the left of the picture.  Could anybody explain this phenomenon?

Multigrain Pilaf with Black Bean Mango 
Serves 4

Extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic
1 cup uncooked mixed grains (I used 1/2 cup millet, 1/4 cup cracked wheat, and 1/4 cup whole grain bulgur)
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 3/4 cups vegetable broth
2-3 shakes of cumin
1 tsp salt
Pepper to taste

Black Beans and Mango
1 15-oz can black beans, drained
1 ripe room temperature mango, peeled and diced into small cubes
1/2 cup bell peppers, sliced into matchsticks, preferably red and green (just for color)
1/4 cup carrots, sliced into matchsticks 
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
1 tbsp honey or agave nectar
1 large lime, juiced
Few shakes cayenne
Salt and pepper to taste

Drizzle olive oil into your pot, turn to medium high, and add the garlic when hot.  Before the garlic browns (this can happen quickly), add in the pilaf mixture.  Toss and/or stir to coat the grains in the olive oil and garlic, then keep the pot over heat, stirring often, to toast the grains and bring out the flavor.  

After about 3-4 minutes, or earlier if the grains are starting to turn dark (bad!), add in the 1/4 cup of white wine, cumin, salt, and pepper.  Stir and cook for about 1-2 minutes, or until the alcohol has evaporated.  Pour in the vegetable broth, stir once, and cover.  
Cook for 2 minutes, then remove from heat and let sit 10-15 minutes.  

Optional:  add the matchstick carrots and bell peppers after about 8-10 minutes to lightly steam them, if you aren't a huge raw vegetable fan.  Personally, I love the crunch...

Black Beans and Mango
In a large bowl, combine drained black beans*, cubed fresh mango, bell peppers, and carrots.  In a small bowl, combine lime juice, honey or agave, garlic, cilantro, a shake or two of cayenne, and salt and pepper to taste.  Stir pretty vigorously.  Pour over the mango and vegetable mixture and toss well.  

To serve, place a few spoonfuls of pilaf onto each plate and top with the black bean/mango mixture.  Shake on a little bit of paprika for color...and maybe add a few avocado slices or some leftover guacamole (as I did) for garnish!  Enjoy!

*You really do not need to warm this mixture.  If you like, drain the black beans with very warm water; that will bring the temperature up comfortably, and if you begin with a room temperature mango, the heat from the pilaf will do the rest.  This way, the cilantro stays bright green and gorgeous!

I also think the bean/mango mixture would work excellently as a sweetish savory salad.  I wanted to gobble it all up without the pilaf!  I don't subscribe to the idea that we need an incredible amount of grain to survive, and the vegetable flavors marry so beautifully with the fruit that I was truly in awe.  

Mango, cilantro, and lime together are my new favorite threesome.  =)  Although nothing can really beat the awwwww factor of my Monorail Cat.