Black Beans and Rice for the Instant Pot 7-in-1 Pressure Cooker

I once went on the South Beach Diet. That’s the one that makes you cut out carbs and sugar for the first two weeks before you’re allowed to slowly add carbs back into your diet. At the time, I thought, “How hard can it be to go super low-carb for a couple of weeks?” Ha! I can be so delusional ambitious about this stuff sometimes.

It turns out telling an Asian person to avoid rice for two whole weeks is like expecting a crack addict to walk into a crack house and not partake in the house specialty. Not a good idea. I was super cranky after two days of my self-imposed riceless existence and fell off the diet within the week.

Since our marriage, my husband, the kids and I have not really consumed a lot of rice because of our kitchen limitations. One of my invisible internet friends mentioned cooking rice in her oven and on several occasions, I tried to bake rice and beans, but my family’s reactions were somewhat lukewarm. Everyone liked the flavors in the rice but the varying textures really left a lot to be desired. The different rice to water ratios I used didn’t seem to matter, I always ended up with over- or -undercooked rice. Blech. When your beloved spouse’s face falls at the mention of baked rice and beans, that’s the hint to reevaluate your rice baking skills.

DH and I live in a tiny apartment with a very very tiny under-equipped kitchen. Like, imagine the smallest kitchen possible and halve that. Everything we own has to do multiple duty if possible so as to save space. Imagine my delighted surprise when I heard about the Instant Pot 7-in-1 Pressure Cooker. It sautés, slow cooks, steams, cooks rice, keeps food warm, makes yogurt as well as porridge, and of course, it pressure cooks. So on Prime Day,  I bought one for $99.

Except I’d never used a pressure cooker before. I nervously envisioned the aftermath of an epic pressure cooker explosion where oxtail stew fired in all directions. What if a rogue oxtail took out someone’s eye? I wondered anxiously.

So I thought I’d start with my beloved rice and beans. I sautéed some of the sofrito my adorable Puerto Rican grandmother-in-law gave me and tossed in a can of black beans and some leftover diced tomato. After twenty minutes in the pressure cooker (5 minutes to get up to pressure, five minutes of actual cooking, and another ten minutes of depressurizing), my beans were cooked, tender, and full of sass. I spooned the beans into a large bowl, then heated up some more sofrito before tossing in long-grain white rice, chicken broth, and water, and set the pressure cooker to cook for 9 minutes on low pressure.

Yeahhh, no good. The rice was way overcooked and DH felt it lacked adequate flavor. And I wasted homemade chicken broth!

I lamented to a good friend, a consummate pressure cooker user, about the waste of perfectly good rice and she advised me to decrease the water and cook for only three minutes on high next time.

She was right. My very next batch of rice came out evenly cooked, the grains were separated, not too clumpy, and neither too firm nor too soft. And did I mention the flavor? Swoon.

I was afraid this perfection was a fluke so I made it again. And again, each time I got perfectly cooked rice. My poor husband has now grown weary of rice after all these experiments so it looks like I’ll be cooking it for myself when he’s not home. 😀

Rice and Beans for the Instant Pot 7-in-1 Pressure Cooker

Goya makes a decent sofrito if you don’t feel like making your own, though it’s not the same as my abuelita-in-law’s; hers doesn’t involve tomatoes. If you want to make your own sofrito, check out Serious Eats’ recipe, and here’s one for recaito, which is a little closer to what Abuelita gave me. 

For the beans:
1 tsp olive or vegetable oil
2-3 TBS sofrito
1 15.5-oz can of frijoles (black beans), undrained
1/2 cup petite diced tomatoes, drained

For the rice:
2 tsp olive or vegetable oil
2-3 TBS sofrito
2 cups long grain rice (we’re very fond of basmati in the Guapo household), rinsed in a sieve
2 1/4 cups water, broth or a combo of both
1 cube chicken bouillon

On the Saute setting of the electric pressure cooker, heat the oil on Normal (medium-high) until it shimmers and add the sofrito. Stir until very fragrant, about two minutes. Add the beans and diced tomato, stir, and put the lid on, ensuring the vent is closed. Press Cancel, then Manual (this is the pressure cooker setting), set the cook time to five minutes and let’er rip on More (high pressure). When the pot beeps to let you know it’s finished cooking, wait ten minutes and then carefully open the vent to let the pressure drop all the way before lifting the lid.

Empty the beans into a large bowl and cover to keep warm. Wash the insert and on the Saute setting of the electric pressure cooker, heat the remaining oil on Normal (medium-high) until it shimmers before adding the sofrito. Stir and cook until fragrant, about two minutes. Add the rice and stir to make sure it’s coated with oil and sofrito. Add the remaining ingredients and replace the lid with the vent closed. Press Cancel, then Manual, and set the cook time to 3 minutes on More (high pressure). When the timer goes off, wait ten minutes and then carefully open the vent to let the pressure drop all the way before lifting the lid. Gently fluff the rice with a fork before serving.

Birthday Love

I’m often awed by the ease with which my husband expresses his love for me. Take for instance the dreaded birthday. The older I get, the less I look forward to the next one. Maybe it’s because I still feel like I’m 22 and not forty-two. 

Birthdays are a big deal in the Guapo family while in the Blossom clan, they are celebrated with much less fanfare. I mean, we Blossoms do it up with lots of food but we aren’t a demonstrative people in general. Our parties seem a bit lackluster in comparison to those the Guapos throw. 

And so for the first time in my life, there was a big to-do about mine. Mini-Guapo, who is eight years old, was excited about it all day, or so his teacher told us at school pickup. The fact that he and his older brother were so thrilled about someone else’s birthday really touched my weepy little heart. I love my guapo and bear cubs and am the luckiest stepmom I know. ❤️

A dozen red roses, delicious roast chicken, a mound of rice and beans, Guapo’s beloved tostones, and my three smiling men made up our family celebration. Not to mention the utterly delectable Circo’s chocolate mousse cake with the words, “Happy birthday, Panda” (my husband’s pet name for me) emblazoned across the top in pink icing.   

Best. Birthday. Ever. 😍 

Siam Orchid 

Guapo and I had some time on my birthday before we had to pick up Mini-Guapo from school and he wanted to take me out for lunch. I have a particular fondness for southeast Asian cuisine and immediately seized the opportunity to suggest a Thai restaurant we’d walked past in Williamsburg some months ago. 

Siam Orchid is a teeny weeny hole-in-the-wall restaurant that seats all of a dozen people. This isn’t the place for folks who want exotic ambiance or those who dislike very cramped dining quarters. Frankly, I’m not entirely sure I’d want to eat here at peak meal time; I’d probably want to stab the person next to me for being practically in my back pocket. Luckily, we arrived after prime lunch time and had the place to ourselves. We were also right in time for their lunch special too so you know this tickled my cheap little soul! 

The lunch special includes a choice of either spring rolls or salad. Guess which we chose?

  

Guapo ordered the Thai basil beef fried rice

I was surprised: the food was simple but really good. So tasty, I wanted to tell Guapo, “Honey, look at that!” and steal all his rice while his head was turned. 😀 But I’m a nice wife who never wants her sweet husband to ever go hungry so I left his food in peace. He’ll never know how close he was to losing his entire meal! MWAHAHA! 

It’s not like I didn’t have a great dish myself. One of the reasons I love Penang curry so much is it reminds me very much of my grandmother’s ohno kow soi: Burmese spicy curry made with creamy coconut milk, chicken, lemongrass and other southeast Asian flavors.  

Penang curry with chicken

For under ten bucks per person, Siam Orchid’s lunch specials are terrific value.  I would absolutely go back, but for my fellow diners’ safety and my blood pressure’s sake, probably not during peak dining hours. 

Siam Orchid

378 Metropolitan Avenue

Brooklyn, NY 11211

Today 

Today I married my best friend and my lover. 

  

And then we ate dim sum with our family and closest friends to celebrate our nuptials. 

 

Holy shit, I have a husband and two little boys to stand guard over. #contentment