Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Bookmark Project: Arroz Hits the Spot

I plodded home on Thursday evening feeling exhausted and listless; I simply was in no mood to cook dinner. There were some black beans soaking in a pot, ready for a quick dinner of rice and beans or quesadillas perhaps, but all I wanted to do was slump on the couch and dial for some take-out.

But, ah, there is one potion that has a magical effect on me- something involving a small molecule called caffeine. A cup of hot, strong chai filled me with a rush of energy and I was at the computer, hunting through my bookmarks for something good to make with those black beans.

Scrolling endlessly, there appeared the recipe for Arroz Gratinado that I had bookmarked from Tigers and Strawberries from years ago. I remember reading this recipe and thinking that the casserole of rice, beans, salsa, cheese was my very favorite kind of dish- so messy and oh so delicious. And that is how I went from not wanting to cook at all that evening to cooking something that used three burners and the toaster oven, all at the same time (it also used the oven at the end, no cooking appliances left behind).

Barbara's post suggests endless variations of this Mexican casserole, and the kitchen sink approach was perfect for a Thursday night, when the vegetable bins are getting emptier. What follows is how I made it. It looks like a lot of work, but the truth is that all the components of the casserole practically cooked themselves and instead of standing around in the hot kitchen staring at them, I was able to escape to the living room and spend some quality time with Brian Williams.


1. Rice: I cooked ¾ cup of rice in a mushroom stock .

2. Poblano peppers: I rubbed 2 poblano peppers with some olive oil, salt and pepper and broiled them in the toaster oven. Once broiled and cooled, I peeled off the skin and cut the peppers into strips.

3. Beans: I cooked ¾ cup black beans in the pressure cooker. Once the beans were cooked, I drained off the excess cooking water, then mashed the beans with a few tablespoons of salsa. I used Goya's Salsa Taquera. I keep a bottle of this spicy stuff in my fridge door at all times. You never know when there will be a salsa emergency.

4. Vegetables: I flash-sauteed some assorted vegetables including an onion, a yellow squash, a carrot, tomatoes, then sprinkled them with a Mexican spice blend (from a friend whose family owns a Mexican restaurant...gotta love those foodie connections!), to make the final component of the casserole.

5. Shredded Cheese.

I layered the components in this order, and baked at 375 F for 35 minutes or so, topping with cilantro at the very end.


I served the tasty casserole with a spicy, creamy sauce made by mixing home made low-fat yogurt with some of that same bottled salsa.

Tomorrow, I'm making my own salsa! If I like how it turns out, I'll be back to blog about it. Enjoy your weekend!


  1. That looks so colorful. For a minute I thought that yellow thing was tofu and what a great idea(?) to have Asian and Mexican fusion dish. That is until I read more carefully.

  2. Hey Nupur! That's a very cool recipe!
    Really great and yummy!!

  3. Those colors just pop! This recipe would energize me any night of the week!

  4. A delightful meal and your photos are stunning! So sharp and colourful.

  5. Ooh ..this looks yummy! Did you use cheddar cheese? I have some shredded Parmagiano- wondering whether that will do..

  6. yumm....that looks absolutely fabulous! i am loving ur bookmark series :D

  7. makes me think of Popeye! Chai=Nupur's spinach I think I'll have to try that ;)

    Love the recipe - I had something similar years ago but without the beans and without the Mexican flavors, both of which are additions I know I'll enjoy!

  8. this looks yum...totally with you on the salsa bit - always have some around too.

  9. the conflicted cook- The yellow thing is yellow squash which floods local stores in summer (from local farms) so I use it in everything.

    chakhlere- Thanks!

    T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types- I'm very glad I shook off the lethargy and made it, it was a nourishing dinner!

    Lisa- These days I have enough natural light around dinner-time to be able to take decent pictures...all that will change soon as summer dwindles!

    Lavanya- I did use cheddar cheese but honestly, this is a cobbled-together recipe and just about any cheese will do!

    Rajitha- I am loving the bookmark series too :)

    Cathy- It is true- I needs my caffeine ;) Without the afternoon dose, I am truly a mess, grumpy and sleepy!
    This is a great fridge-cleaning recipe, and very tasty too.

    aquadaze- Yes, it brightens up so many random meals.

  10. This dish looks beautiful, too.

  11. Cool, colorful & delightful. my kinda recipe.

  12. Aha!! making this for thurs. nite when the hubby comes home!! questions... can I sub any other beans ( eg. pinto beans for black)?
    What can I use instead of the mexican spice blend?

  13. Lisa- I was very pleased with the colorful result too :) it simply invited us to dig in!

    Soma- Thanks!

    Manasi- Yes, you can substitute any beans you like. Instead of the Mexican spice blend, you could use the following - red chilli powder, paprika, cumin, oregano, lemon/lime juice.

  14. OMG !, that looks fabulous i have to wait for 2 more weeks to try all these kind of recipes anyways i have BM it,

  15. I made this tonight thinking the hubby wouldn't like it. But I got "this is good!" several times during dinner! I was blown away! I even found the Salsa Taquera (which is AWESOME)! Wish I knew what the Mexican Spice mix tasted like! But this is great. I'll make my own beans in my pressure cooker next time. I used a can tonight. Thanks!

  16. Manasi- You are so welcome :)

    Jayasri- Thanks!

    Kastex- I'm very glad the recipe worked for you, and thank you for taking the time to leave your feedback!
    The mexican spice mix tastes a little like taco mix (the seasoning package) only better :)


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