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Beans and Rice Go on Spring Break (& It's About to Get Craaazzzzy)

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Ever since April turned to May (and, more specifically, since Gabrielle Hamilton published her recipe for avgolemono rice in the New York Times Magazine), the only thing I've wanted to eat is rice.

But let me clarify: I'm not talking about hearty red beans and rice, or ultra-creamy, cheesed-up risotto. I'm talking about an herby, lemony heap that falls through the fork tines, each grain living freely. I'm talking about rice and beans with their hair down, fresh and sun-kissed, living large on spring break somewhere warm and verdant. I'm talking about the sky not the earth. I'm getting a little carried away.

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Beans & Rice Go on Spring Break
Beans & Rice Go on Spring Break

This recipe is a child of two greats—Pierre Franey's baked rice, which Merrill wrote about in A New Way to Dinner, and Martha Rose Shulman's green rice—which means it's got a good gene pool, and plenty of smart tricks coming out its metaphorical ears:

  • First, instead of boiling the rice on the stove, you add the liquid, cover the pot, and then send it into a 400° F oven for precisely 17 minutes.
  • And, that liquid is not simply water, but a blend of water (or vegetable broth) with spinach and cilantro.

To take it from side dish to self-contained meal, pour in a can of drained white beans and a handful of frozen peas before the rice goes into the oven—both will absorb the flavorful cooking liquid. To the fluffed rice, wilt in some more spinach along with lemon zest, chopped mint, and goat cheese. You'll get a creamy, tangy mess of greens-entangled rice.

B.C.E. = Before the common egg.
B.C.E. = Before the common egg. Photo by James Ransom

While the pot's in the oven, you'll have ample time to wash any dishes, set the table, make another component to complete the meal—steamed or broiled fish, sautéed tempeh, a poached or fried or soft-boiled egg—and down a glass of wine (or, since it's spring break, a shot of Fireball).

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It's a hands-free, one-pot, sure-fire route to a lively dinner that'll make you feel like you're on a wild and crazy "vacay," too.

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Beans & Rice Go on Spring Break

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Serves 4 to 6
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth (or water)
  • 2 cups (100 grams) tightly packed spinach, divided
  • 1/2 cup tightly packed cilantro leaves
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 small onion (90 to 100 grams; heaping 1/2 cup), minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup jasmine or other long-grain rice, rinsed thoroughly until the water runs clear
  • 1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
  • One 15-ounce can white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 1/4 cup (5 grams) roughly chopped mint
  • Zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/3 cup (50 to 60 grams) crumbled goat cheese
  • Poached eggs, for serving (optional)
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What do you start to crave once the season shrugs off its chill and the sun starts to shine? Tell us in the comments.