This is a wonderful meal reminiscent of Central American beans and rice plates. It's perfect for hot summer evenings because it's filling but not heavy, with its layers and layers of different flavours, some meaty, some refreshing, some tangy. Even meat and potato lovers push away from the table with satisfaction after a big plate of this. This is also very Smart Skinny food. It's high in fibre, and can be made really low-cal -- a heaped up plate of this is only 8 Weight Watchers Points.
Open, rinse and drain the black beans. Put them in a bowl, juice the two limes and pour the juice over them. Stir gently, and cover to let marinate.
Put the rice in a micro-wave safe container. Add the teaspoon of cumin, the bay leaves, and the 2 cups (16 oz / 500ml) of water. Stir. Zap in microwave until water starts to boil, then cook at half power for 32 minutes. Let sit in microwave for 5 to 10 minutes after that.
You can prepare the beans and rice at any point in advance, even a day ahead (store in refrigerator.)
Prepare various vegetables to be used as a salad topping. How much choice you want to offer will depend on how much prep time you have. Possible choices include:
sweet or hot (or both) peppers;
chopped green onion;
chopped fresh cilantro leaves;
canned artichoke hearts in brine, drained;
pickled beet slices;
Other toppings can include
Lizano sauce on the side;
quartered limes to squeeze on.
To assemble: heat the beans and the rice. Put half-cup of rice on the plate, then half a cup of the beans. Squirt a bit of Italian dressing on them, then top with mixed vegetables. Drizzle a bit more of the Italian dressing on the salad you've just assembled on top, then if using, some sour cream, grated cheese, sauces, etc.
You want 11 oz / 300g / 1 cup of brown rice. The taste and texture of white rice is a bit weak to stand up to all the other flavours in this dish.The rice cooking time given applies to a 700 W microwave; if yours is different adjust according. Or, if you prefer to cook the rice a different way, you shouldThe cumin really transforms the rice and gives it a satisfying meaty taste.You could of course also cook the black beans yourself from dried.Easily doubled or tripled; makes a great buffet-table kinds of meal. People enjoy putting it together themselves.The plates end up having a lot of food on them so do provide large plates.We've put down an hour prep time because washing and chopping veggies can be time-consuming; your mileage may vary.