116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
If you were to walk into any given house in Brazil around lunchtime, chances are you would see rice and beans on the table surrounded by various add-ons that, when combined, make for a delicious Brazilian lunch. Pan-fried cassava root, fresh shredded cabbage salad, leftover meat from Sunday’s churrasco — Brazilian barbecue — or maybe some meat sauce.
I know serving a meat sauce that vaguely resembles Bolognese over beans and rice can be a strange concept to some, but I grew up eating lunches just like this. These lunches are such a staple that even lunch buffets, which serve workers during the workweek, feature rice, beans and many of the same sides you may see at home.
To me, this is the type of food you can almost feel fueling you as you eat it.
After a long morning playing outside with my many cousins at my grandparents’ pool, we would be called to the table by my grandmother for “comida de verdade,” real food.
To this day, every time I visit my mother she sends me home with frozen black beans that she made that week. This is a deep sign of affection from any Brazilian mother, wanting to feed their child even though they are old enough to feed themselves.
Every matriarch in a Brazilian family has her own recipe for her beans. My mother’s recipe is not a secret, which is why I am sharing it, but I still think her beans are the very best when they are made by her.
Still, we can try to recreate them. The trick is not to forget the bay leaf. This aromatic herb will add depth to the flavors of this simple Brazilian staple.
Follow Alexandra Olsen on Instagram, @TheHungryGaucha.
Beans and Meat Sauce
1 cup dry black beans
2 bay leaves
1 yellow onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
For meat sauce:
1 pound ground beef
1 yellow onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 large fresh tomatoes, blended
Dried oregano, to taste
Dried parsley, to taste
For beans: First, look through the beans and pick out any sediment or discolored beans before soaking.
Soak your beans in cold water for 4 to 8 hours or overnight.
Drain and rinse the beans after soak. In a large pot, add beans and 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil and cook for an initial 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, saute onion and garlic in a skillet with a bit of oil. Once the onion mixture has a bit of color and is tender, add it to the beans along with your bay leaves. Continue cooking the beans on medium heat for an additional hour, depending on the tenderness of your beans.
Once your beans have reached the desired tenderness, smash some of your beans to make the broth creamier and thicker consistency. Salt as needed.
For meat sauce: In a large saucepan, saute beef until brown. Remove from the pan and set aside, draining the fat.
In the same pan, saute onions and garlic until fragrant and translucent.
Put beef back into the pan and add in your blended tomatoes. You might need to add a bit of water to reach desired consistency.
Season to taste with oregano, parsley, salt and pepper before covering with a lid and letting sauce simmer on low heat for 15 to 20 minutes.
Serve both the beans and the sauce over a bed of white rice.