Food & Drink

Melissa Copeland's veggie-rich Mexican rice: a meal in itself

“30-min. Frugal Vegan Recipes.” (Page Street Publishing/TNS)
“30-min. Frugal Vegan Recipes.” (Page Street Publishing/TNS)

Melissa Copeland wants to convince you that cooking vegan meals doesn’t mean you’ll have to spend a lot of money or hunt for exotic ingredients. In her new cookbook, “30-Minute Frugal Vegan Recipes,” she offers lots of appealing dishes that are inexpensive, flavorful and simple to prepare.

A native of Canada, Copeland has been living abroad for 15 years and currently is based in Barcelona, Spain. She’s the creator of two popular vegan cooking blogs, The Stingy Vegan and Cilantro & Citronella. She considers herself not just frugal but actually stingy. “I hate spending money and will go to ridiculous lengths to save a couple of bucks. I was born this way,” she writes in the cookbook’s introduction. She uses spices and cooking techniques from many cultures to ramp up the flavor in her recipes. Among her vegan dishes are Smoky Mushroom Fajitas, Simple Spanish Lentil Stew and Vegetable Singapore Noodles.

This easy recipe for a vegan version of Mexican rice is loaded with veggies and beans. Copeland suggests making a big batch of it to use for multiple meals. It’s filling enough to be a main dish for lunch or dinner, or you can serve it as a side dish.

VEGGIE-PACKED MEXICAN RICE

Serves 4

1 cup uncooked long-grain white rice

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 large tomato, roughly chopped

1/4 medium onion, roughly chopped

1 clove garlic, roughly chopped

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and diced very small

1/2 small zucchini, diced very small

1 cup canned or frozen corn

1 1/2 cups cooked black beans, or 1 (15.5-ounce) can, drained and rinsed

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup vegetable stock

1 avocado, peeled, pitted and diced

Optional garnishes: lime slices, fresh cilantro, green onion, vegan sour cream or plain vegan yogurt

Put the rice in a bowl and cover with water. Gently swirl your fingers through to rinse off some of the starch. Drain and repeat 2 times. Drain very well.

In a large skillet with a lid, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the rice and toast, stirring often, until you see golden brown spots, 5 to 10 minutes. You can leave the rice toasting while you prep the veggies, but don’t take your eyes off it for too long, as it can quickly burn. If it’s browning too quickly, turn off the heat.

Meanwhile, in a small food processor or blender, combine the tomato, onion and garlic and liquefy. You’re aiming to get 1 cup of puree. If you’re short, add a bit of stock, water or an extra slice of tomato to get to 1 cup.

Once the rice is toasted, add the cumin, chili powder, oregano, bell pepper, zucchini, corn, black beans, salt, tomato puree and stock.

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Bring to a simmer, then lower the heat to low and cover the pan. Simmer for 12 to 15 minutes, stirring once or twice to make sure the rice isn’t sticking and to check how quickly it’s cooking.

Remove the pan from the heat and fluff the rice with a fork. If all of the liquid has been absorbed but the rice is a bit underdone, leave it to stand, covered, for another 5 minutes. Stir in the avocado and serve with any of the optional garnishes.

Source: “30-Minute Frugal Vegan Recipes” by Melissa Copeland (Page Street Publishing Co. 2019)

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