Tex-Mex food epitomizes an ideal marriage. It’s a culinary mashup of the fiery, comforting flavors of Mexican cuisine and the smoky, meat-centric dishes commonly associated with Texas; two different worlds happily melded together on the same plate.

There’s addictive comfort found in the charred, rich cuts of meat; piquant, tangy salsas; and the creamy, salty ooze of cheese. Fantastic for the taste buds, but not always so great for the waistline.

This Southwestern Rice Salad with Black Beans is a trimmed down, fiber-filled version of a Tex-Mex rice bowl — we held the guac, sour cream and shredded cheddar to bring the dish under 200 calories, but if you have calories to spare, add ¼ avocado on top. But it’s far from bland.

Instead of using salt and fat to flavor, we went with the verdant, fresh flavors of green onion and cilantro, added a medium-spicy kick from fresh jalapenos and chili powder, and acidic brightness from white wine vinegar. The result is a whole grain salad that packs perfectly for a playground picnic or post-workout lunch at work. Use leftovers to make black bean veggie burgers. Swap out the Italian flavorings (tomato paste, herbs and Parmesan cheese) for Mexican ones like cumin, ground coriander, and even hot sauce.

If you need to cut down on prep time, look for pre-cooked frozen brown rice (just make sure the ingredients list is clean); this should cut your kitchen time down to about 15 minutes.

Total Time: 1 hr. 10 min.
Prep Time: 10 min.
Cooking Time: None
Yield: 8 servings, about 1 cup each

Ingredients:
2 cups cooked brown rice (or other cooked whole grain)
1 (15-oz.) can black beans, drained, rinsed
2 cups frozen whole-kernel corn, thawed
1 medium tomato, finely chopped
3 green onions, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup white wine vinegar
¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 medium jalapeño, finely chopped (or cayenne pepper to taste)
1 tsp. mild chili powder

Preparation:
1. Combine rice, beans, corn, tomato, green onions, oil, vinegar, cilantro, jalapeño, and chili powder in a large serving bowl; mix well.
2. For best flavor, cover and refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.

Tip: Rice can be mixed into salad, or all other ingredients can be combined and served over the rice.

SOUTHWESTERN RICE & BEAN SALAD

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