Easy meals for $15 or less for 2 people

 Cheap. Fast. Good. Exciting.
By LINDSAY STERLING  |  September 12, 2013

Yellow rice with pan-fried trout

We can’t survive in America, really, without at least a handful of inexpensive, quick meals in our cooking repertoire, lest we feed on an endless stream of factory hot dogs and frozen pizzas. Between assignments covering the art of immigrant cooking over the last four years, I’ve found myself whipping up these easier versions of immigrant recipes in my everyday life. I figure other Americans can use these recipes, too. They’re cheap and fast so we don’t die of stress. They’re made of whole foods so we don’t die of malnutrition. And they’re still a little adventurous, so we don’t die of boredom.

Rice and Beans with Cabbage and Lime
A Nicaraguan grandmother who lives down the street taught me this dish, called gallo pinto. “Gallo” means “rooster.” “Pinto” means “spotted.” The rice and beans, mixed together, look like the spotted feathers of a rooster. This dish is great for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. In addition to tasting great, it’s a handy dish to know because it’s vegetarian, yet hearty and filling.

Cooking time: 35 minutes
Serves 2
1/4 onion, cut into
quarter-inch pieces
1/4 green pepper, cut into
quarter-inch pieces
1/4 red pepper, cut into
quarter-inch pieces
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 can pinto beans, strained and rinsed until water runs clear
3/4 cup uncooked white rice
or 1-2 cups leftover cooked rice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 small cabbage
1/2 lime
1 tomato
3 oz. block cheddar cheese
3 oz. sour cream
3 oz. salsa

Equipment paring knife, small cutting board or plate, colander or strainer, small bowl or 1-cup measuring cup, large (9-12 inches) sauté pan, spatula, couple small spoons, small pot with lid or rice cooker
If you don’t have 1-2 cups leftover cooked rice, cook rice in a rice cooker as directed or in a small pot. Add 1.5 cups water to rice. Bring to boil, cover, and turn heat to low for 20 minutes.
In a large sauté pan on medium-high heat, sauté onions and green and red peppers until they’re soft. Mix in beans, which you’ve strained and rinsed. Spread mixed beans and veggies evenly across the pan and sauté without stirring for 2-3 minutes or until the bottoms of the beans are browned and slightly fried. Use a spatula to flip over most of the beans so that the other side of them can brown like the first. Once the beans are nicely fried, push them into a ring at the edge of the pan. Fill the empty middle of the pan with cooked rice. Sprinkle about 1/4 teaspoon salt on the cooked beans. Mix the beans and the rice thoroughly together and turn off heat.
Cut cheddar into half-inch cubes. Cut off 1/4 of the cabbage. Shave it as thinly as possible with a small knife. (Reserve the rest of the cabbage for other use.) Holding a lime over the cabbage, press a fork firmly into the juicy part of the lime and then squeeze all its juice onto the shaved cabbage. Sprinkle about 1/4 teaspoon salt on the cabbage and mix it all together.
Use a 1-cup measuring cup or small bowl as you would a bucket at the beach to make a sand castle, only use the beans and rice instead of sand. Make a mound of the beans and rice on each plate and nestle cabbage, sour cream, and salsa next to it. Top the cabbage salad with diced tomato and top the rice with diced cheese.

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