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Grandmother Knows (Rice) Best

July 11, 1996|CINDY DORN

I tried not to take it personally when my daughter, Lily, pushed the bowl of rice I had just put in front of her as far away as her short arm would stretch and uttered one of her first sentences: "I want 'Lita's rice."

'Lita is her abuelita (grandmother) Marina Ramirez from El Salvador, and she makes a mean pot of black beans and delicious rice.

When abuelita Marina cooks for a family fiesta, I thank my lucky stars. "Muchas gracias por mis suegros," I say to the heavens.

Her grilled beef is out of this world. Try these recipes, and you'll be saying a few prayers of your own.


Marina's Carne Asada

Simmered Black Beans

Abuelita's Rice


Salt, pepper

Seasoned salt






Shopping List

2 pounds skirt steak or ranchero-style beef for carne asada

1 pound black beans

1 tomato

1 small green bell pepper

1 (12-ounce) bottle beer

Game Plan

1 to 2 days before dinner: Prepare marinade, add beef and refrigerate.

2 1/2 hours before: Prepare beans.

30 minutes before: Prepare rice.

20 minutes before: Grill beef.


Ask the butcher at any Latino market for ranchero-style beef for carne asada. You will get thin slices that grill just right. Otherwise, use skirt steak from your local supermarket.

1/2 (12-ounce) bottle beer

2 tablespoons vinegar

1 large white onion, sliced

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

2 tablespoons seasoned salt

1 pinch freshly ground black pepper

2 pounds beef cut ranchero-style or skirt steak

Combine beer, vinegar, onion, salt, seasoned salt and pepper in container with lid. Add beef, being sure all of meat is covered with marinade. Put lid on container and refrigerate 1 to 2 days.

When ready to serve, grill beef until brown on both sides.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Each of 8 servings contains about:

194 calories; 3,041 mg sodium; 70 mg cholesterol; 8 grams fat; 3 grams carbohydrates; 24 grams protein; 0.08 gram fiber.

SIMMERED BLACK BEANS (Frijoles Salcochados)

I like to eat a bowl of these black beans with feta cheese crumbled on top. And there's always some left over. Marina likes to refry the beans when serving them with pupusas, by mashing them in a blender, with liquid from the pot. Then she fries them in oil and serves them with queso fresco, the feta-like crumbly Mexican white cheese.

1 pound black beans

1 onion, quartered

5 cloves garlic


Rinse beans and check for stones. Place beans in large cooking pot and add water to cover. Add onion and garlic. Boil beans uncovered until very soft, about 2 hours. Add more water as needed to keep beans covered with liquid at all times. Stir often. Season beans with salt to taste.

Makes 5 cups, about 10 servings.

Each serving contains about:

163 calories; 33 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 1 gram fat; 30 grams carbohydrates; 10 grams protein; 2.51 grams fiber.


6 tablespoons oil

1/2 cup finely chopped white onion

1 tomato, finely chopped

1/4 green bell pepper, finely chopped

3 cups rice, washed and drained

6 cups of water

3 teaspoons salt

Heat oil in large pot and add onion, tomato and bell pepper. Cook until onions are translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Add rice and fry until oil is completely absorbed and rice is well-mixed with vegetables, 3 to 4 minutes. Add water and salt, then cook on high heat until almost all water is absorbed, about 10 minutes. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook 5 minutes more.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Each of 8 servings contains about:

370 calories; 890 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 11 grams fat; 62 grams carbohydrates; 5 grams protein; 0.40 gram fiber.

Note: Rice and beans may be prepared a day ahead and reheated over low heat just before serving.


Kitchen Tip

Any kind of beef--from sirloin to flank stake--can be grilled and served carne asada-style. But there are certain cuts that work better than others. Because the beef for carne asada should be sliced very thin before grilling, it's a good way to use tough, muscular cuts. These meats have lots of flavor, but if cooked in other ways they might be either too chewy or too dry. Ranchero-style steaks are a good cut from the top or bottom round; this cut is sold in most Latino markets. Skirt steak, which is frequently used for fajitas and is sold in most supermarkets, is another excellent choice.

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