Make this jollof rice with beans the center of your meal

J.J. Johnson
Black Food
"Black Food," edited and curated by Bryant Terry, includes J.J. Johnson's recipe for Jolly Rice with Beans. (Courtesy of 4 Color Books)

In "Black Food," chef and activist Bryant Terry created an anthology celebrating African American food and culture. The book, which is far more than a cookbook, includes this recipe for Jollof Rice with Beans from chef J.J. Johnson of the New York restaurant FIELDTRIP.

Learn more:New book 'Black Food' explores a 'beautiful, complicated and amazing history'

About the Recipe

Every culture has its own version of a one-pot rice dish — jambalaya, paella, and so on— and West Africa’s take on the dish belongs with the best of them. From Senegal to Mali, Nigeria, Cameroon, and Ghana, jollof is a beloved favorite. Every cook gives the dish her or his own spin, but what remains consistent is the bright red color that comes from the tomato paste and palm oil. To that base, you can add proteins like chicken or fish. Plantains in jollof give it a sweet vegetarian spin. At my restaurant, FIELDTRIP, it plays the same role that mainstays like a hamburger or spaghetti and meatballs might play somewhere else.

Serves: 6

Total time: 2 hours and 30 minutes

Ingredients

Tomato sauce:

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1⁄2 Spanish onion, chopped

Kosher salt to taste

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

1 teaspoon chopped ginger

2 bird’s eye chiles, seeded and chopped

1⁄4 cup tomato paste

3 ripe plum tomatoes (about 1⁄2 pound), chopped

Red beans:

1 cup dried adzuki red beans (or red kidney beans)

4 cups cool water, plus more as needed

4 garlic cloves

1 bird’s eye chile

1 Spanish onion, chopped

Kosher salt to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Jollof rice:

2 cups jasmine rice

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 cups Tomato Sauce

11⁄2 cups Red Beans

3 cups water

1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed

Black pepper to taste

Instructions

For the tomato sauce: Heat the oil over medium heat in a large saucepan. Add the onion and sprinkle with salt. Cook until the onion is soft and translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, and chiles and cook for an additional 2 minutes; make sure they do not brown. After the vegetables are softened, stir in the tomato paste and cook for 5 to 8 minutes. Make sure to incorporate the tomato paste with the vegetables to ensure even cooking of the paste. Transfer to a blender and pulse to combine. Add the tomatoes and puree until the mixture forms a smooth sauce. Add a little bit of water if the sauce is too thick or chunky. Season with salt.

For the beans: In a medium saucepan, combine the beans, water, garlic, chile, and onion over high heat. Bring to a boil, then quickly lower the heat to a very gentle simmer. Cook the beans over low heat until they are tender, about 1½ hours, adding more water as needed to keep them submerged by at least 1 inch. Make sure to stir the beans occasionally while they simmer to make sure they don’t cook unevenly or burn on the bottom. Taste the beans frequently, testing their texture and flavor, as they start to become tender after about 1 hour. Season with salt and pepper after they begin to soften. Remove the beans from the heat once they are creamy and soft but before they begin to lose their shape. Cool them in their cooking liquid and then transfer to a nonreactive storage container. Remove and discard the chile.

For the rice: Combine the rice, oil, tomato sauce and beans in a large saucepan. Add the water, salt and pepper, and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cover the pot and cook for 35 to 45 minutes, until the rice is tender. Let the rice sit, covered, for 10 minutes after it’s done cooking. Then fluff with a fork. Serve immediately.

Reprinted with permission from BLACK FOOD: Stories, Art, and Recipes from Across the African Diaspora edited by Bryant Terry, copyright © 2021. Published by 4 Color Books, an imprint of Ten Speed Press and Penguin Random House. Photographs copyright © 2021 Oriana Koren.