Friday March 16, 2012 | 12:53 PM

Cooking isn't a competition.

But if it were, I'd win.

My triumph would come in the form of black beans and rice with chicken and apple salsa.

I culled the recipe from the January 2012 issue of Bon Appétit - a coworker gifted me her copy for inspiration during my long, arduous, food-filled cooking journey. I might've missed the beans and rice otherwise, with Bon Appétit being as intimidating as it is, with its fancy pictures and foreign-language title.

But the recipes don't scare me, now that I'm a black bean and rice champion. I make food that looks straight outta Bon Appétit. Because it is straight outta Bon Appétit.

I've made it five times in three weeks, because this recipe is a winner. It's something to be proud of, something friends will applaud you for. And it's simple. Novice-cook-can-still-kill-this simple. The recipe:

Black beans and rice with chicken and apple salsa

1 cup chopped Granny Smith apple 1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 cup chopped cilantro, divided 3/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/3 cup finely chopped red onion, divided 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice 2 15-ounce cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1/3 cup finely chopped green bell pepper Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil 4 cups cooked brown rice
3 garlic cloves, minced 1 2-pound rotisserie chicken
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder 4-6 lime wedges

First things first, the mise en place.

For the apple salsa: combine the chopped apple, half the chopped onion, lime juice, and the cilantro (I used half what the recipe called for, since I've discovered that I don't love cilantro. Cilantro and I are like acquaintances who can be in the same room without getting into a fist fight, but we'll never be friendly enough to plan a vacation together.) Churn it up with your paws and set it aside.

The chicken is easy too. Just buy it. I kept my rotisserie bird covered until just before serving, then shredded up a pile.

For the beans: onion and pepper goes into the pan with some oil. After a few minutes, the veggies will soften.

Gather up the cumin, coriander and chili powder.

The spices go in and the garlic goes with it. Constant stirring happens for two minutes.

The beans and broth are added and brought to a boil. (Side note, this photo makes beans and broth look mesmerizing. Like a mesmerizing oil painting). The heat gets reduced to medium and the mixture is simmered briskly.

The sauce will thicken after 8 to 10 minutes (that's according to the recipe. On my stove it took a bit longer). As it's thickening, you can use the back of a spoon to smash some of the beans for a authentic smashed-bean look.

And when it all comes together (don't forget the rice, also known as the staple of the bad-cook's diet) it looks good enough to photograph. (Which I did.) And eat. (Which I did.)

I dare say, it may even look better than the one in Bon Appétit. But then, that's probably just the sense of cooking accomplishment talking. And some freshly made hubris.


About the Author

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Shannon Bryan is a feature writer for the Portland Press Herald and content producer for MaineToday Media's entertainment website,

And here's a well-known truth: Shannon can't cook. She's also ostroconophobic (in Maine?!?), but in a foodie place like southern Maine, she's determined to learn how to cook, eat, and order with the best of them. Read about her culinary crusade:
Pans on fire

She's also an investigator into all that's strange and entertaining to do around here. Those findings are gathered here:
Out Going: Things to do in southern Maine

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