Nelson’s Magic Beans & Rice

“Remember, one cannot throw a successful party without successful guests.” ~ Amy Sedaris

I promise you this story is true.

This week I learned from The Washington Post that Baltimore Orioles’ outfielder Nelson Cruz provides home-cooked Dominican meals to the Dominican ballplayers on other teams who visit Baltimore during the season. Cruz is not alone in this courtesy – apparently a whole lot of Dominican players make sure that visiting players are well fed with “food from home.”

I decided that if Cruz could be such a good host to his guests, then I should make some authentic Dominican beans and rice for you, my blog guests. (And, to be honest, I really wanted to know what was so special about Dominican food that players felt the need to create this underground home-cooking pipeline.)

And, as I stood in line at the grocery store this morning – my cart filled with the fixings – I said to Editor/Husband, “If Nelson Cruz hits a home run today, he can come to dinner, too.”

I think Nellie heard me.

Because, he hit two. And, a triple. And, had ALL seven RBI in a game the Orioles won 7-5 over the Tampa Bay Rays. Here’s one

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Holy cow, these beans are magic!

Eleven percent of major league ballplayers today are from the Dominican Republic.

“I love my Dominican food,” Cruz told The Post. “And the day I don’t eat my rice and Dominican food, I don’t feel good. I know other Dominicans feel that way, too. Knowing how they suffer away from home, I try to make their day and visit more comfortable by bringing them food, too.”

Cruz is on his way to Boston this evening (where I hope David Ortiz of the Red Sox will have a hearty meal waiting for him).

I sure wish I could share this meal and make your day more comfortable. Because it was deee-licious.

At least I can share my recipe.

And, it’s worth the trouble to soak the beans and find the proper ingredients. (Every Latin ingredient you need should be at your local grocery, although Editor/Husband and I had a very nice time checking out all the corner mercados in nearby Culpeper yesterday.)

From here on out, these are …

Nelson’s Magic Beans & Rice with Sautéed Vegetables

(Feeds Nelson Cruz and a couple other friends)

One-half lb. dried red kidney beans

(To soften beans: In a big pot, pour 5 cups boiling water over the beans and let them sit overnight. They’ll plump up and you’ll have about 4 cups of beans after soaking.)


For the Beans & Rice:

One-half red onion, chopped fine

One-half Cubanelle pepper, chopped fine

One clove garlic, chopped

2 TBS fresh cilantro, chopped

2 TBS olive oil

1-1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp ground pepper

2 tsp fresh (or 1 tsp dried) thyme

1 TBS Sofrito (Goya has MSG. I’ll make my own next time.)

1 pack Sazon Tropical (Badio brand only. Easy to make your own … but this one is MSG free and works a-ok.)

1 TBS apple cider vinegar

1/3 cup alcaparrados, chopped (it’s a mixture of olives and capers. Be sure to pit the olives!)

4 oz. Spanish tomato sauce (Goya brand)

1 bay leaf

2 cups rice

2+ cups vegetable broth


Here’s what you’ll need. (I don’t know why that celery’s in there.)

In a medium pot, add softened beans, salt, and 5 cups of water. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to medium-low and cook for an hour … or maybe a little more. Drain and set the beans aside (save the liquid).

In the pot, add olive oil, onion, pepper, garlic, cilantro. Sauté on medium for a few minutes to soften.


Add salt, pepper, thyme, sofrito, sazon, and vinegar. Stir well.


Add the olives/capers, tomato sauce, and bay leaf.  Return the beans to the pot and stir.


Cook on medium for about 5 minutes. (Add a splash of the bean water if things seem too dry.)

Rinse the rice and add to the pot. Stir in vegetable broth.


Bring to a boil. Turn heat way down and cover tightly. White rice will take about 25-30 minutes. Check after 15 minutes; if it’s getting dry add some of the bean water to moisten. Cover again and finish the cooking. When rice is tender, take off heat and let it rest while you make …

Vegetable Sauté:

1 TBS olive oil

1 TBS butter

4 cups of whatever fresh summer vegetables you have, chopped. (I used one small eggplant, a red pepper, a stalk of celery, and a zucchini.)

One-half cup corn (frozen or fresh)

2 tsp dried oregano

1-1/2 tsp capers

Salt/Pepper to taste

2 cups spinach chopped

2 TBS cilantro, chopped

A little bit of that leftover bean water (I told you to keep it!)

In a skillet or sauté pan, heat the oil and butter together. Add the fresh vegetables, cook until they just begin to soften. Add the corn, oregano, capers, salt, and pepper.


Stir occasionally until all the vegetables are just cooked through. (10 to 20 minutes depending on what vegetables you have.) If things get dry, add a few spoonfuls of the leftover bean water.

Fold in spinach and cilantro.


Cook just until spinach wilts and turns bright green.



Hit Home Runs. Win Game.


cruz box score