California Casserole

California Casserole

Serves 4-6

1 pound lean ground beef

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 large onion, finely minced

1 large green pepper, cut into small dice

4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced

1-1/2 tablespoons medium-hot chili powder

1-1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

3 or 4 dashes of hot sauce

Salt and freshly-ground pepper

¾ cup long-grain white rice

1 14-15 ounce can diced tomatoes

2 fresh (or what passes for fresh) tomatoes, coarsely chopped

1 14-15 ounce can red kidney beans (light or dark)

1 14-15 ounce can black beans

½ cup or so sliced stuffed green olives

Shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  In a large dutch oven, heat the oil, then add the beef and stir to form small pieces.  When the meat loses its red color, add the onion, green pepper, and garlic.  Cook until the vegetables are softened, then add the chili powder and cook for a minute.  Add the Worcestershire sauce, the hot sauce, 2 teaspoons of salt, and some pepper.  Then add the beans – including the liquid in the cans, and add about ¼ cup of water to each can to wash it out, then add that water to the pot.  Stir in the canned and fresh tomatoes, then bring to a boil.  Reduce to simmer, cover, and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Taste for salt, it should taste a tiny bit salty because you’ll be adding rice to it.

Stir in the rice, then cover the pot and put it in the oven for 25 minutes.  Remove the lid, scatter the sliced olives on top, then cover the pot again and bake for another 10 minutes.  Check to see if the rice is fully cooked, if not you can remove the dish from the oven and let it sit, covered, for another five minutes.  It’s best when it’s not completely dry, but still has a little liquid left, so go ahead and add a little water if you need to.  Serve hot, topping each serving with some cheddar cheese.

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