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MY CARRIBEAN RICE ‘N BEANS
(Moros y Cristianos)

I was born and raised in Puerto Rico (during the Punic Wars) and I had rice ‘n beans every day of my life. It’s the food I eat when I’m not feeling well…my “Chicken Soup.” Now, the vegetarian mavens tell me that it is good for me: lotsa fibre, plus it’s the perfect vegetable protein. And with the craze for South American and Caribbean food, it is currently, amazingly enough, very chique. In fact, of all the things that I cook, it is the dish most often requested.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 large onions, peeled and chopped.
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil.
  • 1 green pepper, chopped.
  • 1/4 cup vinegar 10 cloves of garlic (or more)
  • 1 large can tomatoes (or stewed tomatoes)
  • 2 large cans black beans or kidney beans
  • 1 cup of rice
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 small can peas
  • 2 tablespoons chopped red pimento
  • 4 green bananas 4 navel oranges
  • 1 large bermuda onion.
  • Toabasco Sauce

 

PROCEDURE

In a large cast-iron skillet, fry the onions in oil until golden. Add the green pepper and continue cooking for another 3 minutes. Pour in the vinegar and let the liquid reduce by 2/3. Add the tomatoes, beans and crushed garlic. I add the garlic last to keep it as pungent as possible. Let simmer gently for about an hour.

(A word about the beans. You can start with dried ones and do that “overnight” thing, but beans are trickier to cook than most people realize, so why not let the experts handle it and buy the canned ones.)

Peel and slice the Bermuda onion into 1/4 inch sections, and cut each section in half. Place them in a small serving dish. Pour 1 cup of boiling water over them and let stand for 5 minutes, then drain. Add 1/4 cup vinegar and 10 drops of Tabasco. Refrigerate for later use as a condiment.

Using a very sharp knife, peel the oranges removing even the white portion. Then separate each section from its membrane, and reserve in a small dish.

15 minutes before serving, rinse the rice in cold water, then add to 2 cups of boiling salted water, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes or until done. (A friend boils the rice in water for 5 minutes and then drains and rinses it, and returns it to the pot with just a scant 1/2 inch of water on top and simmers it for 10 more minutes. Very fluffy, I’m told.)

While rice is cooking, slice the bananas in thirds on a slant crosswise and dredge in seasoned flour. Fry the pieces on high heat three at a time in 2 tablespoons oil until browned but not mushy. Salt and place on a small serving dish.

Add the canned peas and the pimento to the cooked rice, and form into a ring on a large dish. Pour the beans into the resulting well, sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley and serve along with the fried bananas, fresh orange sections and spicy onions. Then shout “La comida esta lista.” to your guests. (Dinner’s ready!)

STEW FOR MANLY MEN

If you have a carnivore in your life, here’s a beefy suggestion. You can make it in the morning; just throw a bunch of stuff into a pot and go about your day. Bitch and moan about all the work you did. And then sit back and listen to the praise.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 1/2 cups of tomato juice (or use leftover red wine)
  • 2 tsps salt
  • 2 tbsps sugar
  • 3 tbsps instant tapioca
  • 8 cloves of garlic, quartered (I like more. Have you ever had too much garlic?)
  • 2 lbs stewing beef (or pork, or lamb, or any combination.)
    (Don’t use a good cut of meat; it’s costly and will get tough)
  • 2 large parsnips
  • 4 carrots
  • 4 stalks of celery
  • 8 small whole onions (if onions are too large, remove a few outer layers)
  • A handful of chopped parsley

No potatoes (they would fall apart. Boil them for 15/20 minutes and smash them just before serving)

PROCEDURE

1. In a large Dutch oven, or Crock Pot, pour in the tomato juice. Stir in the salt, sugar, tapioca and garlic. Cut the meat and vegetables into one-inch cubes and add to the juice. (Notice no pre-braising the meat) There should be enough juice to barely cover the stew. Add more if necessary. Cover with a lid.

2.  Cook in a 250º F oven. Or place on the stove at the gentlest of simmers. Better yet, use the Crock Pot ……….FOR SIX HOURS. Just before serving remove any fat that has accumulated on top (using one of those measuring cups that has the spout coming out of the bottom) and then add more liquid if necessary.

3. Sprinkle with parsley and serve over smashed potatoes, or noodles,if you prefer. Serves four. It’s a perfect low carb meal without the potatoes.

ARROZ CON POLLO
(Chicken with Rice)

This is the quintessential Puerto Rican dish. It is made in a big pot called a caldera (a high sided iron skillet or large enamel stewing pot) found in every kitchen from San Juan to Ponce. It requires one unusual Caribbean spice called “Achiote” from the Anato plant. (Available in Hispanic markets) And other than that, it is breathtakingly simple to make and delicious to eat.

INGREDIENTS

  • Cooking Oil
  • 1/4 cup achiote
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil

 

“Adobo” Marinade:

  • 2 tsps. oregano
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 3 tablespoons of the “Cooking Oil”
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 lbs, chicken pieces
  • 3 oz chopped smoked ham
  • 1 onion diced
  • 1 small red bell pepper chopped
  • 1 tomato chopped
  • 3 tablespoons cilantro or parsley.
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 2 cups canned tomatoes
  • 12 pimento stuffed olives (Mantanillas if possible)
  • 2 cups medium grained rice

 

Garnish

  • 4-6 orange slices
  • 4 cup chopped pimento

 

PREPARATION

Beforehand:

1. Heat olive oil in achiote until the oil is almost red in color (about 5 minutes).

2. Puree marinade ingredients in blender, or mash in a mortar and pestle.

3.  Place chicken in a bowl, add marinade, and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

To Cook:

1. Brown chicken pieces with the marinade in the remaining 3 tablespoons cooking oil in your “Caldera” or iron skillet.

2. Add the ham, diced onion, chopped red pepper, and continue cooking until onion is translucent. Then add the tomato, cilantro, the water, broth, the olives, and salt and pepper to taste.

3. Simmer for 15 minutes or longer.

4. Add the rice, bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to barely a simmer for twenty minutes.

5. Serve directly from the pot, garnishing each dish with a twisted orange slice, some red pimento, and a sprinkle of cilantro.

DELICIOSO!