My name is Paz and I’m a riceaholic. Yup, I love rice. It’s a staple in my home and I have to eat it at least once a week.
In All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes by Maya Angelou, the author writes about her stay in Ghana, West Africa. I don’t remember why, but for some reason, the cafeteria at the YMCA, where Dr. Angelou ate, did not serve rice. The non-rice menu continued for several days, till one of the other boarders, a dignified-looking woman from Sierra Leone almost went crazy from lack of eating rice.
The next time the cafeteria served lunch and there was no rice in the plate, the woman’s entire demeanor changed. “I want some ri’,” she insisted.
“I want some ri!” She got bolder and crazier.
In order to calm her down the staff had to run out and buy rice, cook it, and serve her on the spot. She wasn’t the same until she got her rice.
Haha, I could relate! I want my rice!
Now that I’m learning to cook, instead of the plain white rice, which I’d normally eat (and the occasional brown rice when my health conscience kicks in), I’m learning to cook different types of rice. My rice repertoire includes Jollof rice, which I used to eat as a child in Africa. I’ve mentioned that my Auntie Toshie made the best Jollof rice (she made the best everything, actually). I’ve made Basmati and Nut Pilaf (I really love this one), Forbidden Rice, Yellow Rice with Corn (Arroz Amarillo con Maiz – I really like this one, too!), Garlicky Rice, Rice and BeansRice Water, and Paella. (Moros y Cristianos)
When I first made rice it was touch and go because I’d either add too much water or not enough. Uggh! I’m happy to say that things are looking up. My rice turn out pretty good.
I came across an interesting-sounding rice prepared by celebrity chef Daisy Martinez called Rice with Pigeon Peas. It was definitely something I wanted to try.
My cooking adventure wasn’t bad. There were a few things I had to prepare first before making the rice. I had to make achiote oil, which gives the color to the rice. It’s not hard to do – fry achiote seeds in oil and be careful not to leave it in the oil too long otherwise it will turn green and bitter. Second, I made sofrito, which flavors the rice. Oh, how I love to prepare that. I love the smells of the fresh herbs, especially the cilantro. I love the smell and taste of cilantro, which makes me start doing my happy dance in the kitchen when its fragrance is released into the air. Yes! You can buy ready made sofrito from the store but I prefer the homemade one, which is so much fresher and tastier.
The recipe calls for using smoked pork neck bones, smoked turkey wings or smoked ham. With the exception of the occasional bacon and eggs or bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich, I don’t normally eat ham but I was curious about the taste of the smoked pork neck bones and decided to use that in my rice. Ummm… I didn’t like it.
Next time I make this rice, I’ll use the turkey wings instead. I liked the pigeon peas, the alcaparrado and everything else in the rice.
The recipe also mentions banana or plantain leaves but I didn’t use them because I couldn’t find them at my local grocery store.
So now you know I love rice. I’m curious: What foods do you need to eat? What foods will drive you crazy if you couldn’t eat it after a couple of days?
Rice with Pigeon Peas (Arroz con Gandules)
Makes 10 to 15 servings, as part of a larger meal
3 tablespoons fine sea or kosher salt
1 tablespoon cracked black pepper
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1-1/2 pounds smoked pork neck bones or smoked turkey wings or one smoked hamhock
One 13-ounce bag frozen pigeon peas OR one 15-ounce can pigeon peas, drained
6 cups long grain rice
Beef Broth, homemade or store-bought and/or water as needed (about 8 cups)
1 banana leaf*, optional
*Note: Banana leaves and/or plantain leaves, are large, pliable, dark green leaves that are used quite a bit in Latin American cooking. Here they lend the rice a subtle flavor. They are available, usually frozen in 1-pound packages, in Latin markets and some specialty stores.
Heat the achiote oil in a heavy 5-quart pot or Dutch oven over high heat until rippling. Stir in the sofrito, alcaparrada or olives, salt, pepper and cumin. Cook until the sofrito stops boiling and starts to sizzle, about 5 minutes.
Add the pork bones and stir until they’re coated with oil, then stir in the rice until everything is mixed together and the rice is coated with oil.
Stir in the pigeon peas and enough broth and/or water to cover the rice by the width of two fingers. Top with the banana leaf, folding it up as necessary to fit over the rice. Bring to a boil and boil without stirring until the level of liquid meets the rice. Take the banana leaf off, give the rice a big, healthy stir and put the leaf back on top. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and cook until the water is absorbed and the rice is tender, about 20 minutes.
Remove the banana leaf, give the rice a big stir and fluff it with a fork. Serve hot.
You can find my first homemade sofrito here.
I make it a lot now. It’s very easy!