We’re off to Nicaragua for lunch this Friday, I told George, and he shook his head.
“Not me,” he said. “I have to go to Green Bay.” I knew I was on my own.
It’s week two of Lent, and George and I have decided that meatless Fridays would include the featured recipes from Catholic Relief Services’ rice bowl brochures. This week it’s Gallo Pinto from Nicaragua, and when I glanced through the ingredients, I figured I was in trouble. Rice and beans. Not my favorite combination. To me, they’re two rather tasteless foods. At least, I thought, this will truly be a penance.
Before I started, I visited the CRS website to watch this week’s video about the poor coffee farmers there, who have been struggling to fight the coffee rust disease that has diminished their crops. CRS has taught them how to use fertilizer and to diversify their crops to grow their own food, and also helped them form cooperatives where they can pool money and work together to survive the lean months of each year.
I also learned that this Gallo Pinto is something they eat almost every day. If they can do it daily, surely I could try it just this once, I thought. And, since it’s definitely an inexpensive meal, I can put the money I might have spent on dinner into our CRS rice bowl.
As I started preparing this simple meal, I decided it would need something to zing it up a bit. Who says penance has to be bland? George and I both like spicy foods, and there was nothing spicy about this recipe. I thought of adding crushed red pepper flakes, then decided I’d do hot sauce instead. Would that invalidate the authenticity of this recipe? Not enough to matter, I figured.
The finished recipe calls for it to be served with a fried egg or cheese. Since I love cheese, and since I’d just had an egg for breakfast, I shredded some nice, sharp cheddar to sprinkle over the top. A few good dollops of hot sauce, and I was ready to sample the first bite.
Oh dear. I was wrong. This wasn’t going to be a good penance at all. This stuff is delicious, and I didn’t even need the hot sauce. It remains to be seen whether George likes this Nicaraguan staple when he gets it reheated tonight, but one thing I know for sure. If he doesn’t eat it, I will.
Here’s the recipe if you want to try it for yourself.
Gallo Pinto (makes 4-6 servings)
1 large onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 T fair trade olive oil
2 C rice
4 C water
2 16-oz cans red beans, drained
1 bay leaf
Salt and black pepper, to taste
Fried egg or cheese (optional)
In a large pot, sauté onion, bell pepper and garlic in oil. Stir in rice. Cook, stirring often, until onions are soft. Add water and cook, covered, until most of the water has been absorbed. Add beans and bay leaf. Mix well and cook over medium heat for 15 minutes. Serve hot with cheese or fried egg.