George and I are traveling again. Every Friday we visit a different third-world country. We don’t get to see any scenery, but we sure do enjoy a lot of good food.
Our mode of transport is the Catholic Relief Services rice bowl. That’s a little cardboard container with a slot on the top for inserting coins or bills. It comes with one meatless recipe per Lenten week from different countries of the world where people have to eat simply, out of necessity.
The idea is to fast from fancy or expensive foods, eat one of these simple meals in solidarity with the poor, and put the money saved into the rice bowl. Seventy-five percent of it goes to CRS for their humanitarian efforts throughout the world. Twenty-five percent stays in our local diocese to help the poor we have right here among us.
Two years ago I picked up one of those rice bowls for the first time since I was a kid in Catholic grade school. George and I sampled each recipe, saved the ones we really liked for future meals, and I wrote a blog each week about our culinary experience. I decided to do that again this year, and I’m hoping some of you will travel–er, eat–along with us. If you’re Catholic, it solves the problem of what kind of tasty vegetarian dish to fix for those meatless Lenten Fridays.
The recipes start with the week of March 5, which means there was nothing for this Friday after Ash Wednesday. So, I dug out one of our favorite recipes from two years ago: Gallo Pinto, from Nicaragua. I’m told it means “painted rooster,” probably because of the colors, and although it’s just a basic beans-and-rice recipe, it’s wonderfully tasty.
I’ll give you the basic recipe, and then tell you how I tweaked it a bit.
1 large onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 Tablespoons fair-trade olive oil
2 cups rice
4 cups water
2 16-oz cans red beans
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.
First of all, since it’s only George and I, I halved the recipe. Then, since we had a can of light red kidney beans on hand, I used those. They have a more delicate flavor than the dark red. I also used organic, basmati brown rice instead of white rice, which requires a little more water and takes longer to cook. It’s chewier, and has a bit of a nutty taste. For aroma as well as flavor, it can’t be beat. I did add some chopped kale, both for color and because it’s so healthy.
We opted for both the egg and the cheese. Garlic on the eggs, of course. I grated some pepperjack cheese, because we both like things a little on the spicy side, and sprinkled that over each serving.
And, wonder of wonders, I–who have never met a salt shaker I didn’t like– didn’t add any salt or pepper and was perfectly satisfied without it. Something about that combination of ingredients, I guess.
We didn’t talk much while we ate. Too much chewing going on. We did look at each other, though, and say, “WHY haven’t we fixed this more often?” Although there are many red-beans-and-rice recipes out there, you can’t go wrong with this one. I promise.
Stayed tuned for next week, when we visit India for Dalma with Spinach.