I set the plate of food, a rice-and-veggie mixture, in front of George and pointed something out to him.
“Have you noticed how these third-world recipes all seem to look alike?” I asked.
I suppose it makes sense. The people who are living at subsistence levels are eating basic foods–beans, vegetables, some sort of starch, an egg or cheese now and then. But the recipes from Catholic Relief Services rice bowl project–designed to help us eat in solidarity with the world’s poor–all manage to taste different due to the different spices and the nuances of ingredients–and taste is everything, right?
March 31, a meatless Friday during Lent for us Catholics, George and I took a culinary visit to El Mexico “arroz rojo,” or red rice. Silly me, I was really curious to see how this recipe would transform ordinary rice to something with color. Now, I have to assume the “red” refers to the tomatoes.
As we ate, I read about Maria de la Luz, a Mexican woman who grew up in Ejido HIdalgo where there were lots of corn, beans and animals. Now, the CRS write-up said, there are few jobs, even less rain, and the young people are leaving the community to find a better life.
Families like Maria’s are helped by CRS’s greenhouse project where women gather in community to laugh, talk, share joys and sorrows–and grow cactuses to sell, thus increasing their economic opportunities. There’s more about this project, and watch a video, here.
As we chewed, enjoying the unique blend of flavors, I tried to imagine Maria and others like her, fixing this same kind of meal, probably more than our one-time foray into simple Mexican food. We left the table satisfied, and were reminded once again that simple eating doesn’t have to be a penance, and it frees up a little of our own money to help others.
Here’s the recipe, if you’d like to try it:
• 2 cups rice (I used basmati brown rice)
• 1 Tbsp olive oil
• 1 garlic clove, diced
• 3 tomatoes, chopped
• 1/2 onion, chopped
• 4 cups vegetable broth (I took it from the jar where I save water from my steamed vegetables. You’ll need to adjust the amount of you use brown rice)
• 1 cup peas
• 2 carrots, chopped
• 1 chili pepper, chopped (I used about 1/2 to 1 tsp of crushed red pepper flakes)
salt to taste
Add oil to a large pan on low heat. Add rice and toast until golden. Add garlic, tomatoes and onion; cook until mixture is soft. Add the broth, peas, carrots, chili pepper and salt. When it begins to boil, reduce to a simmer and cover until rice is fully cooked.
Notice, this was a Mexican meal, but no mention of tacos, enchiladas or any of the foods we normally associate with that country. And no meat. The protein came from the peas. I confess, though, that grating a little cheese on top gives this meal a lovely flavor boost.
Next stop: Ethiopia