Blogging Marathon #25
Theme: Cooking with Alphabets – S, G, N
First of all, Purim began a few hours ago at sunset so I wanted to wish a Happy Purim to all my Jewish readers. Enjoy the holiday!…& if you haven’t made your Hamentaschen cookies yet, do check out my recipe here!
…so the guilty feelings continue for having so little Haitian recipes on this blog when I am 1/2 Haitian. Hopefully, by the end of year 2013, I will have posted enough recipes so I can put aside the guilt.
When I went away to college at the University of New Mexico, this is when I realized how much cultural foods are a part of who we are. Except for Mexican and Native American, New Mexico was hardly the center of International cuisine. I was introduced to sopaipillas and Navajo Fry Bread at our dining hall, but a plantain had never entered the kitchen. It wasn’t the fancy or complicated foods that I craved when I was away. Sure I had always enjoyed a good bowl of lambi (Haitian stewed conch) or my Mom’s curry chicken, but that wasn’t what I craved. I wanted a bowl of rice and beans cooked the Caribbean way; not the Mexican way and some fried plantain. One time, when I couldn’t take the deprivation any longer, I went on a quest with my roommate in search of plantain. We did have access to a kitchen, that was rarely used by the students. It took us a month to find it at a special International Market and it was so expensive – outside of the budget of us poor college students. We treated ourselves once and then the deprivation continued.
I remember on my first visit back home, my parents asked me what I wanted to eat and they were prepared to make anything I wanted. All I wanted was rice and beans. I refused to eat the meat and vegetables they prepared with it, for dinner. For days, lunch and dinner was just a bowl of plain rice and beans. I remember my Dad especially, shaking his head in absolute bewilderment that I would be happy eating just rice and beans for days. In any Caribbean household, rice and beans is almost a daily occurrence. It is something we take for granted and you have no idea how much you will miss it until you have no access to this dietary staple.
The first couple of days I ate the one pot dish of rice and pigeon peas popular on most islands. I then requested sauce pois, which is a standard Haitian dish. It is a thick bean sauce poured over fluffy white rice. Although in recent years I rarely eat processed white foods like white rice, white sugar, etc., this is an exception. It just wouldn’t taste the same over brown rice. There is nothing like a simple bowl of white rice and sauce pois to bring on the feelings of nostalgia and carefree childhood.
1 cup red kidney beans, soaked overnight
1 bell pepper
3 cloves garlic
12 blades of chive
1/2 Scotch Bonnet Pepper
a few sprigs of fresh thyme
a large handful of parsley
4 1/2 cups water
salt, to taste
Traditionally, the spice paste would have been ground by hand using a mortar and pestle. However, I choose to embrace modern conveniences and my best friend, the food processor, came to my rescue.
Using a food processor, process the scallion, chives, bell pepper, garlic and parsley until chopped very fine.
In a large pot, combine spice paste, 4 cups of the water, Scotch Bonnet, thyme and beans. Stir and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the beans are tender, about 1 hour.
Let cool for a few minutes.
Remove the Scotch Bonnet and thyme and discard. Puree most of the beans and water, leaving maybe 1/3 cup of whole beans in the pot.
Return the pureed beans to the pot and stir in the rest of the water.
Bring back to the boil and simmer for another 5 minutes.
Add salt, to taste.
Serve over white rice.
The variations to this recipe are endless and I make it a little different every time. It all depends what’s in the refrigerator. No bell pepper; I just omit it. Exchange the scallions for onions or use shallots instead. Some people use less herbs. They prefer to just use onion and garlic with only a sprig or two of parsley and thyme. Sometimes smoked/dried pork is also added and some people add a little coconut milk at the end.
It’s all a matter of personal preference and family customs. Hope you enjoy this little bit of Haiti on your plate!
While many an American would call Fried Chicken or Mac & Cheese comfort food, this is the ultimate comfort food to me!
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