A Tale of Two Rices

As I browse through my blog, I can’t help but notice how often rice seems to come up. I really can’t help it, I have a love affair with that little grain. My only hope is that I offer some variety for you. That said, this is a rice post. Yep. Mas arroz.

In Panama, we prepare rice in many different ways; sometimes with coconut milk, or various beans and peas. Anything you want, really. Two of my favorites are Arroz con Frijoles Negros (rice with black beans) and Arroz con Camarones Secos (rice with dried shrimp).

They’re both easy to make and follow the same process as the recipe for Arroz con GuandĂş. For the black beans, I used dried beans and cooked them in the coconut milk, as detailed in the recipe below, but you can use canned beans . For the one with the dried shrimp and guandĂş, I cooked both of those in the coconut milk first, then followed the recipe.

For the Arroz con Coco y Frijoles Negros (Black beans & rice)
2 cps rice
1/2 cp dry black beans
2 cps coconut milk
3 cps water
1/3 cp salt pork or bacon
1 tbsp vegetable oil

For the Arroz con Camaroncitos Secos y Guandú (Rice w/dried shrimp & pigeon peas)
2 cps rice
1 cp frozen guandĂş (pigeon peas)
1/2 cp dried shrimp
2 cps coconut milk
3 cps water
1/3 cp salt pork or bacon
1 tbsp vegetable oil

Method for both versions:
In a pot with a tight-fitting lid, brown the salt pork/bacon rendering some of its fat. Add the guandúes (pigeon peas), coconut milk. Bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat until it simmers. Cook it until the peas are tender, about 40 minutes. Strain the liquid and measure, add enough water to make 3-1/3 cps of liquid, set aside.

This recipe uses the frozen peas, however, if you are using the canned variety, just skip the step above. Instead, drain, rinse and strain the beans, then add coconut milk and water to  measure 3-1/3 cups. Fry the salt pork or bacon just before adding the rinsed rice.

Add oil to the pan with the peas, rinse the rice and add it to the pot stirring all the ingredients. Add the liquid, check the salt, stir this well. Make sure you remove any drippings that may have been stuck to the bottom of the pan. Bring it to a slow boil; once the liquid boils do not stir it again. Keep the temperature on medium high.

Once the liquid is almost completely evaporated, bring the temperature to low and cover with the lid. Allow to steam undisturbed for 40 minutes. When you remove the lid, all the peas will be at the top, go ahead and stir them into the rice. You’re done!

Note: The flavor of the coconut milk will intensify with time. You can cook the peas a day ahead to allow the flavors to meld together.

Out & About: Buenos Aires

I’m a lucky girl; I have a pretty cool day job. When they’re not making me work for my money, I get the opportunity to accrue travel miles. Imagine my delight when I found out I was Argentina-bound. As The Hubbz’ new t-shirt says ‘Buenos F*ckn Aires’. Yeah, baby!

I have often dreamt of visiting this city and getting lost in its architectural beauty. The dream didn’t include spending hours upon hours locked up in a basement attending a conference, but hey. I’m a clever girl, I found ways to sneak away and play a little.

As I share some of the pictures with you, let me tell you my impressions of Buenos Aires. The layout and architecture reminded me of 2 of my favorite European cities: Madrid and Paris. It especially reminded me of Paris, buildings so ornate and fancy looking. Incredibly wide thoroughfares dissected by tiny-cobbled streets. Plazas at every turn. Locals casually, yet elegantly clad.

I think I’ve mentioned my love of Paris, well Buenos Aires felt to me much the same, but better because I was surrounded by fellow Spanish speakers. There is just something that makes my heart sing when I’m surrounded  by Latinos. The guys were GORGEOUS, there are some seriously good genes running through those veins. I hadn’t even made it out of the airport before I was texting my single friends to book their next vacation to Bs. As. Seriously. It didn’t matter what age they were, young teens to old men in their 70s, they looked GOOD! Then they start talking and swoon over their accent. Sigh.

I have often heard that Argentines are stuck up, as a matter of fact, they’re referred to as the French of South America. I’m here to tell you that I didn’t have an unpleasant exchange with a single person in Paris or in Buenos Aires. There was a dismissive waiter at the first cafe I stopped at for lunch, but even the local sitting next to me found him to be a pill. It really was no biggie, though. OK, I tend to limit my advice tidbits to the kitchen, but let me share this little travel nugget: when you go to another country, think of it as going to someone else’s home. 

My new bestie!

If you invited yourself to someone’s home, you would go out of your way to be gracious, unimposing and to appreciate their customs and traditions, even if they didn’t resonate with yours. You would respect their space and find enjoyment in their way of living. It’s the same with travel, once you let go of the mentality of the way things are supposed to be, which is probably based on American standards, and open up to the way things are in this new, undiscovered place, I promise you the locals will welcome you with open arms and hearts and your visit will be unforgettable. Trust me on that.

Anyway, no more talking or typing, for more shots, follow this link. It will take you directly to the photostream. It seemed every time I spoke to an Argentinean and thanked them for their help, they had this little reply which I need to commit to memory:
Me: Muchas gracias (thanks so much)
Them: No, por favor! (no, please!)
As if to say ‘it was MY pleasure to help you’, ‘really, don’t mention it’. I will take that with me and make it a part of my repertoire.

Still crying for more Argentina,
Anamaris

Fideos a la Shun, sorta

My dear friend Shun, as I affectionately call her, shared this dish with me many moons ago, and I was hooked after my first try. Fideos (noodles) are a simple symphony of spicy, smoky and fresh flavors. It is sometimes called sopa de fideos, which translates to dry noodle soup.

It makes for a great side dish, but I often eat it as a main course. Traditionally, it is served with crema fresca (creme fraiche), queso fresco and avocado. A great option for a meat-free menu, and delicious to boot. Another plus, it is prepared in a jiffy or rápidito! I made this batch at the last minute to take to a party and was unable to find tomatoes that were ripe enough, so I opted for good canned ones. Likewise, I had no luck in the avocado front, so no avocados for me! You decide how much heat you want and adjust the number of serranos accordingly, you may also remove the seeds, this will further reduce the heat level.

Fideos a la Shun
12 oz fideo pasta or angel hair
4 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion
2 garlic cloves, whole
1 or 2 serrano peppers, to taste
5 fresh Roma tomatoes, ripened OR
1 can (15 oz.) stewed tomatoes
2 tbsp chicken flavor bouillon (like Knorr or Maggi)
Water
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp cumin powder
Salt and pepper to taste
For plating:
Queso fresco, crumbled
Crema fresca
Avocado slices or small cubes

I would suggested getting the sauce ready first. Shun’s recipe calls for the onion, garlic, serranos and fresh tomatoes to be roasted first. You can skip this step, but it does add an intensity and complexity to the dish, so if you have the time–about 10-15 extra minutes–you should do it.

I use my comal or grill pan for this, getting it nice and hot, then sear the sliced onion, whole serranos, garlic and tomatoes (fresh). Once  seared, dump the whole thing into your blender or food processor, adding the chicken bouillon, cumin, oregano, salt & pepper and enough water to get things moving. Set aside.

Heat a large saute pan over high heat add the oil and break the pasta into it, the purpose of this step is to toast the pasta, but don’t walk away, it burns rather quickly and that will ruin the flavor of the dish. The noodles will change color and turn golden brown.

Carefully, VERY carefully add the pureed sauce and watch yourself! It becomes the evil spitty monster at this point, add enough water to ensure the noodles are submerged in liquid. Lower the heat so it simmers gently, check the seasoning and adjust as necessary.

The noodles should be al dente, when done. It will take about 20 minutes for the pasta to cook and you may need to add more water as it cooks down. To plate: spoon some noodles onto a plate, top with crema, avocado and the crumbled cheese. Pull up a chair and enjoy!

To see more of the step-by-step process, click here.

Cookingly yours,
Anamaris
PS: Thanks, Shuni!