Monday, April 12, 2010

The Food Desert Project - Moros Y Cristianos


My "famous" (thank you, Leah Zeldes!) Moros y Cristianos - or "Moors and Christians" is a Cuban-style rice dish that has variations all over the Caribbean - for instance, it's not dissimilar to the Haitian Diri ak Pwa, which is made with red beans and without cumin, or Puerto Rican Arroz con Habichuelas, which is often seasoned with ham or pork.

As I'm cooking this up, I sometimes imagine little rice-and-bean crusaders sitting peacefully down to dinner together.  The ingredients in this dish imply that I'm not too far off the mark:  for instance, domesticated rice was first found in China, then brought through India to the Middle East where the Moors brought it to Mediterranean Europe.  Spanish settlers brought rice to the colonies, including Cuba, where they found black beans (sometimes called turtle beans) spread throughout the Americas from Peru.  Even the seasonings of this dish are international:  cumin, bay leaves, and thyme also came to Spain via the Moors, while chili and bell peppers are of Central American origin.  Onions were first cultivated in Ancient Egypt, and traveled the same path as rice and spices.  This single dish is evidence that peoples of all beliefs, races, colors, and cultures sat down and ate together - and found that they liked their neighbor's food enough to bring it with them to new places.

Not only is this dish terrifically nutritious (we all need more beans in our diet, they're high-fiber, low-fat, and packed with protein and nutrients.) but it's dead-easy; the only catch is that you need to remember to soak your beans the night before.  I recommend the use of a crock-pot for this dish - then you can just dump the entire recipe in (after soaking your beans,) leave for the day, and come home, whip up some rice, and you're done.
Nutritional information

1 pound dry black beans
4 bay leaves
2 tbsp ground cumin (edit: 1 tbsp whole and 2 tsp ground OR 1 tbsp ground)
2 tsp salt
1 tsp crushed curry powder
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 tbsp dried onion flakes
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
2 large jars of roasted peppers (or 3 jars of pimientos) drained and chopped.

Soak the beans overnight in three times as much water as the volume of the beans (if you soak it in your cooking vessel, this will save you time later.) Add remaining ingredients except peppers to beans and water and simmer for 5 -6 hours. Add peppers and cook for another 1/2 hour.

There are two easy ways to handle the simmering: the easiest, and most energy-efficient, is to use a slow cooker.  Otherwise, I reccommend that you use an oven-safe casserole and braise your beans in a 250 degree oven until tender (check that they're kept at a bare simmer.)  However - I don't recommend leaving the house if you use the latter method.  This will go faster, especially if you bring the water to a boil before adding it to the beans - but it will still take at least two hours.

Taste, adding additional salt, pepper or cumin as desired. Serve over cooked plain white rice.


Anonymous said...

Thanks, Michelle. I love this dish, and I'm pleased to have a recipe for it.


Michele Hays said...

You're most welcome, Cynthia! One of my faves, too - and it freezes well.

Keep in mind that I like things more seasoned than many - so the level of seasoning might be a bit non-traditional - but it's good!

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