On a trip to Spain about 9 years ago, we visited a historic landmark called La Alhambra, in Granada (Southern region of the country)(name escapes me right now) (my Paris connect emailed me at 5 am on Tues. to give me the name of the place! Thanks, M!) where Gypsy women were soliciting palm readings. Curious to know what information she could impart about my youthful life, I allowed her to. She said I was going to have two boys and that men in my life like long hair so she suggested I shouldn’t cut it. The one man that would scoff at the idea is my dad… She demanded payment to which my grandfather complied and gave her $1. She was seemingly insulted and grabbed my hand firmly until he offered her more. I pulled my hand from her and looked at her as if she were crazy.
She was trippin’. I left there all shook up and wondered over the years if there was any truth to her visionary speculation. My hair is still long, but NO kids, yet.
Somehow, while cooking last night, I thought of this incident. You know how some things just stay with you?
I decided to do arroz congri, or Moros y Cristianos with bacalao. Or the “blacks and whites”! Somehow, that doesn’t sit right me with considering its connotation is a play on integration of the two groups–not an easy feat in the history of this country. Yet, this Criollo (creole) dish from Cuba, is very traditional and one of the best rice dishes you’ll ever have. How ironic! Blacks and Whites Unite!!!
(a Clinton/Obama or viceversa ticket mention is note-worthy)
You may be accustomed to eating black beans cooked separately and poured over white rice. Congri is made when the beans and rice are cooked together and the rice becomes “black”.
The name Moros y Cristianos is a literal translation for the Moors and the Christians. A reference to medieval times, Moors were an ethnic group made up of Muslims of Islamic Iberian Peninsula and North Africa, who were of Arab or Berber descent. It’s probably most commonly associated with present day Muslims of Spain. We all know who the Christians are. I hope, people!
Now, that I’ve given you a brief history lesson on the Moor’s let’s talk dish.
This congri can also be made with red kidney beans and rice. It won’t be considered Moros y Cristianos, but congri, nonetheless. And truthfully, congri, really, is made with the red beans, but we Cubans change EVERYTHING as we see fit! I grew up eating the black version (ha ha… love it…anything black) with bacalao, or salted cod fish and boniato which is a Cuban white sweet potato.
I went to Kroger last night and no boniato. Living in the VERY black and white Atlanta, I was not surprised. In fact, an employee reports they had some in the back that were spoiled b/c they didn’t properly store them. Yeah, chick… there are Latin people even in Vinings, it’d be good to have some of our food. Mexicans probably make up the cleaning crew at 2 am…OOPS… and the plantains are never ripe.
Anyway, I did make the bacalao, something I hadn’t cooked in 6 years so I was excited about it. I improvised a bit and used fresh tomato in part, which I think is better anyway (recipe calls for tomato sauce) and added more cumin than normal. I LOVE cumin! And then because I didn’t have boniato, I went the easy route and made tostones (green plantain).
I will tell you, the congri is a process of sorts. You have to take the beans out, let water evaporate, etc… and I recommend using a pressure cooker. I’m actually going to do a post on tools of Latin cooking later this week. Pressure cooking is not for everyone, but if you want to try it, I’ll be more than happy to guide you in purchasing, testing, etc… You also want to make sure that you don’t over do it with the water, otherwise the rice will become too “ensopado” or too mushy. You want to accomplish a really pretty grayish color grain that isn’t too moist or too dry.
The bacalao is a process, too, only because it’s so salty. But well worth it. It offers all those elements for a healthy diet. When you buy cod fish, don’t get frozen. ICK and just doesn’t taste the same. And if you want to save time, you can even buy unsalted cod fish and simply salt the boiling water. If you do it that way, you’re going to have to let the fish sit in the water for about 10 minutes after it’s been cooked.
And, though typically eaten with congri, we also make bacalao fritters which are really good. I think the Brazilians have a bacalao fritter also.
My friend Jackie, her kids (my guinea pigs while I perfect some dishes for my cookbook) and Simone (my Brazilian “sous chef”) thoroughly enjoyed dinner last night. Sans 9 yr. old Coby who doesn’t like tostones…but he eats his green peppers!! Woo hoo! A kid that eats his vegetables without trickery!
Bacalao (salted cod fish)
- * 1lb fresh salted cod fish
- * 1 cup tomato sauce
- * 4 garlic cloves, chopped
- * 1/2 green pepper, chopped
- * 1/2 onion, pepper
- * 1 tsp oregano
- * 1 tsp cumin
- * 1 packet of Sazon Goya seasoning without achiote or saffron
- * 2 tsp white vinegar
- * 3/4 cup dry cooking wine
Cook cod fish in water for 15 minutes. Pour out water and repeat for another 15 minutes, until it looses most of its salty taste. While fish is cooking, make sofrito and cook sauce. In large medium skillet, sautè onion, garlic and green pepper for 3 minutes. Set aside. In large aluminum skillet, bring together tomato sauce, cooking wine, vinegar, oregano, cumin and Sazon. Add sofrito and cook for 15 minutes on medium heat. Drain fish and pull into small pieces. Add fish to sauce and stir. Cover and let cook for another 15 minutes.
Rice yields about 8 servings. Fish yields about 6 servings.
OFF TO MINGLE WITH OTHER FOLK’S TODAY AFTER VISITING A COOL RESTO THIS WEEKEND THAT HAD ONE LATIN (ME) AND 5 BLACK (non-Hispanic) PATRONS (one of which was with me)….OUT OF 200.
Talk about segregation in the south still lives on. So SAD…
Eat well, love unapologetically, pray with true intention, and take care of yourself.