Tag Archives: habanero

Burkina Feast 3: Riz Gras

Riz gras was one of the first meals I learned to cook in Burkina. The principle is simple: it’s a one-pot dish that starts with a little oil and vegetables. You can add meat but I made a vegetarian version for my son to try. Once the vegetables cook down a bit, add water and bring it to a boil. Then add rice, lower it to a simmer, and allow the rice to absorb the water. It’s healthy and delicious.

Riz Gras (vegetarian)

1 medium onion, diced

1 green pepper, diced

2 tomatoes, diced

2 medium carrots, sliced thinly

1 1/2 c. rice

1/4 tsp. salt

3 cloves garlic

2 Tbsp. canola or vegetable oil

Heat oil in a medium-sized pot. Add garlic, onion, and green peppers. Saute 5 minutes. Add carrots and tomatoes. Saute until softened, about 5 minutes. Add salt. Add 3 cups water and rice. Cover. Bring to a boil then lower to a simmer. Heat for 20 minutes. Water should be absorbed.

* If you like spicy food, add one habanero pepper when you add the carrots and tomato. But be careful – it can be VERY spicy!

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Grow a Global Garden

Growing up in the Garden State, I was always around family gardens. My paternal grandparents usually had a large plot cultivated and I most distinctly remember the corn they would harvest.

My maternal grandmother gardened on a smaller scale and chose more delicate vegetables, such as asparagus.

My father has been an avid gardener for as long as I can remember and I am envious of his ability to grow green peppers, a skill I sorely lack.

My own garden – like my cooking – is a bit more eclectic. I’ll try to grow anything.

In previous years, I have grown eggplant, eager to replicate the clear Sauce Aubergine my friends prepared when I lived in Burkina Faso.

I also have tried to grow habanero peppers, or piment, a staple in our West African diet.

I looked eagerly at the peanut plants in the Burpee and other seed catalogs, hopeful that I could grow a crop of fresh peanuts and once again enjoy one of the staples of my diet in the Peace Corps: boiled peanuts, nice and salty.

I have even toyed with the prospect of growing the West African eggplant, a vegetable I really didn’t enjoy when I first moved to my village but grew to love.

But thanks to the climate, I had to abandon a few of my more ambitious ideas.

Instead, I’m focusing on herbs, such as lemongrass, which is found in a lot of Asian cuisine, and finding new ways to cook with familiar vegetables, like pumpkins.

Pumpkins are a common food in southern African foods. If you have read The Number One Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith, you have no doubt come across a description of pumpkin stew that made your mouth water.

So far, pumpkin appears to be my most promising crop. Look at these gorgeous plants!

But as a Jersey gardener, I know better than to anticipate a glut of any other vegetable except zucchini. Even if you don’t plant zucchini, your neighbors will throw their unwanted extra crop over your garden fence (that you built to keep out zucchini, not rabbits or deer).

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