All-time Most Popular Posts

This Week's Most Popular Posts

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Amazingly Flavorful Haitian Rice and Beans

Haitian rice and beans or Riz National (diri ak pwa) is an absolutely magical dish.  Every time I make this dish for friends they go crazy over it!  I don't make it often, but among those I've made it for, it is undoubtedly one of my most popular dishes.  This dish is irresistible to picky eaters, dieters, even the anorexic--proven fact.   If you are struggling to get someone to eat, let this one be your go-to.  If you've never tried Haitian food, this is probably the best introductory dish--it's very Haitian food 101.

When I lived at the Spanish House in undergrad, I made this dish and the guys were practically fighting over it!  One of them was licking his fingers and everything!  Yes, it is just that good.  I don't know that I've tried a more flavorful rice than this one.  The smell of this dish is rich and divine.  I remember I used to have a Haitian neighbor in Miami who would cook with the kitchen window open, and the smell of that rice as I walked by in the evening was so intoxicating!  The cloves may sound odd, but it's really no different than the Jamaican addition of allspice (another sweet spice that Americans typically use in desserts) to their meats and rices.  It just provides some added depth and richness.

Before you start, bear in mind that you must leave the hot pepper whole.  It will depress and release its juices into the food during cooking, however, it is traditionally left whole for a reason.  If you chop an entire scotch bonnet or habanero for this dish, it will be far too spicy and even inedible.

- 1 cup of long grain white rice, washed and drained
- 1 can of red beans or 1 cup precooked beans and juice, strained with juice reserved
- 3 slices thick-cut bacon (or equivalent in chopped salt pork)
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1 pack of Sazon Goya Culantro y Achiote (found in Latin foods aisle in supermarket)
- 1/2 tsp thyme
- 3 or 4 sprigs fresh parsley
- 6 whole cloves
- 1 scotch bonnet or habanero pepper (whole with stem removed.  Do NOT chop.  It's entirely too spicy) (half a cherry pepper with seeds is a nice substitute)

- 2 TB butter + oil to sautee veggies in and for flavoring rice.

- 3 cups water and/or bean juice (from can or from freshly cooked beans)

- salt to taste (about 1 TB)
- pepper to taste

1. Fry bacon in a pan until crisp in a deep pan or medium pot.  Crumble or chop and set aside.

2 Sautee onions in the bacon pan with butter and oil, adding garlic in toward the end to avoid burning.

3. Stir in herbs and cloves and bacon.  Cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute.

4. Stir in dry seasonings and water, bean juice, and beans.

5. Bring all ingredients to a boil over medium heat.  Once boiling, stir in rice and add hot pepper.

6. Boil over medium heat, stirring continuously, until water is mostly evaporated.  At this point, cover and reduce to low heat.  Allow to simmer 20 minutes over low heat (do not remove cover).

7. Fluff and blend rice with a fork and serve, ideally with meat and fried green plantains (banane peze).

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Richmond Summer Food Festivals 2012

Every year, I've posted a list of some our city's greatest summer food festivals.  This year, I wasn't going to do it because they are pretty much around the same time every year.  Well, I've changed my mind.  Of course, a handful of the festivals have already passed, but we still have much more to come.  Check them out and tell me how it goes!

Shockoe Bottom Jazz Festival
May 27 - 11AM

35th Annual Greek Food Festival 
Thurs May 31 - 11 AM to 9:30 PM
Friday June 1 - 11AM - 10PM
Saturday June 2 - 11A - 10PM
Sunday June 3 - 12 PM - 7PM

Stone Soul Music and Food Festival
June 2 2PM

Broad Appetit
June 3, 2012

10th Annual Vegetarian Food Festival
June 23 - 12PM - 6PM

Richmond Watermelon Festival
Sunday Aug 5, 2012

7th Annual Filipino Food Festival  (funds go toward establishing Lakeside Free Clinic and various existing local charities)
Aug 10-11

Carib Culture Unity Festival 
aug 25, 2012

Mini Pecan Peach Cobblers

I love summertime!  One of my favorite things about summer is the abundance of fresh produce from right here in the US.  It's May and delicious peaches are starting to fill displays in local supermarkets.  I picked up just 3 peaches today because I wasn't liking the produce at the particular grocery store that I stopped at after a doctor's visit.  I wanted peaches to eat, but they were super small and I was doubtful that they'd be the sweet, juicy peaches that I love.  What to do, what do, right?

Well, I'll be moving soon so I am trying to use up everything in my cabinet, but I was not up to having a full size dessert around--ta-da individual peach cobblers : D!  This recipe is perfect for a quick and easy little sweet bite after a busy day at work.  This recipe makes just enough for 4 ramekins of little cobblers. This particular version of peach cobbler highlights the tangy freshness of the peaches so it  has just a touch of cinnamon with a nice brightness from lemon zest.  The crust is an amazing rich, buttery, mile-high crust that's almost like a super tender, airy, yet dense cake with amazing crispy edges.  I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I did!


1 cup flour
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 TB lard (or shortening or very cold butter or a mix)
1/2 c sugar (I used all Florida Crystals turbinado sugar for a nice, rich crust flavor)
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla
Zest of half a lemon 
1heaping TB chopped pecans

4 medium peaches
zest of 1/2 lemon
about 2 TB white sugar
a light dash of cinnamon
pinch of salt (optional)

1. Blanch peaches for 30 seconds to 1 minute to facilitate peeling.  Peel peaches once cool enough to handle and slice to desired size.  I chopped my slices in half lengthwise for a nice bite size.

2. Meanwhile, blend the flour with salt, sugar, baking powder, zest, and pecans.  Once blended, cut the lard into the dough using a pastry blender until the fat is pea-sized.  Gradually and gently stir in milk until all ingredients are moistened completely.

3. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F

4. In a pot over medium heat, place all filling ingredients and allow to cook, stirring occasionally, until peaches are softened but still have a nice bite left.

5. Spray 4 ramekins with cooking spray and divide filling among the ramekins.  Top the filling with an equal amount of topping and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown and bubbly and dough springs back when touched. If you like more crunch, you can sprinkle extra sugar on top.

This recipe was inspired by: and

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Mmm, Mmm Zesty Sausage Gravy

Although I'm not much of a breakfast meat person, I'm such a sucker for a good sausage gravy.  There's just something about that warm, delicious, comforting gravy on fluffy biscuits in the morning.  Mmmm, mmm!  There's nothing like it!

Traditionally, sausage gravy is seasoned with simply salt and pepper, but this is my zestier, more flavorful recipe that has a great mildly herby flavor and the perfect spicy bite.

3 breakfast sausage rounds (broken into bits) or the equivalent of ground sausage
1 TB minced onion
1 garlic clove, minced
3 TB butter (if your sausage does not make enough fat)
1/4 cup flour
1 cup of milk, more if you want a thinner gravy
1/8 tsp sage
1/4-1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
a few dashes of smoked paprika if your sausage isn't smoky enough (optional)
salt and black pepper to taste

1. Saute the onions over medium low heat until soft and translucent.  At this point, add in the garlic until fragrant.

2. Raise the heat to medium high and add in the sausage and brown it, breaking it up into bits.  Meanwhile, season it with all of the spices.

3. Once the sausage is browned and thoroughly cooked, add in the butter and allow it to melt.  After the butter melts, gradually stir in flour until you achieve a homogeneous meat paste.

4.  At this point, gradually add in the milk until you achieve a homogeneous gravy.  Bring the gravy up to a boil and cook until it thickens, about a minute or so after it boils.

5. Enjoy over split hot biscuits or incorporate into a baked breakfast casserole.

Southern Sweet Fruit Tea

This delicious sweet tea is the perfect refreshing tea for a hot summer day.  It has a beautiful fruity tang that contrasts with its sweetness.

4.5 cups of water
6 tea bags
juice of 1 lemon
juice of 2 navel oranges
juice of 1 red pear (peel, puree, and strain)
Ice cubes

simple syrup
1-1/4 c sugar
1 cup water


1. Steep the tea bags in boiling water until all of it's strength is released--7-10 min.  Be careful not to over-steep and burn the tea leaves.
2. Boil the sugar and water for the simple syrup
3. Meanwhile, juice and strain the citrus
4. Peel and chop the red pear and puree it in the blender
5. Strain the juices into a pitcher along with the cooled sugar syrup
6. Press the tea bags against the side of the pot to strain out any remaining liquid before removing the bags.
7. Allow the tea to cool (this avoids breaking the pitcher).
8.  Add the tea bags and a cup of ice to the pitcher, chill, and enjoy!

Inspired by:

Triple Cheese Beef and Pasta Casserole

This deliciously simple casserole was born of a need to clean out my cabinets before moving (can you tell?), but let me tell you, it might not be the prettiest, but it is delicious and bursting with flavor!  If you're anything like me, you love hearty, comforting, one-pot meals, and this is a super all-in-one that's packed with flavor and nutrients, mmmm, mmmm!  The fresh veggies and spicy bite are the icing on the cake for this tasty soon-to-be-favorite.  Whether you're trying to use everything in the cabinet or looking to whip up a quick meal after work, this one is sure to please.

Let me not forget, this dish is 100% boyfriend approved.  He called me after he got home and says, "Man, what was that you made?  It was SO good!  I should've taken some home!"

1 box of pasta (I used zitti,  but shells, bowties, macaroni, and other tubular pastas are fine)
1 lb ground beef
2 ears' worth of fresh corn
1 medium carrot, chopped into small cubes
1 small can of sliced olives (the short can)
1 or 2 tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and cubed
1 medium onion, diced
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
6 cloves of garlic, smashed
1 TB tomato paste
1 TB Tony Chachere's or other creole seasoning
2 tsp paprika
1/4-1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp thyme
black pepper and salt to taste (you will need the meat sauce mildly on salty side before adding pasta)
generous 1/4 c + 1 rounded TB flour
1-1/4 cup milk

1/4 cup ricotta cheese
1 cup or so of cheddar and a stretchy white cheese (I happened to have shredded cheddar and a slice of provolone around)

olive oil and butter blend for sauteeing


Boil pasta in salt water until al dente.  Bear in mind that it will not cook much in the oven.  Drain pasta and coat with oil to prevent sticking.  Set aside.

Sautee onions and peppers over medium heat until soft.

In a separate pan, sautee  carrots until  halfway done over medium heat in a 1TB or so of butter and enough oil to prevent butter from burning.

Once halfway done, add in corn and salt vegetable mix.

Add in tomatoes and garlic a few minutes before onion mix is ready.  Once soft and translucent, turn heat to medium high.

Heat an oven to 400 degrees

Once pan temperature is up, add ground beef, breaking up the meat and incorporating the onion and pepper mix with a wooden spoon.  Season the meat generously with all of the spices and continue stirring occasionally.

Once the meat is cooked, incorporate tomato paste and cook for a minute or so more.  At this point, gradually stir in the flour to absorb all of the liquid.  If more liquid remains, add more flour.  Stir in the flour until you have a thick meat paste.

Once fully incorporated, gradually stir in the milk until homogeneous.  Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.  Be sure to keep it slightly salty to compensate for pasta.

At this point, blend pasta, meat sauce, corn, carrots, and sliced olives in a pot or bowl.  Layer the mix in a pan (I used ceramic, and I'd recommend that or glass) and place spoonfuls of ricotta throughout.  Once all pasta is in pan, top with more ricotta and cover with a layer of cheese blend.

Bake for 15 minutes at 400 degrees F.


*Again, sorry for not having photos, I did take them but my crazy computer's memory card drive has been damaging my cards :(*