Colombia´s run-off elections were Sunday, as was the Brazil-Ivory Coast world cup match (which, incidentally-- Ivory Coast in Spanish= Costa de Marfil. Marfil? I did not see that one coming) They put up a huge screen downtown in Plaza San Martin. We sat on the sloping hill and watched the very pro-Brazil crowd laugh at the ridiculous referee calls and at the commentary regarding an injured Brazilian player with a very funny last name [Se cuela Elano! Elano gets through! Se acabó para Elano! It´s over for Elano! (Elano=el ano=the anus)]. The masses left happy, we left cold and hungry, and came home to election news from Colombia that made everyone I know extremely unhappy. (Not unlike our own 2004 election, where obviously millions of people voted for the winning candidate, but I fail to know any of them.) Spirits deflated, we made lentils and lemon rice and spinach for a very late lunch/dinner, and then decided to go out and get some work done in a coffee shop.
Which explains why I found myself later that night unwillingly watching two couples shamelessly make out in public in the way only Argentines seem to be capable. When my sister was here with me she would always say in reaction, Oh my god, they really can´t contain themselves until they get home? How far could they possibly be from their houses? And then we realized that, well, they may be around the corner from their houses, but the problem is that if they´re under 30 it´s quite likely their parents live there too. As in many other countries, people here live with their parents until much later than Americans typically do. This also helps explain the proliferation of telos, hourly hotels, that can be found hidden in plain sight all over the city. Does the parking garage door of the apartment building next to you have florescent backlighting? If you´re in Buenos Aires, it´s probably a telo.
Lemon rice, which is really lemon peanut rice, sounds really weird but is awesome. My friend Ada made it back in college-- we used to get together and make Indian food, and her sister Ettie would always make some amazing dessert. Awhile ago I asked Ada to send me the recipe, and have been making it for rice-obsessed Colombians ever since, who give their whole-hearted approval. They are a tough bunch to please when it comes to rice [don´t even get them started about risotto, or arroz mojado (wet rice) as they like to call it, making 2004 election-worthy faces], not unlike my cousins of Persian descent. I like risotto, but I´ve learned to leave it well enough alone around people for whom rice is like a religion. And I of course would never want to be uncouth.
Lemon Peanut Rice
2 c. plain cooked white rice (Start with scant 1 c. uncooked- Basmati is lovely but you can use medium grain as well. I briefly saute med. grain rice in a teaspoon of oil, then add 2 c. of water and 1 tsp. salt. Cook on low heat until the water is absorbed, then spread out on a plate to cool. But I bet you could use leftover takeout rice too.)
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
½ tsp. mustard seeds (preferably black, but you can use yellow as well)
¼ c. peanuts- if they are already salted, you probably won´t have to add any additional salt to the rice
2 tsp. finely minced/grated ginger
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 tsp. sugar
½ tsp. turmeric
½ tsp. cayenne pepper
2 bay leaves
juice of ½ a lemon
Notes: if you have split gram beans, you can add a tsp. or two for seasoning, and if you have access to kari leaves, use a whole handful in place of the bay leaves. Kari leaves are delicious but I have never seen them in Argentina.
In a wide pan, heat the oil over med. heat. When the oil is hot, add the mustard seeds and cover immediately. When the mustard seeds stop sputtering, add the peanuts and stir, cooking, until lightly colored but not burnt (be careful as peanuts, like all nuts, can burn really quickly). Reduce the heat and add the ginger and garlic. Cook for a minute or two, stirring, and then add in the rest of the ingredients except for the lemon juice. Add a tablespoon or two of water to the mixture and cook, stirring everything together, until heated through. Taste for salt, stir in the lemon juice, and taste again.
Arroz con Limón y Maní
2 tazas de arroz blanco cocido
1 cucharada de aceite vegetal (me gusta girasol)
½ cucharita de semillas de mostaza (las negras son preferibles pero se puede usar las amarillas también)
¼ taza de maní-- si ya vienen con sal es muy probable que no vas a tener que agregar sal adicional al arroz
2 tsp. jengibre rallado chiquito
1 diente de ajo, picado chiquito
1 cucharita de azúcar
½ cucharita de curcuma
½ cucharita de pimienta picante
2 hojas de laurel
jugo de ½ limón
Nota adicional: si tenes acceso a hojas de kari son deliciosas aquí en vez de las hojas de laurel (echa un puñado grande de ellas) pero no las he visto nunca en Sudamerica.
En un sarten ancho sobre fuego medio, calienta el aceite. Cuando esté caliente, echale las semillas de mostaza y tapalo inmediatamente. Cuando las semillas de mostaza dejan de hacer ruido, agrega el maní y revuelva, cocinandolo, hasta que esté dorado pero no quemado (ojo que el maní, como todos los nueces, quema muy facilmente). Baja el fuego y echa el jengibre y el ajo. Cocina durante un par de minutos, revolviendo cada tanto y entonces agrega el resto de los ingredientes menos el jugo de limón. Agrega una cucharada o dos de agua a la mezcla y cocina, revolviendo para que todo los ingredientes se incorporen bien, hasta que el arroz esté bien caliente. Fijate que esta bien de sal e incorpora el jugo de limón.