Sunday, May 2, 2010

Celebrating Cinco de Mayo and a Recipe

Dear friends of ours have hosted an annual Cinco de Mayo party for years.  Traditionally the party has been on the Saturday closest to the 5th of May in a park in the north end of town.  Since we bought our seaside condo our attendance at the annual party has been sketchy due to love of spending weekends at the coast and inclement weather on party day.  The Pacific Northwest is not known for great weather in early May.

The loml  (love of my life) and I debated whether to stay in town to attend the annual party this year; on the plus side the loml could do the weekly Saturday morning ride with his bike club and I could go to the farmer's market.  And we could head off to the beach late Saturday afternoon.  It was a good plan.  Fortunately I emailed the hostess to tell her we were seriously thinking of attending the party on Saturday.  She replied that the party was on Sunday, and it was at a different park, south of town.  Wow!  Weekend at the beach and home on Sunday a shade earlier than usual to attend a potluck party and, for once, great weather!
In defense of my reading skills I must note that the details of the emailed invitation are minor in comparison to the traditional Mexican celebration pictures with hysterical subtitles.  I look forward to the invitation itself and the party is icing on the cake.
Are you like me and most of your great and closest friends are through school situations?  My best friends are either friends I have made when I was in high school or college, and friends that I made through my children's school friends, oh, and work (OK, I work in a school library so if you don't work in a school maybe some of your friends are work related.  But I still am willing to bet that a number of your close friends are somehow school related).  The Cinco de Mayo hosts are the parents of our younger son's best friend.  The boys met in 5th grade and have been best friends, and even roommates since then and their dad's coached them in soccer.  This year a current student was there with his family and  former student had her one-year-old kid in tow.  Small world in a small town!

The Cinco de Mayo party (by the way, in case you do not know any ounce of Spanish, Cinco de Mayo translates as 5th of May, it has nothing to do with mayonnaise) pot luck dishes tend to have a Mexican/Latin theme.  Saturday evening, before the Sunday fiesta, I decided to make one of my favorite rice dishes and served it with roasted pork.  I made the full recipe which is 8 very generous portions - I divided the dish into two casserole dishes, a small one for the loml and I and another, larger, for the potluck.  I was hoping that I would have leftovers from the smaller casserole to take to work for lunch but the loml went back for fourths!

This recipe is slightly adapted from the 1975 edition of "Joy of Cooking by Irma S Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker (as a child the author of this revered cookbook was known as "Rumblebumble" in my family.)   Please note that there are not enough changes for me to call this an original recipe.

Fruit, Nut & Rice Casserole

2 cups dried fruit (I like a mixture of dried fruits like cranberry, raisin, blueberry, mango... but one type is fine)
1 cup long grain rice
1 teaspoon salt
 1 cup pine nuts or slivered almonds
2 tablespoons cooking oil
1 medium onion, chopped to 1/4 to 1/2 inch dice
1 red bell pepper, diced to 1/4 to 1/2 inch pieces
1 teaspoon curry OR 1 tablespoon chili powder

Cover the dried fruit with hot water and soak for about 1/2 hour.  Meanwhile, cook the rice in 1 1/2 cups water - Bring the rice, salt and water to a rapid boil, turn the heat to medium and allow most of the water to be absorbed by the rice.  Cover the pan and reduce the heat to low and allow to simmer for 20 minutes.

In a large skillet toast the nuts until just golden.  Remove nuts to a bowl.  Heat the oil to a shimmer in the skillet, add the onion and red bell pepper and saute until the onion is soft but not brown. Add the curry or chili powder and the nuts,  stir together and then add the drained fruit and stir.  Finally, stir in the cooked rice,

Put the mixture into a casserole, cover and bake for 30 minutes at 375 degrees.  (The dish can be prepared the day before and baked prior to serving)

This dish is great for potlucks because it is great served either hot from the oven or at room temperature.  The curry or chili powders make the dish take on an Eastern or Latin flavor.

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