Is everyone ready for all the extravagant eating ahead of us this month? In Peru we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving in late November, but December is cluttered with social events, from the office’s end of year celebrations, to the gift exchange parties with friends, to the actual Christmas dinner, Christmas Day lunch, and New Years Eve dinner and party.
Our over-indulged appetites enjoy this month more than any other, of course; but our bodies, not so much. It has actually been proved that eating too much, and especially when it’s not the right kind of food, is the cause or trigger of many diseases (if not all). So for this month of excess in the eating department, we want to encourage you to try #MeatlessMondays, which will keep your diet lighter for at least one day a week, and help with your overall health and waistline.
Today we have prepared a dish that is very popular in Peruvian kitchens, and which I, as a full time vegetarian, love for its unique flavor and look. In Spanish we call it arroz al olivar, which more or less translates to “olive rice”. Olivar is a garden of olive trees, and in Lima there’s a gorgeous park called El Olivar, which is an urban olive tree haven.
This rice is a satisfying vegetarian main dish, but it’s also an ideal side dish for any non-vegetarian meal (adding sauted shrimp over it is especially nice). The rice can be cooked normally, or you can make the same recipe with Arborio, Vialone Nano or Carnaroli rice, and turn it into an original risotto. I love everything about this vegetarian entrée, from its intense purple color, to the salty and tart taste of the addictive botija olives. However, if you’re not a fan of these kind of olives, stay away from this recipe, because it’s taste is at the center stage of the dish.
Accompany with a salad, and you won’t need much more. Happy month of over eating and #MeatlessMondays!
- 8 ounces pitted black olives (the large, purple, fleshy ones)
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- 2 cups white rice
- ½ cup raisins
- 1 red bell pepper, cut in thin slices
- Ground pepper
- ½ cup pecans, finely chopped
- ½ cup Parmesan cheese (optional)
- Parsley leaves, for garnish
- Puree the olives in a blender or food processor. Reserve.
- Fry the garlic in oil over medium heat, for a minute or two (do not let it brown), and add the olive paste.
- Add the rice, raisins, red bell pepper, and black pepper, and mix well.
- Pour 3 cups water to the rice, bring to a boil, lower the heat to low (or medium if it's brown rice), and cook, tightly covered, until tender. Stir with a fork, cover again, turn off the heat and let rest for a few minutes.
- Serve the rice sprinkled with pecans, parmesan cheese, and parsley.
- Note: Use brown rice instead, but it will need more water and will take longer to cook.