Rice and Peas de Provence

I’ve been laying low since getting home from the beach, resting up in preparation for my return to work and–after a 16-year hiatus–my return to school. I’m starting the Master’s Program in Food Studies at New York University tomorrow. My weekend goals included finishing the baby blanket for my nephew (just need to weave in the loose ends), the juicy novel I started at the beach (33 pages to go), and season 3 of Mad Men (done).

Ordinarily, my little corner of Brooklyn is a pretty quiet place. But each Labor Day millions (yes, millions) of people descend on my neighborhood for the West Indian Day Parade. The bump bump of giant speakers loaded onto flatbed trucks and the aroma of jerk chicken cooking on steel drum grills waft through the air on what I’ve come to view as the last day of summer.

But a week and a half of vacation eating have left me craving vegetarian fare and the cupboard is pretty bare. Rooting through the fridge, I found some celery, garlic and red onions left over from my CSA share. On the counter were dried French lentils that I’d bought on a whim just before leaving town, some unnamed Caribbean hot peppers my stepmom had picked up at Spence’s Bazaar (a must if you find yourself in or around Dover, Delaware) and dried porcini mushrooms that I’d bought at Byler’s (a country variety store in Dover that’s also worth a visit).

Clearly, a West Indian-Provencal mashup was in order…

Rice and Peas de Provence

  • 1/2 cup dried porcini mushrooms
  • vegetable stock (I’ve taken to keeping a jar of Better Than Bouillon on hand)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tbsp herbes de provence (or an equivalent amount of thyme, rosemary, savory, fennel and/or basil)
  • 2 whole allspice berries, crushed into a fine powder
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 5 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
  • 1 Scotch bonnet or other hot pepper, cut in half and seeded
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 cup French lentils (the small ones)
  • 1 1/2 cups long-grained rice
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons butter (you could use canola or vegetable oil to make this a vegan dish)
  • 1 large red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 lemon
  • salt and pepper
  • Scotch bonnet or other Caribbean hot sauce
  1. Bring 4 cups of vegetable stock or 4 cups of water with bouillon to a boil in a medium-sized heavy pot and add dried mushrooms, breaking up any large pieces. After five minutes, add the bay leaf, spices, wine, garlic, pepper and celery and let boil for an additional five minutes.
  2. Add lentils, lowering heat to a simmer. After five minutes, add rice. Let simmer for 25-35 minutes, stirring gently and adding small amounts of water as needed, until lentils and rice are just tender. Turn heat off and top with a tight-fitting lid.
  3. Melt butter over medium-low heat in a small pot and then add onion. Cook until onions are very soft, stirring frequently. 
  4. Remove bay leaf. Add cooked onions, lemon juice salt and pepper to taste. If the dish is spicy enough for you, remove and discard the pepper. Alternately, you can mince it up and add it back to the pot, which is what I did.

I’m meeting a neighbor at 7:00 for a little rooftop dining. I plan to serve this with some Scotch bonnet pepper sauce that I picked up in the Bahamas and a Vinho Verde that I have on hand, although I suspect that some ice-cold beer would also do the trick.

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