I was 12, and I fell in love. It was all new to me and I was smitten: I ate moro de guandules con coco for the first time.
It was my first trip to Samaná, and I remember with a smile the horror on my brother’s face when he found out that the food contained coconut. Madness! Coconut doesn’t belong in savory dishes!
Or does it?
But let’s take a second to talk about guandules (pigeon peas).
With the possible exception of Puerto Rico (where it’s called gandules) no other nation seems to appreciate this legume like Dominicans do. It is found, fresh, dried and canned in every supermarket, market and corner store, its smoky taste well-loved by Dominicans of all walks of life. And while beans (red kidney, cranberry or pinto) are king here, pigeon peas are a special treat. There is not a corner of our Republic where guandules are not known.
But in Samaná somebody (or possibly several somebodies) had a struck of genius: to combine pigeon peas with coconut. This is possibly a natural progression from the fact that Samaná is covered from corner to corner with coconut groves. Coconut in all its incarnations is enjoyed in the beautiful bay.
This dish is full of flavor and the buttery goodness of coconut. It is an obligatory addition to any special meal Dominican-style. It is also part of our traditional Dominican Christmas dinner.
- 4 cups of rice
- 3 cups of boiled green pigeon peas
- 2 cups of coconut milk
- 3½ cups water
- 2 tablespoons of oil
- ½ cup of tomato sauce
- ¼ cup of chopped cubanelle or bell peppers
- 1 pinch of oregano
- ½ teaspoon mashed garlic
- ⅛ cup of capers (optional)
- ¼ cup of chopped celery
- 1 teaspoon of finely chopped coriander/cilantro
- ½ teaspoon of thyme leaves
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 12 pitted olives cut into halves (optional)
- Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in an iron pot and add the cilantro, celery, capers, garlic, olives, thyme, peppers, oregano and salt.
- Add the peas, also while stirring.
- Once well heated, add the water, tomato sauce and coconut milk and bring to a boil.
- Add the rice and stir regularly removing as much as you can of the rice that sticks to the bottom.
- When all the water has evaporated cover with a tight-fitting lid and simmer over very low heat.
- Wait 15 minutes, uncover, add the remaining oil and stir.
- Move the rice from the bottom to the top so it cooks uniformly.
- Cover again and wait another 5 minutes.
- The rice should be firm but tender inside.
- If necessary, cover and leave another 5 minutes on very low heat.