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.
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil, divided
- 1 teaspoon of finely chopped cilantro
- ¼ cup of chopped celery
- ⅛ cup of capers (optional)
- ½ teaspoon mashed garlic
- 12 pitted olives cut into halves (optional)
- ½ teaspoon of thyme leaves
- ¼ cup of chopped cubanelle or bell peppers (1 pepper, aprox)
- 1 pinch of oregano
- 1½ teaspoon of salt
- 3 cups of boiled green pigeon peas
- 3½ cups water
- ½ cup of tomato sauce
- 2 cups of coconut milk
- 4 cups of rice
- Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a 1½ gl [6 lt] iron pot and add the cilantro, celery, capers, garlic, olives, thyme, peppers, oregano and salt and cook and stir for a minute. Add the peas, also while stirring. Once well heated, add water, tomato sauce and coconut milk and bring to a boil.
- Stir in rice and simmer over medium heat, stirring regularly and 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, stir in the remaining oil. Move the rice from the bottom to the top so it cooks uniformly. Cover again and simmer another 5 minutes.
- Uncover and taste. The rice should be firm but tender inside. If necessary, cover and leave another 5 minutes on very low heat.
- Serve warm with meat or fish of your choice.