Fall is at its peak here in the mid-Atlantic. Autumn leaves are falling, each shimmering leaf a memory of the last year, bringing on a melancholy I wear like comfortable pajamas on lazy fall mornings. I look out the window with my hands wrapped around my coffee cup and think, We are the product of all the autumns we’ve lived. We are hopefully wiser and stronger, more capable of understanding the mysteries of life, more able to withstand the coming winter.
I’ve gone to the farmer’s market here in Bethesda to forage for the last of the fall harvest: diminishing supplies of lima beans, lonely cobs of silver-white corn, a few forlorn Honey Crisp apples. I feel the start of cold weather—a hint of winter’s magificent presence—and know I should fill my bag with sweet potatoes, pumpkins, turnips, maybe a pot of marigolds.
But the lima beans and corn are what I need to prepare an aromatic rice my friends love, down to the last toasted grain at the bottom of the pan. The dish is a hybrid: part Mexican, part Spanish, perhaps only the tiniest bit like an Italian risotto. Powdered turmeric and pimentón de la vera (Spanish smoked paprika) gives the rice its yellow color and a healthy quantity of cumin gives it a nuanced flavor. Also, I use a paella rice which is short grained, similar to risotto rice.
- 2 cups short grained rice
- 8 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 onion minced finely
- ½ red bell pepper cut in thin strips
- 1 tablespoon powdered pimenton de la vera
- 1 tablespoon turmeric
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- 2 envelopes powdered chicken soup concentrate
- 1 cup lima beans
- scraped corn from one cob
- 6 cloves peeled garlic
- cilantro for garnish
- salt to taste
- 5 cups water (or chicken broth if you prefer not to use powdered soup)
- Rinse the rice and drain out the water as much as possible.
- Put 5 tablespoons of the oil in a large heavy bottomed skillet and place the rice to brown.
- Let it brown, at medium heat, moving it with a spoon for about 3 minutes.
- Add the minced onion and stir until the the onion has softened, about 5 minutes.
- In the meantime, place the strips of red bell pepper and the cloves of garlic in a pan with the other 3 tablespoons of oil and saute them, until softened and the garlic is golden.
- Now, to the rice, add the 5 cups of water, the turmeric, the pimenton de la vera, the powdered chicken soup, the salt and the strips of bell pepper and garlic.
- Bring to a boil uncovered, and after 5 minutes, add the lima beans and the corn.
- Check for salt and bring the heat down to a very low simmer.
- Cook for another half hour approximately and cover loosely for the last 10 minutes.
- Garnish the top of the skillet with the cilantro or if you are serving it on a special dish, wait until it cools for 10 minutes.