I’ve been back for a week now and my life is slowly settling back into something resembling normalcy. I’m not sure how I feel about that, part of me would like to see these huge changes in my life immediately. But one of the thoughts that recurred often while I was traveling was the realization that the life I have is extremely good. There are ways to make it better, and traveling gave me the distance to look at my life from a more objective position. That’s all a big vague, but these thoughts are somewhat vague to me as well. Ideas are great and all but actually figuring out how to take the first step towards something new takes time. Although if there’s anything I should take away from our five weeks away, it’s that you can always just stumble around and in general you’ll find something that works. There seems to be no shortage of angels to guide the way.
Our first stop from Cinque Terre was Genoa. A fairly short but beautiful coastal train ride took us to a bustling station, and from there we walked to a travel agent so we could get some help with transportation to Bourges, a larger city in central France. The travel agent was closed, and we were forced to return to the train station and navigate the ticket purchasing system without assistance. Fortunately we had done a little research and knew what we wanted, and it turned out that we would be able to make the night train to Dijon by leaving Genoa around 7:30pm, heading to Milan, and then taking the train from there around 11:30pm. That left us with a whole day in Genoa, and we made the most of it. We toured the old town, saw Christopher Columbus’s house, went to a library to deal with business, and had coffee and gelato. If you’re leaving Italy and don’t know when you’ll ever be back, I think you’ve got to have one last gelato.
Arriving in Milan was a bit of a shock. An absolutely huge station, it seemed more like an airport than a train station. There were few people there at 10pm, but it was easy to imagine crowds and crowds of people there. Cabins on the night train were set up for sleeping, six people to each tiny room. Our cabin had seven people for a while, one of our tickets seemed to have been double booked. It turned out that there was a fellow on board who had a ticket for the previous night, and after some fumbling around not knowing what to do a conductor stepped in and removed him from our berth. It’s hard to take the initiative and/or solve problems when you don’t speak the same language as the people around you, and when you’re all traveling it just makes everything that much more difficult. I was actually able to get a reasonable amount of sleep on the train, and woke up a little big groggy. My parents didn’t really get any sleep at all, and they were obviously struggling as we got off at Dijon, bought tickets for Bourges, and rode for another three hours. We had decided that we’d buy a new SIM card for our smart phone in Bourges, see the cathedral, and then start our walking from a little town about forty kilometers out of Bourges called Eguzon. The first part went smoothly, but when we got out at the train station at Eguzon around 6:00pm we ran into some difficulties.
It was less of a station and more of a platform. Habitation around the platform consisted of three buildings, only two of which showed any sign of habitation. In our infinite wisdom we decided to walk down the road a little and see if there were any signs of anything a little bit larger, considering our guidebook indicated at least two hotels in the town. It quickly became apparent that whatever the name of the station, this was decidedly not Eguzon. And we had no idea in which direction it might be. So we went back to one of the inhabited houses and knocked on the door. Using my massive knowledge of the french language, I managed to ask the older fellow who answered the door “Pardon Monsieur, ou es Eguzon?” We had a discussion about it afterwards, and “where is Eguzon” isn’t really how one would ask that question normally. But I wanted to get to the point, especially because we had all slept rather poorly the previous night and it was time for us to find a place to stay. Fortunately the man took pity on us and directed us down the road about three kilometers. We thanked him profusely and about an hour later we were settled into the first of our pilgrim hostels on the short section of the Voie de Vezelay, a walking route from Vezelay to St. Jean Pied de Porte (and eventually on to Santiago in Spain).
The walking was much easier than up in the Apennines. We stayed in a variety of places, some Bed and Breakfasts, a Gite (basically a hostel), some Pilgrim accommodation. There was never any fear that we wouldn’t be able to find a place to stay, and there were actually some other pilgrims staying where we were that we could talk to in broken French. The most lovely place we stayed was with Nick and Amanda at Maison Durran in St. Germain Beaupré, run by an English couple who were welcoming and spoke English, which was a real treat. But all of the places we stayed were unique and wonderful in their own way, and it felt as though we settled back into the pilgrim life easily. It was over all too soon though, I think I would have been ok with double the amount of time we had or more. But by this time my money was certainly running out, and my parents had to get to the pilgrim hostel that they would be manning for two weeks. Our last night as Pilgrims we spent with Benadictine nuns in Limoges, an experience not available to your average tourist, one that I would repeat in the same situation but couldn’t recommend to anyone except a pilgrim. The sparse rooms and creaky beds were fine compared to what we had been doing, but we certainly weren’t in the lap of luxury.
There were two days before we had to part ways and we decided to do something completely different, something we wouldn’t normally do on one of our holidays. We rented a car. We drove to castles and did a bunch more walking from the car. It was extremely decadent, extremely comfortable. In the end it was a great counterpoint to everything else we had done. But you experience so much less from a car than you do when you’re just walking from place to place. You’re less thankful and open to whatever the universe brings you. The awareness from all the walking we had done helped put the driving in perspective. But if someone ever wanted to do just a strictly driving holiday in Europe… there’s just something so sanitizing about that kind of trip. There’s no life to it. Much less stumbling, far fewer angels. Perhaps less crises, but the reactions to crises make memories.
We returned to the Limoges train station and went our separate ways. The small amount of research I had done on Paris’s train system paid off and I was able to quickly locate the hostel I was staying at. I ate an amazing meal at a local restaurant and got a good night’s sleep for my single day in Paris.
I started fairly early in the morning, around 8:00am. A younger Swiss fellow had told me not to miss Versailles the night before and I decided to start there. He did not lead me astray. I spent all morning and into the afternoon wandering around the gardens, looking at beautiful buildings, and enjoying the musical fountains. They had classical music playing around all the fountains, giving everything this sort of “documentary on the history of Versailles” feeling. Very surreal actually. The size of the gardens is just phenomenal. I walked around the length of the man made canal that stretches about three kilometers behind the palace in a cross shape and took plenty of pictures. After a quick picnic lunch I made my way back into Paris with the goal of finding a comic book store and then seeing whatever sights I could see before the sun went down. The first store was closed. The second was open. I picked up some Moebius stuff, a book by Enki Bilal, and a book I’d never heard of before with stunning art. Then I walked to the Eiffel Tower amongst hundreds of picnickers, past a huge screen and hundreds more getting ready to watch the Spain/Italy soccer game, and towards the Arc de Triomphe. A few more pictures later, a meal at a Turkish restaurant, and a brief panic when I couldn’t find the metro station, and my day in Paris was abruptly over.
My flight back was extremely long, but essentially without incident. My friends welcomed me back as though I had never been away, which added to the surreality of being at Versailles and Paris the day before. I was back after five weeks in Europe, ready for whatever adventures awaited me in my “normal” life.
Italy has a ton of mountains. I suppose that might be somewhat obvious to some people, but it really hits home when you’ve just finished walking 144 km over 10 days, having climbed more total distance than it takes to climb Kilimanjaro or McKinley and descended more distance than that. Sitting here in a quiet internet cafe on the Mediterranean Coast, it’s hard to believe what we actually did. Tons of ridge walking, a trail that we had almost to ourselves, and amazing scenery, greenery, and people.
The Grand Excursione Appenino (or something like that) abbreviated to GEA, is a trail created by the Italian Alpine Club that stretches across the Apennines, the mountains that form the “spine of Italy.” We did only a small section of it, beginning in the small town of Pracchia and travelling NW, finally ending in the equally small town of Montelungo. It’s a good thing that the route is fairly well serviced. If we had to carry more food, tents, a stove, or any of that additional backpacking gear I’m not sure we would have made it. It’s not like we were in especially bad shape (although my Dad did struggle with the altitude a bit), but this is some fairly difficult hiking. Much of the route travels along the 00, a trail that was created with the purpose of climbing to the top of every mountain and staying as high as possible at every point. This means a huge amount of up and down, so we did skip a lot of it when we could. But we still climbed a number of peaks, most of them around 1800 meters high.
The other thing that made our trip slightly more difficult was weather conditions. Our first few days were clear with light winds, gusting up at the top of the ridges and making us avoid the very tops of mountains because of the high winds. We had a day of fog, where for the first four hours of walking we could barely see the ground we were walking on. Not so good for views, but as the day progressed some of the cloud cover blew off and we were at least able to see down into the next valley. In the middle of the trip there was a day with extremely high winds that passed from being a nuisance to being a danger, and given the amount of time we were spending on exposed slopes we had to abort the day and return to the Hotel we had begun walking from. After that the weather gradually improved, and the last two days were hot, clear, and calm.
Accommodations were a combination of hotels and Alpine Club run huts, sometimes at an important pass, other times at ski resorts. More often than not we were the only people there, and if we hadn’t been able to call ahead to let them know we were coming, there wouldn’t have been anyone there. Hotels seem to mostly be run by the people that live in them. Ski resorts in the Apennines are quiet in early June and on the weekdays especially, and it seemed like often times people were living in the villages and then travelling up to the ski resorts to serve meals and open rooms for hikers.
You might think that people would do these tasks somewhat grudgingly, but everywhere we went our arrival was greeted with a smile, the promise of a hot shower and hot food, and more help than we probably deserved. When you’re travelling in less touristy areas you quickly have to learn a little more of the language, which I think is more of a positive than a negative. When you’re at least making an attempt to communicate in the local language people are much more willing to meet you halfway. We had hotel staff calling ahead to our next stop for us, and taxi drivers buying train tickets for us when it was time to stop hiking.
As for the views… they can’t truly be described. When I have access to some pictures I’ll post them, but they don’t really do the panoramic vistas justice. At the top of the mountains on clear days we could see the Mediterranean Sea on one side and the Alps on the other. Valleys stretched between filled with red roofed hamlets, villages, and farms. We hiked in beech forests, in alpine meadows, across streams, and yes, on the tops of mountains for many kilometers at a time. I would look back in awe at where we had come from and look ahead thinking “we can’t possibly be climbing that peak next” only to climb the peak and look back again thinking the same thing again.
The route was nearly empty of people. I was able to lose myself in the terrain, in the act of simply walking, putting on a pack, the sort of meditation that walking of this sort becomes. I don’t know how to describe these long walks to someone who hasn’t done them and who may never do one. But they are magical and extremely special. Simply to be able to look back and say “I did that” is an amazing feeling. And the additional layer of being in a different country with different customs and language but such solicitous people is something to treasure as well.
And we’re not done yet. Next stop: France, a short piece of the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella in Spain, that will take us through some much more inhabited and lower terrain. It’s hard to believe that I left Canada only twenty one days ago and that I will be returning in fourteen. I’m three-fifths done my trip and I’ve done so much! Two-fifths more won’t be enough!
I’m in Florence today, just posting a blog before our internet access becomes less certain. We now leave for Pracchia, a tiny town located in the Appinine Mountains, where we begin twelve days of (somewhat) remote hiking.
I’ve been thinking a lot about food because… I love food! We have eaten extremely well here. I certainly wasn’t sure we would though, when I think Italian food I think pretty much exclusively of pasta, although I suppose olives and amazing cheese make an appearance as well. The truth of the matter is that if you want those things, they are easy to get and delicious – I had an absolutely incredible ravioli dish for lunch the day we went to the Vatican. But there’s a wide variety of meals that we’ve tried, many that seem innovative and exciting. There are also those things that you only really try when you’re travelling because you’re curious and you’ll probably not get many more opportunities to eat the m0re unusual fare.
I tried the brains (probably sheep?) fried with mushrooms for that reason. The Wild Boar stew as well, because heck, when are you going to be able to order Wild Boar? The perrenial favorite of Asterix and Obelix! Neither dish let me down. Brains are mostly fat, so the brain dish was really mushrooms and fat, which when you think about it is actually pretty awesome. I liked it, although it was a bit rich. Not the type of thing you eat all the time. But the waiter did claim that it would make me a “proffeseur.” The Wild Boar was much more like beef than pork, which makes sense given that it’s a game animal.
As for the less exotic? Quality wise there’s truly nothing I can complain about. From the breads, to the endless proccuito, salami, cheese, salads, pickeled vegetables, and wine, everything is just that much better than I expect. I’m sure it’s a mix of knowledge about the ingredients, travel time from the source, and just how long these people have been using simple ingredients to create amazing food.
The favorite single dish I had was peas cooked with bacon. It doesn’t sound like much… part of how amazed I was came from the simple fact that these were exactly as advertised. Yes, peas cooked with bacon sounds pretty good. But not phenomenal, which is the word I would use to describe them. They put my main course of meatloaf in a mushroom cream sauce to shame. And that meatloaf was excellent too.
I love all the ideas that come from eating at these places. Most of them are small and homey, and none of the places we’ve chosen feel overly fancy. I love the simple things like grated zucchini in a salad or using artichokes in a soup (that’s just something I’ve never had before, not necessarily innovating). I also love the antipasti with every meal, and just the length of meals in general. The change of pace is refreshing. Everyone just sort of lingers, whether waiting for dessert or just sitting and talking.
Well, it’s our last day in Rome and I thought I’d try to update any folks who were interested in what we’ve been up to. It’s hard to bvelieve all the “iconic” things there are to see and do here. When you can see the Sistine Chapel, tour the Colesseum, and visit the Pantheon all within three days… let’s just say it’s pretty surreal.
I suppose as a result of all that, Rome is incredibly busy. I feel as though I’ve gotten used to it fairly quickly, but it is wearing. I suppose the amount of walking we’ve been doing, the sheer number sights we’ve seen, everything adds up. But I can’t say i’m exhausted, I feel elated and alive and happy. It’s funny, because a lot of these things I’ve sort of wanted to see for a long time, but it didn’t click that I would be able to until I was actually here.
Our first day here we didn’t do all that much. We went to an Etruscan Museum, showcasing an early Italian civilization. Our second day we went to both the Vatican Museum (which includes the Sistine Chapel) and St. Peter’s Basilica. Seeing such beautiful and incredible works of art and engineering was absolutely amazing. I think it will be quite a while until I am fully able to process standing underneath the roof of either church.
Our second day we walked inside the Colesseum, through the Roman Forum (buried but now partly excavated), and toured the Capitoline Museum. I’m glad I watched the Rome HBO miniseries, which really gave me a great lens with which to view the reality of what was essentially Rome’s downtown. We had a picnic lunch in the beautiful gardens of the Palatine Hills, where the Roman Emperor’s had their palace.
Yesterday we visited the estate of the Borghese nobles, home to some of the most amazing Renaissance and Baroque statues and paintings. Housed in a palatial manor… it’s just mind boggling to see how the nobility was able to live in such ridiculous luxury. We also visited some of the many Catacombs that honeycomb Rome. It’s mind boggling to see how many people it took to ensure the nobility was able to live in such ridiculous luxury.
So in conclusion, Italy has been freaking awesome so far. I’ll be glad when we begin hiking, but I’m loving our city time as well.
I drained the noodles, and got this nagging feeling that something was wrong. I dropped them into the skillet and instead of curling in the pan, the just seemed to get soggy and began to break into tiny pieces. Not knowing what the problem was, I soldiered on, adding various sauces, returning the now shrimpified noodles to a large pot, and finally tossing in scrambled eggs, sprouts, and mushrooms. Then it hit me. When you’re making Paht Thai, you don’t cook the noodles all the way. Going back to the recipe I thought I knew so well, I read the fateful lines: “…bring to a rolling boil, add the noodles, and remove from heat.”
There was nothing to be done. The dish was finished. But Paht Thai just isn’t quite right with soggy noodles. The flavors didn’t quite blend in properly, and the lime juice flavor was lost entirely. Fortunately the shrimp were cooked perfectly, the overall spice level was exactly where I wanted, and the mushrooms added a surprising amount of subtly to the dish. Compared to my last attempt I would say this Paht Thai was slightly worse. But I still ate it, it was good, and it was worth the effort. Isn’t that why we cook?
What do you do when this happens? If I was having company I might have just started over when I realized something was wrong. But I didn’t have any extra noodles, and there’s a point of no return when picking shrimp and tofu out from the noodles just isn’t an option. In this case it was right to just continue doing what I’d been doing, feel foolish, write about it, and move on.
If you rarely look back and ask what went wrong then you are missing opportunities to improve. Today my mistakes were numerous. The biggest was just assuming I knew what I was doing. I’d built up my confidence by remembering to buy bean sprouts, the thing that had made my last Paht Thai less than stellar. But being confident can lead to mistakes, especially when you tell yourself that “this is easy” or you’ve done this “a thousand times.” In the end it’s more important to focus on the next time than on what just happened. Acknowledge your errors as well as your successes and move on. There were lots of good things I added to this particular recipe, like adding mushrooms and using regular onions instead of green. Everything is a potential learning experience, you just have to see it that way.
Anyways, I made a few changes to Paht Thai Noodles from Quick and Easy Thai by Nancie McDermott, which is on page 107 of said book. I’m not blown away by a lot of the recipes in this book, but they are quick and easy so there’s not a lot to complain about. I suspect that some of the shortcuts taken make a big difference in terms of flavor. In the interests of not doing anything illegal I’m going to not write everything out. But know that the recipe calls for chicken or pork and I used tofu instead in interests of not eating resource intensive meat. Also, the recipe calls for sugar, and I substituted honey as I usually do when a recipe calls for sugar. Use about half the honey and it will work out great, trust me! Also, green onions are called for after the noodles have been fried a little, and I just fried up yellow onions with the initial garlic, shrimp, and tofu mixture, which still gets you that onion flavor.
1 package of flat rice noodles
2 tbsp Ghee
1/2 small yellow onion
clove of garlic
1 bag of Shrimp (about 30 smallish ones)
1/2 package of firm tofu
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp chili powder
1 cup bean sprouts
3 large white mushrooms
2 tbsp lime juice
Boil water, add the noodles, and remove from heat. That’s the fateful line, do not forget. Let them sit for a bit, drain and rinse in cold water. I didn’t do that bit, but you probably should. It will make everything better.
Throw a tablespoon of ghee into a frying pan, fry up the onions and garlic until the onions are transluscent. Add the shrimp and tofu. I used to always overcook my shrimp, now I err on the side of them being undercooked. As long as they are pink and hot, they’re done. Don’t cook them any more than that and the flavor will just be better.
Throw the noodles into the frying pan, pour in all the saucey things. Plus the chili powder. I looked at another recipe that uses tamarind paste, and I’m totally going to try it next time. Fry everything for a minute or two, then put them into a pot so the skillet is ready for more stuff.
Scramble the egg in the other tablespoon of ghee and throw it into the pot.
Fry up the bean sprouts and mushrooms. Toss ’em into the pot.
Add the peanuts and the lime juice. Mix everything up and serve. Throw on some more bean sprouts if you feel like it.
I made a Squash/Potato Curry today from Suneeta Vaswani’s excellent “Complete Book of Indian Cooking,” not to be confused with another cookbook I own called “Complete Indian Cooking.” Suneeta’s book is slightly more direction intensive than the other “Complete Indian” book, and it uses a greater variety of spices, which makes sense. Suneeta’s “Complete Book of Indian Cooking” is far more comprehensive, with 350 recipes from different regions of India, sort of a culinary tour. But the other “Complete Indian” book is simpler, and I’m glad that I got it first so I could cut my teeth on some simple stuff before getting into some more direction intensive stuff.
This Squash Potato curry looks complicated to make. It requires setting up bowls of stuff before hand, popping seeds open, and sauteing for differing lengths of time; therefore it requires that you be paying quite a bit of attention. It’s really not THAT complicated though, and the advantage is that you end up with something much closer to how the dish might taste if it was prepared by a professional chef, or at least cooked in a home in India. I’ll qualify that by saying that I’ve never had a home-cooked Indian meal, but you can taste the difference. If you just throw everything together without a care for proper treatment of spices, or without the proper spices, you end up with a very different end product. I made this same dish but used Coriander seeds by mistake (instead of mustard), and without the nigella as well. Surprisingly the dish was quite tasty, but making it correctly made a huge difference. The depth of flavor and how it compliments the Squash in particular is delectable.
After everything was simmering, I had some extra Squash seeds. Consulting the Joy of Cooking* it suggested you can just toast seeds (and nuts) on the stove in a dry pan. No oil. No salt. No nothing. I’m willing to try anything Joy suggests at least once, and I’m not sure if it’s ever really let me down. The directions are simple, just keep the seeds moving in the pan (so they don’t stick), and as soon as the seeds begin to cook you turn the heat off. That way the seeds don’t burn, they cook in the residual heat. The method worked great, and the only disadvantage was that the inner squash goop burned to the bottom of the pan. I just threw the pan in soapy water right away and it scrubbed away easily. I’d say if you only have a few squash seeds this is totally worth it. Don’t throw them away! Snack on them while your meal is cooking!
Pumpkin Potato Curry
adapted from the Complete Book of Indian Cooking by Suneeta Vaswani pg. 367
3 tbsp lime juice (I used lime because it’s more unusual in my experience)
1/2 tsp evaporated cane sugar (which isn’t really better for you but it’s what I have)
2 tbsp yogurt
1 tsp cumin powder
3/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp turmeric
2 tbsp Ghee, because Ghee is the ultimate oil!
1/2 tsp dark mustard seeds
1 tsp nigella seeds (also known as Onion Seeds… even though they aren’t!?)
1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
2 green cardamom pods, seeds only
2 whole cloves
2 inch long pieces of cinnamon
2 bay leaves
1 cup frozen tomato
3 medium potatoes, cut small to cook quickly
1 butternut squash (although you could probably use however much squash you want)
Stir the sugar into the lime juice in some sort of small receptacle.
Mix the yogurt, coriander, cumin, cayenne, and turmeric in a different small receptacle
Heat oil over high heat in a frying pan. Add a couple of mustard seeds and when they start to sputter add all the mustard seeds and cover. When the seeds stop popping (it shouldn’t take long!), uncover, reduce heat to medium and add all the spices you didn’t add to the yogurt. Saute for 30 seconds. (This step releases all the flavor of these tasty tasty spices! If you use dried, or you’ll end up with something not nearly as awesome)
Add the spicey yogurt and cook, stirring for a couple minutes. Add the tomato, then cook a couple minutes more.
Throw in the potatoes, squash and some water just below the level of the veggies. Cover and simmer until you’ve got liquid that’s a pretty thick consistency. Mix in the lime juice mixture. EAT!
So yeah, it’s all there. One of the better squash dishes I’ve made, and I’d love to make it with pumpkin when it’s in season.
Oh, and I decided I wanted something to go with the curry, so I’m drinking Mead from the Fallentimber Meadery in Alberta. It is amazing, and goes excellently with this dish. It just adds a little something to the sweetness of the squash.
*Known in my house as the Cookinomicon, the ultimate cooking bible that I’m pretty sure anyone who wants to cook anything should have on hand
I come home craving Jambalaya. I have a plan, but have no idea if it’s going to work out. So I jump in. I grab frozen black beans, shrimp, and tomatoes from the freezer, putting the beans in a small pot to boil. I peel the shrimp, contemplating what my next step should be. I decide that making a sauce with the shrimp will work out the best, because I’ll be able to cook the shrimp properly with the most precision. From there I grab half an onion, a clove of garlic, half a pepper, and saute them in ghee. The buttery sharp smell fills my nostrils, and it’s time to throw in the frozen tomatoes. There’s a moment where I panic and forget what Jambalaya tastes like. Then something clicks in my brain, and I grab cayenne pepper and chili powder from the spice rack.
The Jambalaya was partly an excuse to use the cooked rice I have in my fridge that’s been there for a couple days. That goes in a big pot with more ghee, and once the grains are coated with buttery goodness I throw the beans in. The tomatoes are soft now, so I throw in the shrimp, then add some lemon juice. Never fails to improve the flavor of everything. Almost immediately the shrimp are soft and pink, and I throw the sauce in with everything else. It looks a bit watery, but I’m hungry and it smells amazing. It tastes amazing too, the buttery undertones supporting the beans and the onions. I can’t taste the garlic, and remind myself to leave it out next time.
There’s something missing, and I think about calling my sister, my personal authority on missing flavors. But then I remember that I didn’t add pepper, and once I’ve ground it on there I have the perfect Jambalaya flavor. Heaven. Even more so on the second bowl, now that the sauce has thickened and it’s no longer like a thick soup. I’m trying to avoid meat because it’s hard on the planet, but I wistfully contemplate the result had I some sausage I could have added. No matter. This experiment was a fantastic success.
Quick and Dirty Jambalaya
2 tablespoons of Ghee (the buttery flavor works wonders here)
2 Cups of cooked rice (use brown, it’s better for you and tastes better too!)
1 Can of Black Beans, drained (I used frozen beans I’d cooked and frozen earlier, which are a bit more of a pain but if you live in Canada like I do there’s too much salt in the cans.)
2 tablespoons of Ghee
1/2 an average Onion (You could make it with more or less onion. Personal preference really)
1 clove of Garlic (axe it. Doesn’t need it, adds very little to the overall flavor)
1/2 a Bell Pepper (whatever kind. I used yellow, but green is probably more “traditional)
1/2 Can of Tomatoes (Again, I used frozen. Salt is the enemy)
1 tsp. of Cayenne Pepper
1 tsp. of Chili powder
1 Bag of Shrimp, peeled (A bag is not a measurement. Use your best judgement. Any kind of protein probably works here, although tofu might be a bit on the boring side. Would probably work though)
1 tablespoon of Lemon Juice (makes everything taste better)
Black pepper to taste
Put two tablespoons of Ghee in a medium saucepan and fry the rice until it’s warm. Add the beans. Set this off to the side, or prepare it while you’re watching the onions cook.
Saute the Onion in 2 tablespoons of Ghee until it’s translucent. Add the Bell Pepper and cook a bit longer. Add the tomatoes, chili powder, and cayenne, then once the tomatoes are soft (if they’re frozen) add the Shrimp and the Lemon Juice. Cook for a minute or two, then add this sauce to the Rice and Beans. Cook uncovered for a couple of minutes until the sauce thickens up.
It looks like that, but it tastes much better. Much much better. Did I mention I’m not a food photographer?