‘Spanish’ Rice, Redux

“Jersey” rice. Photo by Keri White

Do you remember the classic ’70s side dish “Spanish” rice? It was a tomato-rice dish, which I’m sure it was mischaracterized — we had it all the time as kids.

I’m sure there was Rice-A-Roni version, or perhaps a can of some dubiously seasoned tomato product that would be mixed with Uncle Ben’s white rice or, even, spare us, Minute Rice. We’ve come a long way, baby.

I had reason to revisit this dish recently. We rented a cottage at the beach for a few weeks in September and, as the vacation ran down, I was loath to reprovision only to have to toss or pack the surplus and transport it back home. In addition, it was less convenient to shop, as many local merchants had closed for the season.

As a result, some of our final meals were, ahem, creative. As I peered into the cupboard on our last night, I spied a bag of brown rice and a can of tomato puree and figured I could work with that. The result … maybe we should call it “Jersey Rice”?

Jersey Rice
Serves 4

I used brown rice because that’s what I had on hand, but you could certainly use white — just cut the liquid in half and reduce the cooking time to about 20 minutes. I seasoned the dish with pimenton, a smoked paprika, which, interestingly enough comes from Spain. So I guess this might actually qualify as Spanish rice.

However, if you don’t have pimento, season how you wish. Oregano takes the dish in an Italian or Greek direction. Cumin and cayenne swing it toward Mexico. Curry powder heads it to India. You get the picture.

1 tablespoon oil
1 onion, chopped
1 cup brown rice
1 cup tomato puree
2¼ cups water or broth
1 teaspoon pimenton (or your desired seasonings)
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot with a lid, heat the oil and sauté the onions until they are soft. Add the rice, and stir to coat. Add the remaining ingredients. Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat and cover.

Simmer until done, about 40 minutes.


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