Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Bazella u Riz

I met my husband on the internet when we were in high school. We talked online for four years until I was 18 and was allowed to meet him in person. We saw other people in high school; we were more like pen pals, but after meeting in person we knew we were meant to be together. My husband, Mario, was born in Beirut, Lebanon, and is the kind of guy who grew up with a mother who slaved all day in the kitchen to ensure a hot meal was ready for her family in the afternoon. She passed away last year, so not only do we all miss her greatly, we miss her cooking! There were a few prized recipes she took with her to heaven, but luckily we were able to squeeze a few secrets out of her.

My husband enjoys getting in the kitchen himself, and the grill is definitely his area of expertise. But, tonight, he got in to the kitchen to give me the night off (except that means I have to do dishes!). I don't know how to spell the Arabic name for this dish, so we just say "Peas and Rice." I think it's something like Bazella u Riz. No, I'm not going to find the Arabic characters for that--I have to work in the morning. I don't think the picture does this dish justice; it is my absolute favorite Lebanese dish. Mario surprised me one night when I came home from work with this dish. I was dead tired, sick as a dog with a migraine, and still had a full week of work ahead of me. I had no idea he had called his sister and asked for this recipe--I can't tell you how many nights we salivated over the thought of Peas and Rice. Okay, and I have to defend the plate that I used for the dish, too. You see, Mario's mom bought the ugliest Corelle possible back in the late 80s: mauve and country blue roses edge a sickening beige plate. BUT, we can't get rid of them because they belong to her...that would mean d-i-v-o-r-c-e and I love him too much! Nevertheless, the plates are really handy since they have a nice well and hold the perfect quantity of food. Please enjoy this dish as much as I do!

Bazella u Riz
1 lb. hamburger
4 small cans of tomato sauce
2 1/2 tomato sauce cans of water
1 yellow onion, finely chopped (I use the food processor)
2 cans of peas and carrots, drained and rinsed
1 can of peas, drained and rinsed
1 1/2 c. white rice (not instant)
3 c. water
a handful of fideos, or vermicelli
3 T. veg. oil
salt and pepper
pita bread for dipping (optional, but delicious and the traditional way of eating it)

In a large stock pot, saute the chopped onions in 2 T of oil, use another T. of oil if you feel like you need to. Once the onions are golden and transparent, add the hamburger, salt and pepper it, and brown it with the onions. The key here is to make sure you get the ground beef into very small pieces, big chunks of ground beef are not good in this dish. Once the hamburger is browned, add in all the peas and carrots and let them warm through. Then add in the tomato sauces and the cans of water. Cover and bring tomato sauce mixture to a bubble (on high!); stir regularly. Keep the sauce bubbling for at least 30 minutes to allow it to thicken. Then, take the lid off, sprinkle some more salt in, and reduce the heat to low and let simmer for another 20 or 30 minutes. You'll start the rice at this point and the two will be done perfectly on time. For the rice, begin by heating the remaining 1 T. of oil in a separate pot. Add the vermicelli and allow it to come to a golden brown. Add in the rice and water and bring the water to a boil; once it's boiling reduce heat to low, keep the rice covered, and let simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed. To serve, plate the rice first. Spoon some of the tomato meat mixture over the rice. Serve with pita bread which you can basically use as spoon!

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