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An Unlikely Dish

When I was growing up, I spent many happy days at my best friend's beach house in Sunset Beach, California. My friend, Dick Quine, and I surfed there before Sunset Beach was considered a good surfing spot because - well we were there, we were kids, the surf looked good to us and we didn't know any better. That was before surfers wore wet suits. I was a skinny kid and remember body surfing the winter storm surf until I was numb and then running up the beach to the house and standing under the hot shower until the water ran cold. The Quines never complained about my wasting all that water.

The Quine beach house was the focus of a large, extended family. My friend's mother, Mars, (her real name was Mercedes), used to make the following dish when there were lots of people at the beach house. It was the kind of a dish that could be eaten on the run and had enough novelty to subtly get some nutrition into a pack of hungry kids. It was also a great dish to warm you up after a day of surfing. The dish was said to originate in Malaga, Spain. If so, it's Spanish/Moorish origins had undoubtedly undergone Western transmogrification.

I remember the dish because it combined well recognized ingredients in unlikely ways and tasted good to boot. (The dish is composed of rice, a tomato-based meat sauce, fried eggs and fried bananas!) I never wrote down the recipe during my beach house days but have re-constructed it from my memory of how it tasted. The meat sauce is subject to modification to suit your taste, so feel free to experiment.

The Recipe

2 cups uncooked white rice
1 - 28oz can of diced, peeled tomatoes with juice
2/3 cup water
1 onion, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 lb ground round or ground turkey
2 Tbs olive oil
1 bay leaf
1/4 tsp ground pepper
1/2 tsp basil, crushed
4 - firm bananas (not plantains and not ripe)
4 eggs

Brown the ground meat in a skillet until crumbly. In a large pot, saute the onions in the oil until transparent. Add the tomatoes (and juice), the meat, the celery, carrots and water. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Add the pepper, bay leaf and basil. Simmer covered for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then simmer uncovered for an additional 15 minutes to reduce the sauce slightly. You may add salt to taste.

When the sauce has been simmering for 30 minutes, cook the rice separately. When done, you want the rice to be fluffy - not sticky.

About 10 minutes before the meat sauce is cooked, peel the bananas and slice lengthwise. Then cut each piece in half (each banana yields 4 pieces). Fry the bananas under low heat in a skillet with a little butter. Allow about 2-3 minutes per side or until lightly browned. Place in the oven to keep warm.

Fry the eggs separately in a little butter and place in the oven to keep warm.

The Presentation

Put a mound of rice in the center of a heated plate. Make a depression in the center of the rice mound and spoon a generous amount of the meat sauce into the depression. Top with a fried egg. Arrange four fried banana pieces symmetrically around the the mound of rice and the dish is ready to serve! You may want to sprinkle some freshly ground black pepper over the concoction to sharpen up the taste.

Eating Suggestion

The idea is to try combinations in your mouth at one time. First try the meat sauce and rice; then, the meat sauce, rice and egg; then, the meat sauce, rice, egg and banana. Enjoy!

Yield: serves 4 not particularly famished adults.

©1997 Gary Fisher

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