Originally posted October 1, 2013. Revised May 2015.
There are some foods that have the power to take me back home in a single bite. Once that mounded forkful of food hits my mouth, I’m sitting right back at home inside Mom and Dad’s dining room. The aroma of tomato and onion sautéing in a pan, the savory flavor of freshly made tamales and soft, melt-in-my-mouth, paper-thin handmade flour tortillas can suddenly take me back in time and into my Abuelita Vivi’s home, my Tia Carmen’s bustling kitchen or my Tia Cuata’s round kitchen table. No matter what happens in my life or how crazy things may get, I can always go “home” by way of traditional foods my family has cooked and shared for years.
One of the first dishes I successfully (!) cooked when I moved into my own apartment during my college years was Mexican Rice. It took several long distance phone calls between my mom and me before I finally got the hang of it. With lots of patience on my mom’s part and lots of dirty dishes and perseverance on my part, I mastered one of my favorite recipes from home.
Although several versions exist, Mexican rice is typically cooked with tomatoes, onion and garlic. It’s a classic side to several spicy and savory Latin-syle dishes. White rice is traditionally used, but brown rice can be substituted in its place to bump up the fiber content and to add a bit more texture to the original version. The rice is first toasted with oil, then mixed with tomato sauce and steamed together with chopped fresh vegetables and herbs like earthy Mexican oregano and bright cilantro. I’ve tried several different versions with added corn or peas, but I prefer to keep mine simple with the three basic vegetables. I consider my rice recipe a Sonoran Mexican-Style version because the ingredients I use are commonly found in many authentic Southern Arizona/Sonora border region “platos” or dishes.
I suggest adding a hit of fresh key lime juice right before tasting my rice. With this blast of Mexican flavors…you run a good chance of hearing mariachi music spontaneously playing in the background, which could lead to an unconsciously loud “grito” bursting from your vocal cords that would sound something like this:
¡Ayyyyiiiii yahahaha ayiiiii!
Mexican rice was one of the first dishes my mom taught me to cook and it’s still one of my favorite foods from home. This is one recipe I will definitely be teaching my kids to cook so they too, can continue to keep our traditional family recipes alive (and delicious!) for generations to come.
Recipe by Christy Wilson, RD
Time: 30 minutes
Even though my mom calls it Spanish rice, I prefer to call mine Mexican Rice because the ingredients and flavors are native to those of Northern Mexico. Toasting long grain white rice in a bit of canola oil before steaming adds a mild smoky flavor to the earthy seasonings of cumin and Mexican oregano.
- 1 cup long grain white rice
- 1 tbsp canola oil
- 2 cups water
- 1 cube of low sodium chicken bouillon
- ¼ – ½ teaspoon Sazón Goya: Culantro y Achiote (found in Hispanic or ethnic food section. If unavailable, use regular season salt)
- 1/3 cup fresh tomato, diced (or petite diced canned tomato)
- 1 garlic clove, diced and smashed with knife in to a paste-like consistency
- ¼ cup onion, diced
- ½ cup tomato sauce
- ¼ – ½ tsp ground cumin
- ¼ – ½ tsp whole Mexican oregano
- Salt and pepper to taste
- ¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
- In a saucepan, heat water with added bouillon and Sazón.
- While waiting for the seasoned water to boil, heat canola oil in a separate saucepan over high heat. Add rice to pan and toast until aromatic.
- Add diced tomato, garlic and onion to toasted rice and mix to combine. Sauté ingredients for a few minutes. (Can add a little bit of cilantro here but save the majority to add to the fully cooked rice.)
- Add tomato sauce to the rice and mix to combine ingredients.
- Add boiling seasoned water to the rice mixture. Add cumin and smashed whole oregano and stir. At this point, taste the broth and adjust seasonings to your preference.
- Lower flame and cover pan. Allow the rice to steam for about 15 minutes.
- Fluff cooked rice. Add fresh cilantro and fresh, diced tomato for added color and flavor.
Enjoy, or as we say in my hometown, ¡Buen provecho!
*This recipe was originally published in the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetic’s publication, Food & Nutrition Magazine. Christy’s full blog post, “Flavors of my Border Town Home” was featured as one of the inaugural posts in Stone Soup’s guest blog section in October 2012.