As Christmas draws near, I am prone to reflecting on past Christmases. There is a significant dividing line between Christmas in America and Christmas in Peru. Besides the equator itself, the weather, the traditions, the food, the decorations, and the midnight hour all play a part in making them distinct. When I first moved here, there wasn’t such a thing as Christmas decorations sold in the stores, those moved in and took residence many years later.
One way that I saw Christmas “decorations” peek through year after year was on the Christmas dinner table. The elaborate ways that food is adorned and the colors added to the variety of dishes always cause me to take a second glance. Turkeys are coated with a sparkling jam and crowned with pineapples, salads are made multicolored with a variety of vegetables and of course, Christmas panetone bread are studded with red and green candied fruits. One of the holiday dishes is this Olive Rice, a jewel colored whole-grain side dish that will win over a crowd.
Olive Rice combines brown rice, Peruvian botija olives (similar to “throuba” olives), and oddly enough, golden raisins for a hint of sweet! The dish finishes with a rich purple color and will be a perfect addition to your holiday table this year. Believe me when I tell you that I was hesitant at first, mainly because I don’t enjoy the black olives here in Peru—at all. But I knew this was going to be a perfect accompaniment to the Aji de Gallina I was making.
- 1 1/2 cups botija olives, divided (substitute with kalamata)
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
- 5 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 3/4 cups brown rice
- 1/4 cup barley
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup golden raisins, finely chopped
- Puree 1 cup of olives with 4 cups of broth. Finely chop most of the remaining olives (save a few to decorate with!) and set aside.
- Heat olive oil in a medium pot. Add onion and garlic and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in brown rice, barley and salt. Pour in the pureed olives and stir to combine. Stir in raisins and chopped olives and cover. Bring to a low boil and then reduce heat to a minimum and cook until liquid has been absorbed and rice is cooked, about 1 hour.
- Remove from heat and leave covered an additional 15-20 minutes and then fluff with a fork.
- To serve, decorate with remaining olives, halved.
- You can certainly make this with all brown rice and omit the barley. I choose to mix them because the barley gives off more starch and I like how it makes all my brown rice dishes just a little sticky.