Monday, January 18, 2010

Haitian Heartbreak

We listened in dread last Tuesday as the first reports of the earthquake trickled in, and just like during Katrina and Aceh, dread turned to horror as we began to comprehend the extent of the destruction and human suffering.

Haiti is never far from our minds here in Point Breeze because we live just up the street from The Friends of Hôpital Albert Schweitzer Haiti, the Pittsburgh fundraising headquarters of Hôpital Albert Schweitzer. The office is a double storefront on our quiet block-long business district where they display and sell Haitian art and sponsor events to benefit the hospital (which survived the quake and is up and running ) and other health, economic and environmental projects in Haiti.

Despite seeing images of Haiti every day, all we really knew about the country is that it used to be a French colony and it's the poorest country in the western hemisphere. Jack and I turned to each other and wondered "why is Haiti so poor?" Google lead us to this essay, a good summary of Haiti's history and the factors that have kept the people in such dire circumstances for 200 years. It's worth a read.

There are many ways to help the relief effort. Here's a list to help you decide but please don't delay. There's an immediate need for water and medical supplies.

It's no surprise that beans and rice are a staple of Haiti's creole cuisine. Today we're having Diri Kole Ak Pwa Rouj, based on this recipe   from A Taste of Haiti by Mirta Yurnet-Thomas.

Rice and Red Beans
Diri Kole Ak Pwa Rouj

1 cup dried kidney beans
3 teaspoons salt, or to taste
2 tablespoons oil
4 garlic cloves, crushed and minced
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1/2 scallion, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste
2 cups long-grain rice
2 whole cloves
1 green Scotch bonnet pepper
1 thyme sprig
1 parsley sprig

To cook dried beans:
Wash beans and drain. Place in a saucepan with 6 cups water and 1 teaspoon salt and bring to a boil. Lower heat and boil on medium-low heat, uncovered for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. When the skins wrinkle, taste to see that they are fork tender. Drain and keep liquid for cooking rice. This gives the rice a very nice color and lots of taste.

Heat oil in a cast iron pot on medium heat. Stir in garlic, onion, scallion, 2 teaspoons salt and black pepper for 2 minutes. Add and stir the cooked beans and fry for 5 minutes until the beans are crisp. Add 4 cups of liquid from the beans and bring to a boil. Add rice and cloves, stir and boil until the water evaporates. Lower heat, stir rice and place the whole Scotch bonnet pepper, thyme and parsley on top of rice. Cover and let cook for 30 minutes. Remove hot pepper, thyme and parsley. Stir before serving.

I reduced the rice to 1 cup and the liquid to 2 cups because in addition to promising to make beans every Monday, I'm also trying to not have leftovers. I probably should have just cut the recipe in half for the two of us because we had a lot left over.

I couldn't find a scotch bonnet pepper in January but I did manage to find a habanero. Whether that made a big difference I don't know because these beans were not at all spicy as we expected. Next time I would cut the pepper up and add it with the onions and garlic.

The beans were good and we spent the meal thinking about the trauma in Haiti, and sending golden healing vibrations their way.

Posted by Picasa


  1. Now that looks like red beans and rice!

  2. YUM! Tawny asks me for red beans & rice OFTEN! I'll be giving this a try! I love that the habanero looks like a heart =) <3