Food is my memory bank. I store bites and eateries and cooks and feasts in the cabinets of my mind. The flavors reignite moments that would otherwise fade: a cloud of yellow butterflies in the sand, a Campari spritzer with my Mamma and sisters and the Tuscan sunset, a lingering embrace with the love of my life.
Oh, this rice salad calls upon a day to remember! I shared a bowl with Shoshi, my soul-sister and travel-mate, at the picnic table on our low bluff next to the buttonwood tree stretched over the ebbing, jade tide of Treasure Beach.
Our morning began at Fort Charlie’s conservation area,where we ran the length of the protected coastline, scavenging for shells and racing the village boys to the next palm. We drew pictures in the sand, and when we tired, we made our way back to town over the righteous potholes. Junior’s fruit stand gleamed with salvation. We were thirsty, and we had given away our first pineapple to my cousin days earlier (a repose from boarding school food). An hour later we were sticky with coconut, mango and pineapple, carved in a gorgeous spiral pattern and eaten off the stick of the stem. We saluted our friend, and made our way home. (CHECK OUT OUR PICTURES)
Satisfied with fruit, we ventured out to the tree before preparing lunch. This is where we met Stanley, the buttonwood’s peaceful guardian. Stanley tinkers with lignum wood—a hard, cedar-smelling lumber with wave-like grains that beg to be carved. We spent nearly two hours at high noon, marveling over his wooden spoons and forks and carved faces. I found a totem for Bobby – a pendant with two faces back to back. Stanley said it symbolized unity, and the notion that two united will have “each other’s back.” Oh, Stanley was a preacher of love! He said many wise things that day: “talk with your heart, not with your mouth.” Shoshi asked what we might trade for the carvings we adored. I so appreciated her offer of trade – money can muddy a great connection. We parted with two pairs of earrings he would give to his daughter and the woman he loved. It felt right and respectful – we exchanged goods from distant lands. We passed on memories that would create new ones. (CHECK OUT OUR PICTURES)
And so, we left the buttonwood tree and Stanley, in his throne of shavings. We made lunch and laughed with the songbirds.
You can easily recreate this dish at home by replacing the callaloo with kale or chard.
- 1 1/4 cups brown rice
- 1 bunch callaloo (substitute with kale or chard)
- 1/2 cup pineapple, diced
- 1/2 cup tomatoes, diced
- 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon ginger, minced
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup cilantro, coarsely chopped
- 1/4 cup toasted almonds, coarsely chopped
- Combine the rice with 2.5 cups of water in a medium pot. Bring the water to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook until rice has fully absorbed the water. (I recommend following the instructions on the box or bag depending on the type of brown rice you are cooking).
- Coarsely chop and rinse the callaloo. Put it in a large saucepan with 1 inch of water. Steam the callaloo over medium heat until greens are wilted and tender. Drain and set aside.
- In a large bowl, toss the rice, callaloo, pineapple, tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, ginger, salt, pepper and cilantro. Set aside while you toast the almonds.
- Add chopped almonds to a dry saute pan and heat them over medium. Toss the almonds occasionally they begin to toast evenly. Watch them! Nuts are easy to burn if you wander out of the kitchen. When they are aromatic and browned, they are ready. Sprinkle the almonds over the salad, and devour.
How to tell if a pineapple is ripe: There are three ways to tell if a pineapple is sweet and ready to eat. First, try to pluck out one of the center leaves in the stem. If it comes out readily, without too much tugging, it's ripe! Second, give it a sniff. Does it smell sweet? Third, look for a pineapple that is more yellow than green - though this isn't always a surefire sign.