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Molded Mulatto Rice

Plain ‘Mulatto rice’ is the name of the dish Pheoby brings Janie in the opening of Zora Neale Hurston’s American masterpiece Their Eyes Were Watching God. Unfortunately no one knows for sure what that dish is. As much as rice is white, we can assume that mulatto rice is in some way colored. It could be saffron rice, bright yellow, but as saffron was not readily available in rural Florida in the early days of the twentieth century, this seems unlikely. Brown rice is also a possibility. It could be rice cooked with bits of offal. Sometimes this dish is called ‘dirty rice’ because of the flecks of brown, but it seems rather unlikely that Hurston would name a dish ‘mulatto’ that was typically called ‘dirty’ — or would she? So this dish is pure invention. I wanted something that was a warm welcome home that included a bit of brown in the white. I decided to add mushrooms because they can be foraged and they seem in keeping with the spirit of Their Eyes Were Watching God, which is so much about the beauty and danger of living off the land.” – excerpt from Soul Food Love 

A cookbook that tells the story of 100 years of cooking and eating in one black American family, Soul Food Love is written by bestselling author Alice Randall and her daughter Caroline Randall Williams. The mother and daughter share the kitchen memories and foodways that sustained two great-grandmothers, a grandmother, and, of course, themselves, highlighting more than 80 easy, affordable and indulgent but healthy soul dishes.

1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 Tbsp. olive oil, plus more for the bowl
2 cups chopped mushrooms
Salt and pepper
3 cups brown rice
2 cups chopped tomatoes (canned or fresh)

Soul-Food-LoveIn a large pot, cook the onion in the olive oil over medium heat until it softens, about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms, season with salt and pepper, and continue to cook for 2 minutes. Add the rice and cook, stirring constantly, for another minute. Add 6 cups of water and bring to a boil. Cover the pot, lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Uncover, stir in the tomatoes and cook, now stirring constantly, until the rice is tender and has absorbed all of the water, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper if needed.

Slick a mold of your choice — a bowl will work perfectly — with a little olive oil, transfer the rice to the mold, pack it down with the back of a spoon and allow the dish to settle for at least 20 minutes. Run a flexible spatula around the inside edge of the mold to loosen the rice. Flip the mold over onto a platter, thwack it two or three times on the bottom with a wooden spoon, and then carefully lift off the mold. Serve hot. Serves 12.

Reprinted from Soul Food Love: 100 Years of Cooking and Eating in One Black Family, With Recipes. Copyright © 2015 by Alice Randall and Caroline Randall Williams. Photographs copyright © 2015 by Penny De Los Santos. To be published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Random House, LLC, on February 2, 2015.

Literary Friday, Edi