When did he grow to be so tall: Mexican rice, Turkish Taboulie

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Next week I will see Andrew, my nephew, celebrate his engagement on the West coast and Caleb, my grandson, marry on the East coast. And so the new cycle begins: I went to their parents’ weddings, I held them as newborns, I watched them play ball, graduate, and grow tall. Given my good genes and their cooperation, chances are I will hold their newborns.

I see slivers of my grandson’s past, selective moments that float up: two-year old Caleb—testing his mother’s patience, four-year old Caleb in his father’s arms—learning how to swim, ten-year old Caleb—fearless on the basketball floor, and nineteen-year old Caleb—a beaming, high-school graduate. He was born an independent, adventuresome spirit with a sense of focus and a determined will, ready and willing when anyone needs help. He has never taken a bad picture, his resting face is a broad handsome smile, his default mood is cheerful, he habitually uses kind words, and he has genuine love and compassion in his heart. He is a fine son, grandson, brother, friend, and will be a caring, loving husband.

My nephew is only nine years older than my grandson. I was a twenty-year old first time mother, my sister was thirty-seven when Andrew was born and we raised our children as if we were from different generations. She was more fun than I was, she hovered more than I did, she was appalled when I gave her one-year-old son raw wieners and carrot sticks, I followed the “let ’em cry” method of sleep training, she patted and rocked. My older sister Nikki and I were sure Andrew would grow up to be sheltered and spoiled—we were so wrong. At thirty-three, he is a charming, intelligent, funny, and oh-so-handsome, man-of-the-world who is a delight to spend time with, keeps in touch with his family and old friends, succeeds at a demanding job, and will also be a kind, loving husband.

This weekend they will be looking forward, ready to stop dreaming about the future and eager to start living it. For my part, I will dwell a bit on the past, remembering yesterday when they were small. Love and best wishes for the brightest of all possible futures.


I’ve cooked for both Andrew and Caleb over the years: family dinners, holidays, and graduation parties. Here are two of my favorite dishes.

Mexican Rice 

This is a very fluid recipe. For Caleb’s graduation, we made enough to serve 100, so I have seriously tweaked this version. There are endless variations: add frozen or fresh corn, green olives, fresh or canned chilies, diced green or red pepper, diced cactus, avocado, cherry tomatoes, pepperoncini, chicken or ground beef, substitute brown rice for white rice, add farro, quinoa, orzo, macaroni, etc.

BTW, if you’re ever in the market for a Mexican food menu that serves 100, I have endless digital details.

  • 1 cup rice
  • 1 1/2 cups stock or water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2# chorizo (either the hard Spanish or soft Mexican variety)
  • 1/2 onion, fine dice
  • 1/2 diced Serrano
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon each: oregano, coriander, cumin, chili powder
  • 1 small sweet potato, peeled, diced, and steamed
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 small can sliced black olives
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon or lime juice
  • Chopped fresh cilantro
  • Grated Mexican cheese, amount to your preference (or any single/combination of cheddar, pepper jack, cotija, añejo, or Queso Fresca)

Rinse rice until water runs clear. Cover with water and soak for 30 minutes. Bring water to a boil. Add salt & rice. Stir to combine. Turn down to simmer and cook 25 minutes. Take off the heat, out of the pan, and spread out to cool on a sheet pan.

Sauté onion, Serrano, chorizo, and garlic in hot oil. Add cumin, oregano, coriander, and chili powder. Sauté on medium-low heat until onions and garlic are soft and chorizo is cooked through.

Fold cooked rice into onion/spice/chorizo mix, yams, black beans, black olives, and Mexican cheese. Add lime juice and chopped cilantro.

Once the ingredients are mixed, taste for seasoning. You’ll need to add more salt, you may decide to add more lime juice and more cumin or chili powder. If you’re Jonezin’ for spicy, mince up a canned chipotle pepper, or shoot in a couple squirts of Tapatito, Cholula, Frank’s, or Tabasco.

Great served with sturdy tortilla chips for scoopers.

Turkish Tabouli (Kisir)

Ginny and I made taboulii for her wedding dinner. This is a version I had recently in Houston at Fadi’s.

  •   1 1⁄2 cups bulgur wheat (fine or medium grade)  
  •   1 1⁄2 cups boiling water
  •   1/2 teaspoon salt
  •   2 tablespoons red pepper paste 
  •   1 tablespoon tomato paste 
  •   1 tablespoon pomegranate paste or syrup
  •   1 bunch green onions, chopped or 1⁄4 cup finely diced red onion
  •   1 cucumber chopped
  •   1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  •   1 tablespoon fresh dill
  •   2 tablespoons parsley 
  •   1-2 teaspoo  Berbere spice mix (recipe below)
  •   2 teaspoons sumak
  •   1 teaspoon paprika
  •   juice from 1 lemon 
  •   1 tablespoon olive oil
  •   1/4-1⁄2 teaspoon red chili flakes
  •   2 medium tomatoes, chopped and served on side 
Berbere spice mix 
  •     1/2 teaspoon fenugreek 
  •     1/2 cup ground dried New Mexico chiles
  •     1/4 cup paprika
  •     1 tablespoon salt
  •     1 teaspoon ground ginger
  •     1 teaspoon onion powder
  •     1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  •     1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  •     1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  •     1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  •     1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  •     1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  •     1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
Finely grind fenugreek seeds in an electric coffee/spice grinder. Stir together with remaining ingredients until combined well. 
Cover bulgur and salt with boiling water, let sit for 15 minutes. Drain bulgur from water (easiest to squeeze out a handful at a time) or place on towel and squeeze out excess water. Combine with red pepper paste, tomato paste, pomegranate paste, and mix well.

Add green onions, chopped onions, cucumber, diced red pepper, dill, parsley, Berbere spice mix, sumak, paprika, lemon juice, and olive oil. Taste to adjust flavors—more lemon juice if necessary (Kısır should be a little bit tart) salt, chile flakes, or olive oil. 

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5 Responses to When did he grow to be so tall: Mexican rice, Turkish Taboulie

  1. Jenni says:

    Another perfect entry. Wonderful memories — familial and culinary. Thanks!

  2. Bridget says:

    What a sweet tribute to both young men, Mom. So well-written, but more importantly, so well-loved by both of them!

  3. Ronnie says:

    Such kind sentiments, beautifully written. Looking forward to seeing you later this week!

  4. Ginny says:

    Thinking of Caleb and Leah today with best wishes. Thank you for your kind thoughts concerning Andrew. Hope you will come to Belize

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