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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Re-creating a cafeteria favorite

By Wanda A. Adams
Advertiser Food Editor

One of the most requested school-days recipes is Spanish rice. A. Yasutake wrote to ask for the one "from lunch at Pa'auilo Elementary School on the Big Island in the 1930s. Also served at Kalihi Kai School in Honolulu."

I can't guarantee this recipe is that exact one, but I did find it among a set of recipe cards issued by the USDA to school lunch programs. This particular set belonged to Chieko Okamoto.

I cut it from 100 servings to the version below, which fills a 9-by-13-inch pan. I actually got chicken skin when I poured the sauce into the rice/beef mixture and was hit by the familiar aroma. Suddenly I was back on the food line at St. Anthony Elementary, pushing a tray past the serving windows, peeking in to see who was doing cafeteria duty.

This and other school-days recipes I'm working on reminded me that few of us worried about fat back then. Today I used rich ground beef — 20 percent or less fat — and even so, this is a bit dryer than I remember.

Just as I finished testing this recipe, Terri-Jean Kam-Ogawa of the school food services office sent another one very like this but with a couple of tablespoons of crumbled bacon mixed in and cheese on top. Abbiejean Muragin faxed me a similar recipe, but with a little garlic and bay leaf for flavor; she also cooks the rice in beef stock.

School-days Spanish Rice:

Cook 2 cups long-grain rice in 3 cups water for 15 minutes; drain in colander; turn rice into very large bowl. Lightly brown 2 pounds ground beef (less than 20 percent fat); before it's cooked through, add half a green bell pepper, minced (a generous 1/2 cup); half a medium-large onion, minced (about 3/4 cup); and 1 stalk celery, sliced thin (about 1/2 cup).

Cook until onion is translucent. Drain in colander and turn into bowl with rice. In a bowl, mix together a 28-ounce can and a 15-ounce can of peeled and cut tomatoes; 1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste; 2 teaspoons salt; 2 teaspoons sugar 1 1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce; and 2 teaspoons chili powder; taste for the desired salt-sweet-spice balance.

Pour into bowl with rice and beef and toss well. Turn into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish and bake at 325 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes, until heated through.

Makes 12 servings.

• Per serving: 420 calories, 14 g total fat, 6 g saturated fat, 50 mg cholesterol, 690 mg sodium, 52 g carbohydrates, 3.5 g fiber, 6 g sugar, 21 g protein.