Arroz con Gandules Collard Wraps
Shatia Chesson joins our Black History Month celebration of Afro-Latin cuisine with her Arroz con Gandules Collard Wraps– a fresh, plant-based mashup of some of her favorite flavors and ingredients from the African Diaspora.
by Shatia Chesson @shatiachesson
This Black History Month, and all year round, we're celebrating Afro-Latin flavors, ingredients, and cooking traditions. Shatia Chesson joins our celebration with a recipe inspired by both her and her boyfriend's cultural culinary memories – Arroz con Gandules Collard Wraps. This fresh, plant-based mashup highlights multiple cooking elements from the African Diaspora from the ingredients used in this dish to the way the rice is prepared. Gandules, or pigeon peas, were brought to Africa by way of India, and enslaved Africans eventually brought them to the Caribbean. Arroz con gandules is also cooked similarly to jollof, a popular staple in West African cuisine. Combining these elements and inspiration, Shatia presents them in a new way with her Arroz con Gandules Collard Wraps.
I grew up in an African American household with a single mother of 4. I come from a large family with roots through marriage in Black, Jamaican, and Cape Verdean culture. My boyfriend grew up in a similar household, in a large Puerto Rican and Dominican family. Our family cookouts and gatherings were always filled with loud music, vibrant characters, and bold flavorful cuisine. These food moments centered around family remain vivid in both our memories till this day. We met while at a fitness event, where we instantly bonded over food, with our first moments of chemistry being over a seasoning: sazón– how ironic. Something so small and random but a familiar flavor connecting us both through our cultures.
My transition into a plant-based lifestyle took off in college after years of struggling with eczema and failed attempts by doctors. I started focusing more on my lifestyle choices with a strong focus on my eating habits. Through this process, I discovered a new way of living well in all aspects and I transitioned into a fully plant-based lifestyle which led to a passion in not only being more active in my kitchen, creating recipes but also helping others.
I love taking inspiration from different parts of my life and thinking up new ways to create a healthy and flavorful meal. I've been introduced to staple Latin Caribbean dishes, like arroz con gandules, by my boyfriend. Anytime he's shared with me childhood stories about the holidays and family gatherings, arroz con gandules almost always comes up. In mouthwatering detail, he describes the flavor the rice holds from the pork and brags about how amazing his mother's cooking was. I have a similar love for rice, but having grown up in a Muslim household and now following a vegan lifestyle, I can't relate to his love of pork. So, I'm adding my own plant-based spin on this heritage dish – retaining all the original warm and comforting flavors, and serving it alongside sazón-spiced mushrooms in a fresh collard green wrap. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!