Oswald Rivera

Author, Warrior, and Teacher

Tag: Texas

Texas Hash with Rice

Another cold snap here in the Northeast. For this kind of weather you need stick to the ribs food. And one of the best recipes I’ve had for years is Texas Hash with Rice. I acquired this gem back in the 1970s when it appeared in the Scripps Howard News Service, which is no longer in business. It’s a filling, tasty, and inexpensive no-frills antidote to the cold weather blues. I’ve modified the recipe according to the Rivera family palate.

You can make this recipe as hot and as spicy as you want depending upon how much chili powder you add to it. The original recipe called for 1 to 2 tablespoons chili powder. That is a lot. But, if you like 3-alarm chili hash, go right ahead. Also, it called for 1 tablespoon of salt, which is quite a bit of salt. Use as much as you like, but be judicious. It also had as an ingredient, garlic powder. I prefer fresh whole garlic for a more distinctive taste. Another note: kids love this hash—and you don’t have to be a Texan to appreciate it.


3 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1 small-to-medium green bell pepper, cut into small slices, then cut the slices in half
1 pound lean ground beef
1/2 teaspoon chili powder (or more to taste)

Salt and ground black pepper to taste
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely minced
1 14.5-ounce can tomatoes
2 cups cooked rice

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. 
2. Heat olive oil in a cast-iron skillet. Add onion and green bell pepper, and saute 2-3 minutes.
3. Add beef, chili powder, salt, pepper and garlic. Cook until meat is no longer pink.
4. Add canned tomatoes (with their liquid), and rice.
6. Place skillet in oven and bake for 25 minutes or until heated through. Note: If you don’t have a cast-iron skillet, you can use whatever skillet you have on hand then transfer the hash-rice mixture to a  baking dish and bake as required.
    Yield: 4 servings or more

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Western Chili Casserole

If you live in a northern climate, this time of year is perfect for chili. Now, here in the Americas (and I would add, world wide) we all know about chili. Some claim it originated with the early Texas trail drives where some enterprising trail cook served up buffalo meat, or cattle meat, or whatever meat was available and mixed it with chili peppers and onions, fed it to the cowpokes, and the rest is history. But history is more defining than that. Chili peppers were known to the Incas, Aztecs and Mayans long before Europeans settled on the American continent. Chili peppers even show up in the ancient cuisines of China, India and the Arab penninsula. So, chili peppers were here long before the Texas cowpokes got to it. That being said, the dish has been popularized throughout the Southwest and entered the American pantheon.

What we know as “chili” is simply chili con carne, or chili with meat. There are many variations of chili, depending upon the geographic region. Some include beans, and some do not. Some include tomatoes and some do not. Some eat it as is with tortilla chips, and some eat it over rice.  President Lyndon Johnson’s favorite chili recipe contained venison rather than beef; and he added tomatoes and onions to it. It was known as “Pedernales River Chili” popular in the Texas Hill country. My favorite chili recipe is a “chili casserole”—which to my southern friends would be akin to blasphemy. But I love the dish. I discovered it long ago in one of my old cookbooks: Quick and Easy Dishes published by the Favorite Recipes Press in 1968. The dish is credited to Charlyene Deck, of Exeter Union High School in Exeter, California. I don’t know is Ms. Deck is still around or not but, as a kid from Spanish Harlem on the other side of the continent, I salute her.


1 pound ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 15-ounce can Mexican-style chili beans
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
2 cups corn chips, crushed
1 1/4 cup grated cheddar cheese
Pitted ripe olives

1. Brown meat in skillet; add onion and celery. Cook until tender.
2. Remove excess fat from skillet; add beans, salt and chili powder
3. Place layers of chips on bottom of 2-quart casserole. Alternate layers of chips, cheese and chili mixture, reserving 1/2 cup chips and 1/4 cup cheese for garnish. Sprinkle center with reserved cheese; place reserved chips around edge. Top with ripe pitted olives. Bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees or until heated through.
    Yield: 6-8 servings.

Picture: courtesy of Bearcooks Food

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Tex-Mex Grilling

I’m a partisan of Mexican cooking. It has been one of my favorite cuisines due to its variety and assortment of flavors. Of course, I’m talking mainly of that variation that most Americans eat north of the border. By that I mean Tex-Mex cooking, that hybrid that combines American products (such as processed cheese) with the culinary artistry of Mexican-Americans living in the U.S. It began in southern Texas and has spread throughout the continent. It’s hallmark is heavy use of cheeses, pork, beef, beans and spices such as cumin (which is of Indian origin). It’s basically Americanized Mexican food. Did you know that nachos, fajitas and chimichangas are all Tex-Mex inventions?

I’ve discovered that this type of cooking is also very applicable to the ole summer grill. In fact, grilling enhances the natural flavors. Below are given two tryout recipes, each easy to make and delicious. With a bottle of Corona or Dos XX, it makes a perfect summer barbeque.


8 flour tortillas (6-inch)
1 can (16-ounces) refried beans
1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese (I’ve also tried it with blue cheese for a more pronounced smoky flavor)
1/2 cup chili sauce or picante sause (if you really want it hot you can substitute Sambal, a hot sauce found in Asian markets)
3 scallions, sliced thinly in rings

1. Whether using coals or gas, preheat grill for 5 minutes.
2. Place tortillas on a plate and spread a portion of beans on half of the tortillas, but being careful to come to at least 1/2 inch from the edge. Top with cheese, chili sauce, and green onions. Moisten edges of tortillas with water (if desired, you can use a kitchen brush for this). Top with remaining tortillas and press the edges closely together. Then cut each tortilla into halves.
3. Place tortillas on grill. If it’s a small grill you may have to do it in 2 or 4 apiece. Close lid and grill 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from grill. You can have it as is, or cut each half into 3 triangles for what we call “finger food.”
    Yield: 4 servings.


1 pound lean ground beef, ground chicken, or turkey
1/2 cup sliced scallions
1 package (1 1/4-ounce) taco seasoning mix
12 taco shells
As much as desired: shredded lettuce, tomatoes (regular tomato slices or halved cherry tomatoes), and shredded Cheddar cheese
Sour cream to taste

1. Wheather coal or gas, preheat grill for 5 minutes.
2. Place a piece of aluminum foil on grill. Crumble beef on foil and top with scallions. Sprinkle with the taco seasoning. Close lid and cook 6 minutes or until beef is brown and no longer pink.
3. Place a portion of cooked meat on each taco shell. Then top with lettice, tomatoes, and cheese.
4. Add a dollop of sour cream on top and serve.
    Yield: 4 servings.

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