Chef's choice

Monday, July 2, 2001 at 1:00am

It's hot and it sure would be nice to sail away on a Caribbean breeze. For those of us landlocked in Nashville, Arcadia Hernandez from El Honduras restaurant has a recipe that promises to bring you closer to the Caribbean, if only by cuisine.

Hernandez cooks at El Honduras with her two daughters, who co-own the restaurant.

Hernandez is a veteran cook (she won't disclose for how many years), who began when she was married at 15.

"I still like to cook everything," she said.

One of her favorites is coconut rice, a Caribbean specialty. Hernandez says she only cooks coconut rice on weekends at El Honduras.

Hernandez and her daughters are proving Nashville Hispanic cuisine doesn't just consist of spicy Mexican.

The family hails from a small coastal city on the Caribbean Sea in Honduras. The region specializes in food that carries a mix of African and Spanish flavors and uses a lot of coconut, not jalapenos.

Hernandez hopes to give the Honduranian population in Nashville a taste from home.

The menu of El Honduras offers your typical Caribbean fair, such as fish with coconut, soups with or without coconut, beans, yucca and tropical fruit drinks.

Coconut milk rice (arroz con leche de coco)

Serves 4

1 cup dry rice

13-14 oz. coconut milk (usually one can)

1 cup water

1/2 cup white sugar

Cinnamon to taste

Ginger to taste

Vanilla to taste

1/2 cup raisins

Heat coconut milk, water and sugar until it boils. Turn down heat to lowest degree and add rice. Simmer on lowest heat for 30-35 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Take rice off heat and add raisins, vanilla and spices.

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