Tuesday, September 15, 2015

rice-cooker Indian rice

We got a rice cooker, probably because I am destined, as a half-Sicilian woman who is by nature required to ask for seconds, to have the kind of arms I can swat flies off of my pies with, and rice is good for growing these babies. Who cares. I like rice.

The simple directions: in the rice cooker, simmer some spices in butter, sauté some rice in the spices, add a few more spices and salt, add water to cover the rice by 1", turn to the rice setting, and let it go. The only dish you have to clean up is the rice-soaking bowl because you're going to fill the little teacup you soaked your saffron in with delicious rice.

I don't measure stuff. I think you know that.

rice-cooker Indian rice

basmati rice, soaked, rinsed, and drained
some butter
some spices that you like... I used these:
     a few cardamom pods
     a little stick of cinnamon
     a few cloves
a handful of slivered or sliced almonds, or some of each, or if you're absolutely insane, cashews
some turmeric
some salt
a pinch of saffron, soaked in some hot water, not drained

Get your rice soaking in a little bowl, and get your saffron soaking in a little teacup of hot water, for about 15 minutes or so. 

While that's happening, turn the rice cooker on to simmer (if your rice cooker is different, I suppose you'll just turn it on) and melt the butter in the rice pot.

Toss in some spices - less is more - and let them sizzle until they smell good. Add the almonds or cashews and let them toast just a bit.

Add in the soaked, rinsed, and drained rice, and stir it around. You'll hear it pop when it's toasting, but don't brown it. Add a little bit of turmeric (not too much - about a tsp for 3 cups dry rice) and some salt (whatever you'd use for your amount of regular rice) and stir it around again.

Dump the saffron and its water into the rice, fill the pot to 1" above the top of the rice with water, and stir it once more.

Turn the cooker on to the white rice setting and then go insane with the amazing smell of the spices until you hear the beep. Fluff it up a little bit. Eat it. Pick the cardamom pods off your spoon, preferably before you bite into them, even if you really love cardamom.

It's even better as leftovers.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Lentil soup

Lentil soup is what you make when you need to go grocery shopping, because there's hardly anything in it - and it's reliably good.

Lentil soup:

8 oz dry lentils (brown, black, red, yellow...)
2 TBSP olive oil
1 Spanish onion, coarsely chopped
4 or 5 cloves garlic, minced (not crucial to include)
1" piece of ginger root, peeled and minced (if you happen to have it)
2 or 3 carrots, sliced
1 or 2 celery ribs, sliced
1 lg tomato, chopped (if you feel like it)
1 tsp salt (more to taste)
1/2 tsp black pepper (more to taste)
Juice of a lemon
A handful of fresh spinach or other greens, washed and sliced.

Soak the lentils in plenty of water for several hours or overnight. Lentils are the gassiest mothers in the bean family, but it really does help if you change out the water a few times over the course of the soaking. Don't freak out if they sprout a little - they're actually better for you this way. Drain and rinse just before cooking.

Heat a soup pot to medium-high and add in the olive oil, onions, and the garlic and ginger if you're using them. Cook a couple minutes, until the onions soften (be careful not to burn the garlic).

Stir in the carrots and celery, and the tomato if you're using it. Add the drained lentils, enough water to cover by a couple of inches, the lemon juice, salt, and pepper.

Bring to a boil and then let simmer slowly for 40 minutes to an hour, or until the beans are al dente. This varies depending on the type of lentils you're using. Pink ones cook fastest, in my experience.

When the beans are cooked, add in the greens and turn off the heat. Let sit, covered, for a few minutes.

Serve garnished with a drizzle of olive oil or a fresh salsa (or both).

The salsa in the photo is a combo of fresh avocado, garlic, cilantro, olive oil, salt, pepper, and lemon juice.

Cornbread, y'all

I love making soup, and cornbread goes nicely with soup, so here is cornbread...

1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup flour
2 TBSP sugar
1 tsp salt
3 tsp baking powder
A splash of coarse-ground yellow grits
1/2 cup butter or oil
1 cup yogurt or buttermilk (or soy/almond milk)
2 eggs, slightly beaten (or 2TBSP flax meal soaked in a little hot water for 10 minutes)

Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.

Add the butter or oil to a 9" cast-iron skillet and stick the skillet in a 400°F oven until the pan is hot and the butter/oil shimmers (it's hot, too). This step is what makes the crust delicious.

Add the yogurt/buttermilk and the eggs to the dry ingredients and whisk together.

Remove the skillet from the oven and carefully pour the hot oil into the bowl and whisk together just to combine. It will sizzle and froth.

Pour the batter into the hot skillet, level the top with a spoon, and put it back in the oven.

Bake at 400°F about 25-30 minutes, or until the center is set and the top is a delicious shade of brown.

It goes really well with soup.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

collard kraut, y'all

Well, will you look at this? After two months of saying, "we should make sauerkraut with those collards, they are amazing and prolific," I am making sauerkraut with those amazing and prolific collard greens! I know, right? These ladies have been putting out for a year and a half now, with no visible end in the picture, and if you belong to the sort of household that owns a book by Sandor Katz - even if that book is not locatable when it's needed, ever - you know you need to kraut those bitches.

collard kraut

a mess of collard greens, as they say in Tennessee
sea salt
caraway seeds


a gallon-sized ceramic crock or glass jar
a plate to fit inside the crock or jar
a weight - a milk jug filled with water, a stack of canned tomatoes, or a cleaned and boiled rock
a cloth and string or rubber band to secure it over the crock or jar

Pick your greens, plunge them into a sink of cold water to wash them, and then begin the laborious task of stemming those babies. 
One giant basketful from four plants equals a gallon of tightly packed sauerkrauts.

My process goes like this: I pile a few leaves on my cutting board, then one-by-one fold each leaf in half lengthwise and run my knife blade along its spine - it's faster than you think, even for an overloaded sinkful of collards. As I de-spine, I stack the still-folded leaves in a little pile that I move to a fresh sink of water while I de-spine the next stack... until all the leaves are naked.
Collard spines. Tough, but still tasty. If you have a good collard-spine recipe, post that darling.

When all the stem/spines are relegated to the compost bowl, you can slice your leaves into whatever shape you like for kraut. I like them sliced into thin strips, so I take a stack of leaves, shake the water out of them, and roll them into a thick bundle to slice on the cutting board. You guys do it how yeh like it.
See how my big ol' knife slices through fresh collards like butter? It's not butter, though, it's collards.

As you slice/grate/chop your greens, layer them in a giant steel or glass bowl and sprinkle each layer with salt. I'm just doing what Sandor told me to do. I wonder how ginger would fare in this baby.
What we have here is a giant bowl of collard strips layered with sea salt, a compost bowl of dang ol' collard spines, and a compressed layer of collards in a crock, that's fixin' to get sprankled with caraway seeds. I like to say sprankled when I'm talking about collards. It's more southern.

Once everything's sliced/grated/chopped, layer the greens into a very clean ceramic crock or gallon-sized glass jar. As you put in each handful, punch the greens down to squeeze out air and water and make a tight pack. Sprinkle on a dab of caraway seeds, and then pile in another handful, pack it down, and lay in some more seeds until the crock/jar is full.
Oh my goodness, isn't this pretty?

Top the whole deal off with a little plate, maybe a tiny saucer that your sister gave you, or a kids' tea-set saucer from IKEA. Whatever you use, it needs to press down on the greens while supporting the jar of water or big boiled rock that you're going to set on top. 
My friend Norma gave me this crock a whole lotta years ago and I used to make beeswax candles in it. What? You didn't know I could make candles, too? Please. I made kimchi in it once, but it wasn't a nice story.

Yeah, man, I said rock! I boiled a rock! This is awesome to me because when I was a kid, Stone Soup was my favorite book. Still, though I should have known I would totally dig cooking as an adult based on my love of Stone Soup as a kid, I never anticipated the actual boiling of a rock in my kitchen. Well. that rock is super clean now, and it's sitting on top of a pretty brown saucer my sister gave me, weighing down some damn collard kraut! 
Look at that dang rock! Do you like rocks as much as I do?

Cover the whole shebang with a cloth. I use the little bird hankie that my brother gave me, because I don't have too many colds, but I like to use that hankie.

I keep my crocks of fermenting stuff on a shelf in my kitchen. I would like to say that no oranges ever fall onto the crocks of fermenting stuff, but that's only because I like to tell stories.
Press down on the rock occasionally, to squeeze enough water out of the greens that it covers the little plate. Sandor says this should take 24 hours, and if it doesn't happen, mix up some saltwater and pour it in there. You know where to find out what Sandor says.

Let the kraut ferment at room temp until it tastes krautish. I'm going to have to let you guys know about this part, because my kraut's still just a bunch of green collards in a crock layered with salt... 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Singapore mei fun like nobody's business

Singapore mei fun is my favorite Chinese food, mostly because it's curry-flavored, but also because it's delicious and greasy and perfect. I've tried several recipes from around teh internets, but most called for too much soy sauce, and none were greasy or curry-y enough to mimic what I get from New China. I've also tried several curry powders, and the one I like best comes from the UK.

You're not going to make this every week, not because you won't want to eat it, but because if you're making it right, in my opinion, it's not diet food. Don't let that stop you.

The cooking goes pretty fast, so you'll want to have all the ingredients rinsed, drained, minced, measured, etc. before you start cooking. Don't feel too guilty about adding oil between each addition to the wok—it really is crucial. When you do add oil, drizzle it around the edge of the wok, so that it slides into the bottom, and for this recipe, add both olive and toasted sesame oil in equal amounts.

You may notice there's no shrimp in this version, unlike the restaurant variety. Feel free to add it if you like, before the other meats.


singapore mei fun

This makes enough for four or five people.

You'll need these:
a wok
a big bowl to soak the rice stick
another big serving bowl
a wok spoon (this looks like a spade), or whatever you normally stir-fry with
See that wok spoon?

Rajah hot Madras curry powder from the UK—only $3.99 at my Asian market
And these:
1 lb. super-fine rice stick (rice noodles from the Asian market, or from the grocery store, if you enjoy paying three times the price)
3/4 to 1 cup olive oil
1/4 to 1/2 cup toasted sesame oil
3 eggs, whipped with 2 tsp toasted sesame oil
3 TBSP hot madras curry powder
1" knob of ginger, peeled, minced
5 or 6 garlic cloves, smashed, peeled, minced
1/2 cup napa cabbage (5 big leaves or so), finely sliced
2 cups fresh bean sprouts, rinsed, drained, and relatively dry (2 big handfuls)
3 green onions, cut into 1" pieces
some cooked chicken (optional)
some char siu (optional)
3 tsp or more thin soy sauce (regular, not the dark stuff that's best for fried rice)
1/4 to 1/2 cup chicken or vegetable stock

Get everything prepped before you begin cooking. You're welcome.
  1. Set the wok on a burner and heat on high.
  2. Place the rice stick in a bowl large enough to hold it with room to spare and cover with cool water. Soak the noodles for 30 minutes, until softened, but not mushy, pour off the water, and coat with 1/2 cup olive oil, mixing well. Set aside.
  3. Into the very hot wok, pour enough of equal amounts of olive and sesame oil to coat the sides.
  4. Pour the eggs and sesame oil mixture into the hot wok. Let the bottom set just a touch, and stir gently with the wok spoon until just cooked. Remove the eggs to the serving bowl.
  5. Add more oils to the hot wok and add in 1 TBSP of the curry powder. Stir around a bit, and if necessary, add enough oil to rise above the powder, so you can fry the vegetables.
  6. This part goes pretty quickly... Add in the garlic and ginger and fry just a minute, until fragrant. Add in the vegetables in order of slowest-cooking to fastest, pushing vegetables aside and adding oils between each addition, and stir fry until just beginning to soften.
  7. (Skip this step if you're not using meat.) Push the vegetables aside in the wok, add oils, the meats, and 1 tsp soy sauce, and stir-fry until heated through. 
  8. Remove the vegetables and meats to the serving bowl.
  9. Add oils to the wok, and then add in the 2 TBSP curry powder and stir around. 
  10. Add the noodles, 2 tsp of the soy sauce, and a small amount of stock. Stir around to mix everything together and fry the noodles, adding more stock as necessary just to keep from sticking. You want a nice, slippery mess of fried curry goodness, not soup.
  11. Taste, and add more soy sauce if you'd like.
  12. Turn off the heat, stir in the cooked vegetables and eggs, and dump it all into the serving bowl.
Save some for lunch tomorrow.

Friday, December 14, 2012

papaya salsa in a hot minute

Papaya makes a lovely salsa that you can toss together in a few minutes to lighten up a dinner or just use up that leftover half in the fridge. You can really add a variety of fruits and vegetables (peaches? apples? jicama?), but then you're stepping into time-consuming fruit salsa territory.

Papaya Salsa
Super quick and lovely with everything.

papaya salsa

1/2 of a papaya, peeled, seeded, chopped
3 or 4 green onions, sliced
an ear of corn, cut from the cob
a handful of grape tomatoes, quartered
a handful of basil, roughly chopped
juice of two lemons
1/2 tsp or more salt
chili, if you like it

Toss it all together in a big bowl and chow down.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

homegrown collards with bacon, caramelized onions, and figs

Collards have been kicking butt in my garden since early summer. Thank you, collards. I probably don't need to tell you that you can make this with kale or mustard greens as well, and if you hate figs, use sundried tomatoes or whatever you fancy, you weirdo.

super easy and delicious collards with bacon and figs

homegrown collards with bacon, caramelized onions, and figs

1/4 lb. bacon, roughly chopped
a yellow onion, thinly sliced
a handful of dry or fresh figs, roughly chopped
a pile of fresh collards, rinsed and sliced how you like 'em (enough to fill a 2-qt stockpot, though you don't need the stockpot)
a drizzle of balsamic vinegar
salt and red pepper to taste

Saute the chopped bacon in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. When it's crisp, remove the bacon to a serving bowl.

Into the bacon fat in the pan, add the sliced onions and stir around for a minute. Turn the heat down to medium-lowish and let the onions caramelize while you chop the figs and the shitload of greens on your cutting board. 

When the onions are nice and golden, add in the figs and saute just a couple of minutes.

Add the sliced greens to the pan, being sure to jerk your hand back in time to miss the fat flying out as the water droplets from the greens hit the heat.

Turn the heat back up to medium-high and stir the greens around a bit until they wilt and begin to actually fit in the pan. You want them to cook before browning, but you do want them to crisp up a tiny bit once the liquid from the greens begins to evaporate.

Once the greens begin to embrown, drizzle the whole deal with balsamic vinegar, salt, and red pepper to taste.

Toss the bacon on top, and dump the pan into the serving bowl. Delicioso.

Serves two people who love greens, or five who can only stomach them from time to time.