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Silver Linings and a One-Pot Dinner

Wild Rice with Veggies and Sausage

I like to get things done. I usually love working hard, whether it’s prepping for my classes, reviewing budgets, cleaning the bathroom, cooking three meals a day or planting the garden. I think of myself as strong and able, or thought of myself that way until recently, and not often in need of asking for help. But now I have some disk/spine issues that are turning my m.o. on its head. It’s painful physically and challenging emotionally but over the last few weeks, it’s gradually become less so.

As a dear friend said to me recently: “People really like helping out!” And it seems she’s right and come to think of it, I like to help others out too. So I have been asking for a lot of help lately. It’s getting easier to ask and with the additional help some of the physical pain is easing too. I’m definitely not used to my new, physically weaker, self and have my moments of intense frustration, but having people around to help me prep for and assist with classes, do the heavy lifting in the garden, etc. has been fun. I have a fairly solitary job, except for the actual time spent teaching, so having other people around for these  tasks is a joy.

I’m letting go of some of the control I didn’t quite realize I liked and practiced so much and learning as a go. I am doing things more slowly, I’m cutting more corners and not feeling guilty (the back steps did not get swept before my students arrived on Saturday and I didn’t scrub the hood over my stove within an inch of its life). And when it comes to cooking, I’m trying new things too. I’m using my food processor much more since I just plain can’t chop much by hand and have had to slow down.

And now I’m going to ask for your help and comments. Last night I pulled together a somewhat typical cook-with-what-you-have kind of meal. It wasn’t great (yet) but it was certainly fine. And the method was fun and got me thinking about all the possibilities of what I think I might call Dinner Pilaf for now. Pilaf has its roots in Turkey and Persia but there are versions from dozens of countries. Principally it is rice cooked undisturbed in broth or water with seasonings and other additions.

I discovered some wild rice in the back of my pantry yesterday. I had two leeks that needed using, half an onion, a few carrots, half a bunch of parsley and some pork sausage in the freezer. I sautéed the leeks, onions, and carrots; added the sausage cut into half-rounds. After all that was starting to brown I tossed in the rice, some veggie bouillon, covered it and brought it to a boil, then turned it down and walked away–for about an hour.

"Dinner Pilaf"

When I came back I found a beautiful pot of dinner. I had not measured the liquid carefully and it was a little wet for my taste and it was a bit bland. I minced the parsley and added two minced garlic cloves, a couple of teaspoons of lemon juice, some olive oil, salt and pepper (a simplified version of salsa verde) and stirred that in. Now it was good!  It wasn’t really a pilaf but somehow the idea of cooking rice or other grains or a combination of rice and beans with aromatics and veggies or meat with just enough liquid to cook it all seems rather clever. So I’m going to try this with barley and quinoa and other kinds of rice and with different veggies, spices and herbs . . .  And I’d love it if you experimented with this idea/method and reported back what you discover.  Or if you already make something like this tell us what you do.

Happy cooking and eating!

8 Comments Post a comment
  1. Jacki Thau #

    Typically pork would not be used, but in keeping with using what one has, I would have done the same thing. As for spicing, what about preserved lemon? Ground sumac, or saffron. Try sort of toasting the rice or grain in a pan with some oil or butter, as one would do when making risotto.

    April 13, 2011
    • I love the preserved lemon idea. I’ll try that and I will toast the rice next time. I didn’t have enough time the other night but meant to.

      April 13, 2011
  2. Bob Miller #

    I still have a 1970’s dog-eared paperback copy of Recipes for a Small Planet. I’ve cooked “Bulgur cum Tarragon” from it. The vegetable ingredients are reminiscent of your dish. B cum T needs some jazzing up, and I think the lemon juice, you recommend so often will be just the thing.

    April 16, 2011
  3. Jodi Levy #

    I’ve been doing the same thing lately but calling it more of a minestrone, and allow for more broth. At the very end, I toss in fresh spring vegetables (asparagus, snap/snow peas, greens) and boil for a minute or two. I top it off with some crisped up tofu, lemon zest, and parm – delish! The bright, crisp green of the veggies is a great play against the cooked grains, onions/shallots and garlic. Can’t wait to try with favas…

    April 19, 2011
  4. Lynne Frame #

    Katherine, your one-pot-wonder idea made my (and our) day. I had some fancy, specialty variety CA-grown brown rice in the pantry (it kind of looks like Thai red, but isn’t), an overload of chicken stock, and some spicy pork sausage. No leeks, so I used a whole onion, a couple carrots, a couple stalks of celery, garlic, stock, and finished with parsley, oregano and lemon juice (all from our garden), salt & pepper. Served with toasted, buttered corn bread. I guess the cultural identity if this one is pretty much a mish-mash (or mediterranean), but SO easy, and a big hit! Tausend Dank!

    September 20, 2012
    • I’m so glad the idea served your purposes tonight! Sounds better than my version frankly.

      September 20, 2012

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