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Posts tagged ‘Rice’

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!

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Peanut Sauce

Rice with leftover peanut sauce and lots of cilantro.

I have at least five different blog posts started in my head. These last few spring-like days  here in Portland have been so energizing and glorious maybe that’s translated into increased brain activity. So I’d love to muse about all the birds I hear singing all of sudden every morning or the green garlic stalks that seem to have sped up their growth a bit or the late afternoon light or that wonderful springy, damp earth sort of smell. I’d also like to write about the talk I’m putting together to give at Slow Food Portland’s Annual Potluck this Sunday (there are still seats available and it is likely the best potluck in Portland and some of the most relevant content) I’d also like to write about several totally last-minute cook-with-what-you-have meals I’ve tossed together lately. So I think I’ll do the latter and focus on just one.

The other day I was in need of a quick hearty meal for our family. I had leftover black bean soup in the fridge so I cooked a pot of white rice (I was in a hurry and I love white rice but tend to cook brown rice more frequently these days) to make the soup stretch. As I was heating up the soup I realized that this was going to be just one-too-many bean meals in a row for my husband. I’ve been doing a lot of recipe testing with beans lately and as much as my dear husband likes most of them I know he doesn’t love them quite as a much as I do.

I rummaged through the fridge in search of some other quick inspiration for him and there was a little dish of leftover peanut sauce I had forgotten about. Then I remembered a blog post I had recently read by one of my favorite bloggers (David Lebovitz). Although primarily a baker he sometimes writes about savory foods and had posted a recipe for peanut sauce (that I have not tried) and talked about how he used to just dollop it on white rice for a quick meal on the go when he was still working in restaurants. So there it was: I had my hot rice, my little dish of peanut sauce and plenty of cilantro. So that’s what Brian got for lunch and he was very happy. I ate the bean soup AND a bowl of rice like his and had to agree that the latter was more fun! The hot rice loosened up the peanut sauce and brought out the flavors of lime and chili and the cilantro was cooling and lively. It hit the spot.

So, if you make the below recipe for peanut sauce you should plan to use three-quarters of it to toss with some spaghetti or rice noodles and some finely sliced raw veggies and save the remainder for the above dish!

I have come to love this particular peanut sauce that I came across on another food blog I follow–Skillet Chronicles–by Aleta Watson.

Thanks all you fellow bloggers for the constant inspiration!

Peanut Sauce

Peanut Sauce

–only slightly adapted from Skillet Chronicles

generous ½ cup smooth peanut butter

2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon grated ginger

4 garlic cloves, pressed or minced to a paste

3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

½-1 teaspoon chili flakes or hot chili sauce (to taste)

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

1 tablespoon  brown sugar

2 tablespoons hot water

Blend all the sauce ingredients together in a small bowl until smooth and set aside. Toss with cold noodles and veggies or serve with rice or use as a dip for steamed veggies or roasted meat. This sauce keeps very well in the fridge for a week, tightly covered (or your fridge will smell like garlic and peanut butter and sesame oil!)

Happy Cooking and Eating!

Red Lentil and Winter Squash Dhal

I love fall! It's a foggy, misty morning and this is what I found on my walk this morning.

There are dinners that are quick to prepare, there are those that take a long time and then there is the occasional one that tastes like it took a long time to make but was actually pretty quick. Today’s post is about this latter category. This is not the quickest dinner in the world but it’s very doable on a weeknight if you have the ingredients (more or less) on hand. And on a side note, I am developing a two-part series on pantry stocking and really quick dinners–20 minute dinners–so stay tuned for those.

This recipe calls for a fair number of spices (some of which you can get away with omitting if you don’t have them on hand) but having a well-stocked spice rack is awfully useful especially this time of year. Whole spices like cumin and mustard seeds, called for in this recipe, keep really well so stock up once a year on those (or more often of course if you use them lots) and you’re set. Being well-stocked in general is also a big money saver. This topic deserves a whole series of posts but maybe we can consider this the introduction.

I think of being well-stocked as the foundation for the “cook with what you have” philosophy. For me this means that I rarely shop for a specific dish/menu. Instead I shop to restock the dry goods pantry, the crisper/fridge/freezer. This kind of cooking/shopping does not suit everyone but it can be fun, creative and is definitely a good way to trim the grocery budget, if that’s a goal of yours. And with practice, this kind of cooking really is so satisfying. To quote my friend Elizabeth who after a successful dinner of this nature, said, “I stared down the fridge and I won!” And you won’t need to go whole hog down this road, but try it for a few nights and see how it works. Most people have things floating around their dry pantry that in combination with some eggs or cheese or herbs or meat or veggies would make a wonderful frittata, soup, stew, gratin, . . .. Let me know how it goes!

And with that little challenge I’m going to commit to building up my recipe archive on this site to offer more of these kinds of recipes or ideas but thisthisthisthis, and this one all might be considered in such a category.

Red Lentil and Winter Squash Dhal

–Inspired by Dana Treat’s Red Lentil Dhal which was inspired by The Modern Vegetarian

Serves 6

Yes, list of ingredients is long but most of it is spices and the dish comes together quite quickly. If you use veggie bouillon you’ll need much less salt that the recipe below calls for. It’s extra delicious with the bouillon so by all means use it if you have it, or make it if you don’t:)!

1 tablespoon olive or vegetable oil

2 tsp. cumin seeds

2 tsp. black or brown mustard seeds (can omit in a pinch)

1 medium onion, finely diced

1 ½ inches of fresh ginger, peeled and minced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 jalapeno chili, seeded, finely chopped (can omit and just use more chili flakes/powder)

1 ½ tsp. curry powder

2 tsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. turmeric (can omit in a pinch)

Pinch of chili powder

Salt – about 2-3 tsp. kosher salt (it takes more salt than you might think unless you’re using veggie bouillon)

2 cups red lentils

2-3 cups diced winter squash (acorn, butternut, kabocha, pumpkin, etc.)

5 cups veggie bouillon or water

1 15-oz. can coconut milk

Juice of 1 lemon

½ a bunch of mint, chopped (can omit in a pinch)

½ a bunch of cilantro, chopped (can omit in a pinch or substitute parsley)

Heat just enough oil to coat the bottom of a large pan and add the mustard and cumin seeds.  As soon as they begin to pop (only takes about 30 -90 seconds) add the onion, turn down the heat to medium, and cook until softened – about five minutes. Add the ginger, garlic, minced jalapeno, curry powder, cumin, turmeric, and chile powder and fry for 3 minutes.

Add the lentils and stir to coat with the oil and spices.  Add squash, salt, water, and coconut milk.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat so the dhal is at a simmer.  Cover partially and cook, stirring occasionally so it doesn’t stick to the bottom, until the lentils and squash have partially lost their shape and are soft – about 20 minutes.  Stir in more liquid as necessary for the consistency you want. Add the chopped herbs. Cook for a minute or two then season with more sea salt and add the lemon juice to taste.  Serve warm over long grain white or brown rice and with plain Greek or other whole milk yogurt if you’d like. This also freezes well.

And finally, if you’re itching for a cooking class or would like to give someone (or yourself!) the gift of a class, there are some fun options available.

Happy cooking and eating!