Friday, March 10, 2017

Rice, Twice as Nice: Kitchen Sink Fried & Sweet with Carrots and Nuts

Do you own a rice cooker? As a Manhattan apartment dweller, space constraints force me to be extremely particular about which kitchen gadgets I choose to invest in. I can’t imagine life without my rice cooker, even though its permanent storage space is on top of my refrigerator.


The premise of the rice cooker is this. You rinse your rice (they are SO insistent on this), dump it into the cooker with equal parts water plus ½ cup, and leave. Well, you don’t have to leave, but what you won’t face is the following scenario: keeping an eye on your rice for 40 minutes, cursing every time it bubbles over and raging when you YET AGAIN end up with an areal coating of burnt rice stuck to the bottom of the pan.
The rice cooker, on the other hand, serves up perfectly cooked rice; fluffy, light, and airy, plus 40 minutes of pure leisure. Mine also cooks quinoa, and the consistency is spot-on every time as well. However, most cookers require a minimum amount of dried grains—about two cups—and the large yield has caused me to get extremely creative with my usage of rice. I’d like to share with you two of my favorite recipes so far: Goop’s Kitchen Sink Fried Rice and Louisa Shafia’s Sweet Rice with Carrots and Nuts.
 
(This is probably the point where you’re expecting me to reveal the brand of my rice cooker and a footnote that this post was paid for by the brand. Here’s the truth: my rice cooker got recalled, and I’ve been wallowing in self-pity over my regression to burnt sticky saucepan rice as I wait for its replacement. Which only further affirms my argument for the necessity of the cooker!)

Both rice recipes are excellent, and shine in their own right. Kitchen Sink Fried Rice is the ultimate flexibility recipe, a chance to use up any combination of leftover vegetables and always triumph due to its vibrant Asian flavors, accented by fresh herbs and biting ginger. You can elevate this dish even more by forgoing the egg and adding a piece of miso-glazed cod on top, as impressive as it is (surprisingly) easy.
Louisa Shafia’s Sweet Rice with Carrots and Nuts takes you on a journey to Persia, a magnificent adventure in honeyed flavors and hues. Spices cinnamon, cardamom, turmeric, and saffron render the rice exotic, while orange zest provides a nice bite against the sweet. Coconut oil provides a rich, nutty undertone as well. This recipe shines on its own, and is served best accompanied by a simple roast chicken. If you are looking for a satisfying, compelling dish for a dinner party, Shafia’s sweet rice can be your centerpiece.
Of course, you don't need a rice cooker for these recipes, and a (closely-watched) saucepan will produce more than adequate rice. But if you do choose to invest, remember that besides producing excellent rice, the cooker forces you to expand your recipe repertoire—you’ll be surprised just how electric rice can be!

Kitchen Sink Fried Rice (from Goop)
Serves 2

Ingredients:
3 Tbsp olive, coconut, or canola oil, divided
2 beaten eggs
1 to 2 cups leftover cooked brown rice
1 to 2 cups leftover mixed veggies, finely chopped (such as mushrooms, carrots, cabbage, broccoli, bok choy)
2 tsp minced or grated ginger
2 garlic cloves, grated
2 Tbsp fish sauce
2 Tbsp soy sauce or coconut aminos
2 scallions, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp each basil, cilantro, mint (or a combination)
2 large wedges of lime

Directions:
1. (This first direction is if you are using egg. If pairing with cod, skip to step 2 and see cod recipe below). Heat 1 Tbsp of the oil in a wok or 12-inch nonstick sauté pan over medium heat. Add the egg and a pinch of salt, and scramble the egg until just cooked but still soft. Transfer to your serving dish.
2. Add another Tbsp of oil to the pan, turn the heat to medium high, and sauté the veggies until just cooked through (this will vary depending on the type and size of veggies). Transfer to the dish with the scrambled egg.
3. Pour in the last Tbsp of olive oil and add the rice, cooking over medium high heat for 1 minute, or until starting to brown and sizzle.
4. Add the ginger and garlic and cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly.
5. Add back in the egg and veggies and pour in the fish sauce and soy sauce/coconut aminos. Cook for 30 seconds just to combine all of the ingredients and flavors.
6. Mix in the scallion and fresh herbs and serve each portion with a wedge of lime.

Miso Glazed Cod (from Ellie Krieger)
Serves 2

Ingredients:
2 (6-ounce) cod fillets
2 Tbsp white miso
1 Tbsp dark brown sugar
½ tsp toasted sesame oil
1 Tbsp mirin (Japanese cooking wine)
Toasted sesame seeds and scallions, for garnish (optional)

Directions:
1. Preheat broiler.
2. Rinse fish fillets and pat dry with paper towels. Combine miso, brown sugar, sesame oil and mirin and stir well until brown sugar is fully dissolved.
3. Brush about 2 Tbsp miso glaze on each fish fillet. Marinate for at least 30 minutes, or up to 1 hour. Place fish under broiler for 3 to 4 minutes, or until top is slightly charred and glaze has caramelized. Remove fish from oven and brush with remaining glaze. Lower oven to 375 degrees F. Cook an additional 5 to 6 minutes, until fish is flaky but not overcooked.
4. Serve with toasted sesame seeds and scallions, if desired.


Sweet Rice with Carrots and Nuts (from Lousia Shafia)
Serves 6

Ingredients:
2 cups white basmati rice, soaked in cold water for 1 hour (soaking optional)
3 cups water
Sea salt
2 Tbsp butter or unrefined coconut oil, at room temperature (optional, I omitted this)
2 to 3 Tbsp unrefined coconut oil
1 yellow onion, finely diced
2 cups grated carrots (about 3 large carrots)
½ cup slivered or coarsely chopped almonds, toasted
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cardamom
¼ tsp ground turmeric
½ cup pistachios, coarsely chopped, plus 1 Tbsp for garnish
Grated zest of 1 large orange
¼ cup honey (I used 1/8 cup, I suggest halving if you are sensitive to sweetness)
½ tsp saffron, ground and steeped in 1 Tbsp hot water

Directions:
1. Cook rice in rice cooker, or: Drain the rice and rinse under cold water until the water runs clear. In a stockpot, combine the water and a pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Add the rice, return to a boil, then turn down the heat to its lowest setting. Cover and cook for 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the rice rest for 5 minutes, then dot with the butter (optional) and fluff with a fork. The rice should be dry and fluffy.
2. While the rice cooks, heat a small skillet over medium heat and sauté the onion in the coconut oil for about 15 minutes, until lightly browned. Add the carrots, almonds, cinnamon, cardamom, and turmeric, and cook, stirring often, for about 10 minutes, until the carrots are tender. Add 1/2 cup pistachios, the orange zest, and the honey and cook for about 2 minutes, until heated through. Season with salt.
3. Scoop the rice into a large bowl. Add the carrot mixture and drizzle in the saffron. Mix gently and season with salt. Garnish with the remaining 1 Tbsp pistachios.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Spring Quinoa Bowl with Asparagus and Peas

Although I could singlehandedly stage an all-night Talkathon with the amount I have to say about my love for winter root vegetables, these balmy 60 degree days have got me seriously craving some springtime fare. Signatures like peas, asparagus, and radishes won’t be available locally until the beginning of May, but this Spring Quinoa Bowl with Asparagus and Peas totally satisfies the yearning. (New mantra: if you can’t shop locally, shop for an ingredient list that can be exclusively filled at Trader Joe’s). Somewhere in between a salad and a grain bowl, this hearty dish showcases spring’s best produce offerings, plus a major protein boost from chickpeas and hard-boiled egg. Finished with a lemony-mustard vinaigrette, the bright, citrusy flavors create the perfect palate as we eagerly anticipate spring’s arrival.

 
Lunch? Dinner? Likely both, as this verdant bowl begs to be doubled or tripled, a big-batch dish for sure. Substitutions are highly encouraged: swapping is the name of the game here. Sick of quinoa? Try farro or orzo instead. Craving something nutty? Forget pepitas, and garnish with chopped almonds or toasted pistachios. Looking for an alternate protein source? Try subbing feta cheese for chickpeas, or shrimp for the hard-boiled egg. Mint would go beautifully instead of parsley. And because I just presented you with a trendy, whole-ingredient grain bowl: yes, sliced avocado would be a lovely addition too.
Spring Quinoa Bowl with Asparagus and Peas (adopted from Two Peas & Their Pod)
Serves 2

Ingredients:

For the bowl:
½ cup raw quinoa
6 oz asparagus (about 10 thick spears), trimmed
½ cup English peas
¾ cup chickpeas
4 radishes, sliced
¼ cup toasted pepitas
2 Tbsp parsley, chopped
2 hard-boiled eggs, sliced
2 large handfuls of arugula (about 4 cups)

For the dressing:
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp Dijon mustard
½ tsp honey
Salt & pepper

Directions:
1.     Roast the asparagus. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Lay out a sheet of tin foil over a baking pan, and toss asparagus with 1 tsp olive oil, salt, and pepper. Bake until just tender, 12 to 15 minutes (less for thin spears). After they’ve cooled, chop spears into 1-inch pieces.
2.     Cook the quinoa. Rinse quinoa thoroughly under cold water, then place in a small saucepan with 1 cup of water. Cover pot and bring to a boil, then simmer until liquid is absorbed, 15 to 20 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

3.     Make the dressing. Combine the lemon zest and juice, vinegar, oil, mustard, honey, salt, and pepper together and whisk thoroughly. Adjust seasonings to taste.

4.     Assemble the bowls, dividing the ingredients equally between the two.  Start with placing the arugula in a wide, shallow bowl. Top with half the quinoa, asparagus, peas, chickpeas, radishes, and egg.  Drizzle the dressing. Top with pepitas and parsley before serving.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

3 Ingredient Tahini Chocolate Truffles

Valentine’s Day is upon us, which means chocolate is very much top of mind for this little lady.  For moi, the darker the better.  I love the deep, rich flavors of cacao, mixed with as little sugar as possible to keep that rich, teetering-on-bitter flavor. So when I came upon this 3 Ingredient Tahini Chocolate Truffle recipe—two-thirds of which are 70% pure cocoa or greater—I was hooked. When I discovered the third ingredient was tahini, I was sold.


The recipe is really just two ingredients, dark chocolate and tahini. The third, unsweetened cocoa powder, serves a predominantly aesthetic role, reserved for dusting at the end to make the chocolates pretty.



Might so few ingredients in a truffle make it bland, or lacking in flavor? Truth be told, just the opposite. The two ingredients are so wonderfully complex, they almost make a mockery of the idea. The chocolate is sweet and rich, with undertones of vanilla, while the tahini is nutty and buttery; I would argue, the most flavor-nuanced fat source there is. Together, they are a gourmand delight, an unparalleled zenith of luxurious, silky flavor.

And while their taste is certainly fancy, the prep is anything but. It’s actually comical just how unfussy this recipe is. Even parts dark chocolate (melted) and tahini are stirred together, then poured into a baking sheet lined with plastic wrap. After an hour in the freezer, this truffle-block is ready to be cut into any shape you please. Mine naturally formed into mismatched rectangles, which after being rolled in the cocoa powder, managed to look awesomely cosmopolitan—like they belonged on an artisan chocolate shop shelf next to your most extravagant, hipster chocolate bar.

In reality, not so much. I used half a bar of Raaka dark chocolate (admittedly fancy, that was a gift) and half of the Nestle semi-sweet morsels I keep on hand for baking.  For the tahini, I used Seed + Mill brand—where this recipe hails from, and the only tahini I recommend. As I wrote about in a previous post, Seed + Mill sources their sesame seeds from a small town in Ethiopia, called Humera, where climatic conditions make their tahini wonderfully, naturally, sweet. (It's also the reason why no one will believe you when you tell them these truffles have zero added sugar).

If you like, feel free to experiment with using spices to dust in tandem with the cocoa powder, maybe a sprinkle of sea salt, cayenne, or cinnamon. That being said, this recipe is true to it's name, and I assure you that the 3 ingredients alone indeed yield perfection.


And health! Both the flavonoids in cocoa and phytosterols in sesame help lower cholesterol and contain anti-inflammatory properties. The ingredients are also mineral powerhouses, with significant sources of iron and zinc. They are even linked to healthy skin—flavonoids fight against skin damage and free radicals, while sesame's high zinc and copper content aid in collagen production.

Happy Valentine's Day!

3 Ingredient Tahini Chocolate Truffles
Makes 30 bite-sized truffles

Ingredients:
1 cup best quality 70% dark chocolate
1 cup Seed + Mill Pure Tahini
Cocoa powder for dusting

Directions:
1. Melt chocolate in a bowl, add tahini and stir to combine.
2. Line a loaf tin with plastic wrap and pour in the chocolate mix. Place tin in freezer for 1 hour.
3. Remove chocolate from plastic wrap and slice into squares, rectangles or any abstract shape you like.
4. Dust with best quality cocoa powder.