Grain/Rice Archive

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

butternut squash salad with farro and pepitas

butternut salad with farro and pepitas

This was my lunch last week. I know that it may look less like lunch and more like penance, some apology for eating too many squares of salted-caramel-glazed fanned-apples-atop-1000-layers-of-buttery-pastry. I realize that most people think that when you start serving them bowls hearty grains and roasted squash that you might have an ulterior motive, like their thighs. I understand that most people don’t believe me when I say this, but it doesn’t make it any less true: I don’t eat food because it’s good for me; I eat it because I like it. And this was one of the most delicious lunch salads I’ve ever made.

long cooked farro
peeling the squash, which looks like a peanut

Herein lies my approach to grain salads: I like whatever vegetables I’m using in the salad to be the bulk of it, and the grains to be the accent, like a crouton. When you make grain salad this way, you get to appreciate the its texture, and not just lament that it’s not plush as a mound of fine couscous, something you’d hardly notice eating. This, however, does not mean that they’re to be crouton-free; all salads need punch and crunch, and here, it comes from toasted, salted pepitas (though any nut will do), crumbled ricotta salata (though any salty, crumbly cheese will do) and minced red onion that I pickled at the last minute in sherry vinegar.

cubing up the butternut squash

Continued after the jump »

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

zucchini rice gratin

zucchini, tomato and rice gratin

As promised, I am here to aid you with you midsummer afternoon’s zucchini nightmare, er, bounty. But please, just because I try to help people who weren’t wary enough of friends bearing baskets of zucchini doesn’t mean that I should be mistaken for someone who never lets zucchini expire on her watch. I went away for the weekend and left my last haul to meet a terrible end in my kitchen. Let this gratin be my zucchini repentance.

sliced zucchini
lightly roasted tomatoes and zucchini

I started making this zucchini rice gratin a few years ago. At the time, well, rice wasn’t my thing. I wouldn’t say I didn’t like it, just that it never, ever occurred to me to make it, which likely related to the fact that I burned it 100% of the time I made it, which led to pot-soaking and -scrubbing and a plague about our apartment known as a Grumpy Dishwasher. It hardly seemed worth it for a bit of rice. I’ve since figured out that nearly every package of rice lists the wrong amount of water (I always need more) and that on the gas stoves I’ve had, even the thinnest wisp of a flame, the lowest I can make it before the burner goes out entirely, will cook my rice in about 2/3 of the suggested time. I share these tips just in case any of you out there also need to go to Rice Remedial School, though you guys seem smart. I bet you’ve got this figured out already, and long before you wrote a cookbook that uses it no less than three times.

mixing rice, onions, herbs, parmesan

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Monday, May 21, 2012

vidalia onion soup with wild rice

vidalia onion soup with wild rice

I believe I owe you some soup. When the soup was promised, it was rainy, bleary, and insufficiently May-like to please me, though I doubt Deb Not Being Pleased ranks anywhere on near the top of the concerns list of whatever powers control the weather (or, for that matter, Deb’s toddler when he’s set his mind to emptying mama’s purse on the floor again), seeing as we have another week of it on order. Fortunately, this is a soup for exactly these trying spring times.

imported vidalias
wild rice, i love you

My love of hearty crocks of hearty French onion soup is well-documented (it’s the rare recipe I’ve covered twice in the archives, and you just know I had to riff on it here) because I have to insist that nothing is so loud with flavor as onions, cooked for an hour with a meaty broth and cognac, then broiled with a charred cap of strong cheese. Oof, how long must we wait until it gets cold again?

the quintessential vidalia shape

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Monday, May 7, 2012

bacon, egg and leek risotto

bacon, egg and leek risotto

Seeing as I once argued that rice pudding should be breakfast food (what? grains, milk, a bit of sugar, sometimes berries — just like oatmeal!) it shouldn’t be any surprise that I’m now wondering if risotto could also be welcome in the earliest parts of the day. I mean, what if contained bacon and eggs? What if I warned you that if you start making risotto with leeks and bacon and finish it with a fried egg that you might not be able to go back to eating it another way? You can’t say I didn’t give you a heads-up.

leeks, still gritty
cooking, not crisping, the pancetta

I got the inspiration for breakfast risotto from an article I saw a few months back. Okay, it was many months. And every time I was about to make it, I found something better to do. Like, flossing. Or chasing my toddler around the apartment with a comb, trying to explain that he would one day thank me for not letting him leave the house looking like an unkempt Muppet. (Obviously, it didn’t work.) Eventually I had to admit that risotto, while lovely to eat when someone else makes it, is hardly my favorite way to dirty pots and pans. It’s the stirring, and also the starchiness; it’s the sleepiness of the usual inclusions (maybe mushrooms, asparagus and other delicately-minded green things), and that always requires that you make something else (a salad, or maybe some protein) that will make it seem more of a balanced meal. Risotto: It’s awfully demanding.

prep: pancetta, leeks, rice, cheese

Continued after the jump »

Monday, January 31, 2011

mushroom and farro soup

mushroom farro soup

Barely two weeks ago, I used the following phrases to describe soup: “vegetables boiled to death,” “assaulted with too much cream,” “whatever healthy things in there cannot be tasted,” and even “what must have been a practical joke” about an especially awful one I’d ordered recently. I admitted that I found soup boring, and my relationship to it has been on especially unstable terms this year after repeated disappointments.

soaking dried porcinis
slicing

We then proceeded to eat soup for dinner for the next 14 days. What happened? It turns out that baked potato soup is a gateway drug, in that when we finished it, we wanted more soup. Different soup. We swore we could stop any time we wanted, but three batches of soup later, we realize we might have underestimated the power of good soup, the kind that is filling but also freeing of the nightly “What’s for dinner?” because, it’s already made and only needs to be reheated. I’ll admit that the fear of The Swimsuit when we go on vacation in a few weeks may have also egged on this habit, but it was the soup — come on, you know you wanna! — that really kept us engaged.

steamy mushrooms

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