Quick Rice Pilaf

A friend of mine showed me an article in the NYTimes about Procrastibaking. Good article; you should read it. I don’t work from home but I do have urges to bake in order to avoid things like…deep housecleaning, another load of laundry, clearing out the sewing room, sorting books from the shelves to give away to the library. I love books. I love having several books piled askew on the coffee table, bedside stand, etc. It is very hard to give away books.

I read the article; I baked brownies. I may bake blondies¬†as well. Depends on what else I want to put off doing…

But this is not about books. Well, I do write about recipes from my 50+ cookbooks. (These are not being sorted through to give away. Not yet.) I find that I have been cooking less from recipe books. I throw things together and may look something up for an idea of a flavoring or additional ingredient. So for supper I wanted to make rice along with the vegetables and I made a pilaf, AKA rice with peas and carrots. ūüôā

  • bag of instant brown rice (Success is the brand, 10 minutes in boiling water and its done)
  • 1-2 cups frozen peas and carrots
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • a few colorful peppers, chopped, I used 3 red mini-peppers and 1 yellow mini-pepper
  • olive oil for the pan
  • a few shakes of soy sauce

Cook the rice. Put oil in a skillet and saute the onion and peppers. Stir these a bit. When they have a few nicely browned bits, add the peas and carrots. Stir and add the soy sauce. Mix with the hot rice. Voila!

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There’s a hole in my kitchen!

 

20170114_205124557_iosYes, there is a hole in my kitchen ceiling this weekend. Hubby put it there. We needed to check the plumbing from our less-than-two-year-old new bathtub. About a month after it was installed water came leaking down through the ceiling. We had the contractor bring his plumber back out but nothing was wrong. The water leak never happened again until this past week. We sort of, maybe, figured out what could have happened so off we go to the local hardware store for a plumber’s wrench. Hubby tightens a connection and we are hoping for the best. We have not tested it yet. Perhaps we should put a hinge on this panel of ceiling for easy access should it happen again?

Meanwhile, what to cook? What to bake? I have not gotten around to anything citrus-y yet even while the grapefruits, oranges, and lemons linger in the bottom of the fridge. But there are two jars of cherries in the pantry. But first…

Friday evening and what to have for dinner? There is an “emergency pizza” in the freezer but that does not appeal. Fish filet from a frozen box and what to serve with? Rice pilaf comes to mind. I go back and forth in my thinking about whether it should be sweet or savory. I pull out a bunch of ingredients:

  • nub of fresh ginger, peeled
  • 1/2 green pepper, diced
  • 1 smallish carrot, sliced
  • tops of green onions, sliced
  • one clementine
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup banana peppers
  • 1/4 cup diced roasted red peppers, from a jar (not shown here!)
  • coconut oil for sauteing
  • soy sauce for seasoning
  • garlic infused beef broth for seasoning as well
  • brown rice, this is the kind that cooks in 10 minutes in boiling water

I basically just pulled out stuff I thought fit in a pilaf. I had mushrooms but they smelled funny so I did not use them. I must stop buying mushrooms unless I plan to use them right away. This was the second batch that smelled funny and had to be disposed of. Chop and mince and dice every thing to pilaf size. Saute everything while the rice is cooking. Add the raisins and clementine at the end. The amounts of the seasoning ingredients are up to you. The broth kind of brings it all together before adding the rice. It was very yummy!

And now for the weekend dessert. This is a cherry cobbler baked in a cast-iron skillet from America’s Test Kitchen. You can find the recipe¬†here. I promise I followed the recipe exactly. Well except for using a 10 inch skillet instead of 12 inch, having only 5 cups of cherries instead of 6 cups, and not having turbinado sugar. Isn’t it pretty?

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And tasty too! This was simple enough to make. One does cook the cherry juice into a syrup before adding the cherries and biscuit topping. I do not see how this would be any better in a larger skillet. Ten-inch is just the right size. The biscuits come together easily enough with buttermilk and melted butter. Sprinkling the sugar on top before baking gives a nice color and crunch. I used an organic fair-trade sugar from Aldi which has a slight caramel color. I will make this again even with fresh or other types of canned fruits. I may reduce the sugar a bit even though it was just 1/2 cup.The only real improvement needed was to have vanilla ice cream for serving.

Have a blessed week!

 

Timman Z’affaran

I have the privilege of being a part of a coalition of people who are helping in the resettlement of refugees from the war-torn Middle East. You are all entitled to your opinions, but this blog is about cooking, not the politics.

So at first we thought the refugee family would be from Syria so my task group leader gave me a recipe for Syrian meatballs. But the family is coming from Iraq. So I wanted to find a recipe that at least says it is Iraqi. So this I found from Food.com: Timman Zafffaran

I thought it would be prudent to practice the dish before having to deliver it to the family’s new home the day of arrival. So this is an Americanized version. The dish I make to deliver to the family will not have the American substitutes. It will be made with halal meat and basmati rice.

The first step is to make the Baharat, Middle Eastern Spice Mixture. You can find the recipe here: Baharat. I gather all the whole spices to grind for this mix. And the house smells wonderful while I am grinding these in the small spice grinder that has been lying unused in the cabinet for ever! (We bought it eons ago when we thought we would grind our own coffee beans. Yeah right!)

Cardamom seeds are mucho expensive. So I “google” for a substitute: equal parts cinnamon and nutmeg or cinnamon and ground cloves. That I can handle. So I grind the spices and grate the nutmeg. I am making half the recipe because that is how much whole peppercorns I have. This makes a good cup of spice. That will be enough for a container to give to the family, some to keep for my own kitchen, and some to give to my son to take to Alaska for his next job.

  • 1/4 cup whole peppercorns (some of these are directly from Vietnam)
  • 1/8 cup (2 Tablespoons) whole coriander seeds
  • 1/8 cup cinnamon bark; I grind up quite a few cinnamon sticks
  • 2 tablespoons whole cloves
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons cumin seeds
  • 2 whole nutmegs
  • 1/4 cup ground paprika

I forget to toast the spices but they still smell wonderful. Mix the whole spices except the nutmeg and paprika. Grind these up a 1/2 cup at a time. I find I need to grind them three times in my little grinder to make them fine. Then grate the nutmeg; this should make about 1/8 cup. Mix the grated nutmeg and the paprika with the ground spices and store in an airtight jar. This is the Baharat.

Now for the Iraqi Saffron Rice with Meat. One reason for practicing making the dish is to determine if the recipe, as is, is sufficient for a family of six. I make the recipe “as is” with the exception of the amount of meat. I use one pound of ground turkey, and not 275 grams which is a little over 1/2 of a pound. The recipe calls for rose water, which is not a staple in my pantry. I “google” for a substitute: vanilla extract.

  • 2 cups basmati rice (I use brown rice for this preparation, but will buy basmati rice to prepare the dish for the family)
  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron thread (I have saffron from a spice market from my trip to Armenia)
  • 2 tablespoons rose water (I use 1 tablespoon vanilla extract + 1 tablespoon water)
  • 1/3 cup oil ( or ghee or butter); I use butter
  • 1/4 cup blanched slivered almonds
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 pound ground meat, lamb or beef (I am using turkey for this preparation but will buy Halal beef or lamb for the family)
  • 1 teaspoon baharat mixed spice
  • sea salt, to taste
  • 2 1/4 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/4 cups raisins
  • 3 cups chicken stock (I actually use 4 cups for the 2 cups of brown rice)

The directions are a bit fussy but I follow them pretty straight forwardly. Cover rice with cold water and soak while preparing the onion and meat. Pound saffron threads. I was not sure what this meant so I mushed them around a bit with the mortar and pestle. Put these in the rose water to steep. Heat half the oil/butter in a skillet and toast the almonds. Make sure they do not burn. Remove from the pan and put on a plate and reserve. Add onion to pan until transparent. Increase the heat and add meat and cook until “crumbly”. Add baharat, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and raisins, and cook for one minute more. Add tomato paste at this time as well. Remove from heat and cover with lid.

Meanwhile add the rest of the butter to a large pan along with 2 teaspoons of the saffron/rose water mixture and the chicken stock. Bring to a boil, add rice, reduce heat to simmer, cover, and let rice cook. For brown rice this took 45 minutes.

Fold the meat mixture into the rice, cover the rim of the pan with two paper towels (??) and set lid on tightly. Leave on low heat for 5 minutes.

Put in serving dish and sprinkle with browned almonds and the rest of the saffron-rosewater.

This will make enough to serve a family of six with half of them under the age of 10. My family of three (all adults with good appetites who generally eat more than a designated “serving”) devoured it all and we were very happy with the various flavors and textures.

I served this with mixed vegetables dry roasted in a skillet with a sprinkling of baharat. We enjoyed the meal with red wine and good conversation.

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I will be preparing this again in a week’s time. This has given me an interest to try to make some other international dishes that are not similar to American cooking, although American cooking does not have a single description. The middle eastern spice mix may be good on fish dishes. I will be looking closely at my Mediterranean cookbooks but I also have one from South Africa, Georgia, and a collection from RPCV from quite a few countries. The adventure begins!

Easy dinner: leftover beef stir fry

I wanted to make something light for dinner. The scale keeps telling me I am gaining weight. I’m sure Girl Scout cookies have something to do with that. One can not have just one or two or three of those Thin Mints! So I am thinking “bunches of vegetables” but something for meat as well. Taking a peek into the freezer finds a bit of leftover steak and a stir-fry frozen vegetable package. That’s the start.

stir fry dinner 001The package of frozen veg is not going to be enough if I want this meal to be mostly vegetables. So I add a package of mushrooms and an onion. And then I decide I will cook some brown rice after all, thinking that I have a package of “instant” brown rice that will cook in 10 minutes. Nope! So I put regular brown rice on and figure that will give me time to prep the vegetables and cook the stir fry.

I cook the beef strips briefly and then remove them from the pan to cook the vegetables. I add the Teriyaki sauce to the meat and when vegetables are mostly tender I put it all back together with more Teriyaki. The best guess I have for this throw together meal is:

  • about a pound or a little less of beef steak, cut into strips
  • 1 package frozen stir-fry vegetable mix, this one is a sugar snap pea combination
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 8 ounces of mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup of Teriyaki sauce, more or less to taste
  • 1 cup uncooked brown rice, cook per package directions

This is a super simple dinner to prepare. Technically one could just cook the meat and throw it in with the frozen package, douse it with Teriyaki or Soy Sauce and the meal would be ready in 15 minutes. I chose to do a little bit more work that than. Note: brown rice takes twice as long to cook as white rice. My timing was a bit off but it’s all good!

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served over rice

Seems to me I’ve been serving most of our dinners in bowls lately. Just works out that way I guess…and it saves on serving dishes to set around the table…and then to wash. There seems to always be dishes to wash!