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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Pilaf

I have been making pilaf a lot lately. It's a strange thing about pilaf. I love it. I have eaten it all my life. My mom made it all the time. It's about the ONLY thing I have not been able to make successfully. Until lately.

I don't know what I'm doing right.

My sister in law makes amazing pilaf. As good as or better than mom's. She claims hers is not very good, that her sister's is better. I don't know about that. The only time her pilaf did not come out well was at Thanksgiving. They did not have any bullion (or some other key ingredient). I suggested using some of the broth from the roasting turkey instead. The pilaf that day was terrible.

Well, I have watcher her make it several times and hopefully picked up a few tips. But be warned - I don't make it quite like she does. For one thing, I add onions, which she does not. For another, I toast both the rice AND the noodles. She toasts only the noodles, adding the rice later. No matter. Here is how I have been making it lately. Give it a try.

Dice an onion fairly finely and saute it in butter over medium heat until translucent & beginning to turn golden (I usually use olive oil or canola oil instead of butter but do what you wish). Use a heavy bottomed pan.

Next, add rice & noodles. I usually use a scant cup of rice which makes enough for supper for 2, and for leftovers the next day.  Add a similar amount of noodles. If you use the type that come in little round curled up "nests" use 3 or 4. Otherwise I'd say 3 - 4  "handfuls" of thin egg noodles - the kind sometimes called vermicelli that are much thinner than spaghetti.  Slew these around in the oil or butter until the noodles are toasty brown.  I said brown.  Not tan, not beige, brown. The browner the better - just don't let them burn. You can season this with herbs and/or red pepper flakes if you wish.

Now add water, broth, stock or what have you. I use water with a spoonful of chicken bullion, or stock or broth, if I have any on hand. Add anywhere from 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 times the amount of rice.  If you used a cup of rice, use about 1 1/4 - 1 1/3 cup water or broth.  You will have to experiment a bit here since your "medium heat" might be hotter or cooler than mine which will affect cooking time and the amount of water lost to evaporation.

Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a gentle simmer, cover and leave it alone for 15 - 18 minutes. Don't lift the cover to cook, just trust it to do things right.

Here is the secret. Are you ready?  Uncover the pilaf and place a folded kitchen towel (NOT a terry cloth one - one that is like a feed sack) over the pilaf, place the cover snugly back on the pan and move the pan off the heat.  Leave it for at least 10 minutes. 15 is even better. This allows the rice to steam and to finish cooking completely. Don't omit this step! I often stick the pan in the oven (as long as it's not turned on) to get it out of the way while I finish cooking the vegetables or whatever else needs finishing.

Ready to eat? Uncover the pan, remove the towel and fluff up your pilaf with a fork or spoon.  You should have a pan of fluffy rice flecked with dark brown noodles. The rice should be tender, the noodles not mushy. Did you do it right? If not, don't worry. Just try again with more or less water, higher or lower heat, longer or shorter cooking & steaming times. If you're lucky, you'll achieve delicious pilaf perfect for serving with anything or just on its own.

P.S. leftover pilaf is great for stuffing peppers, stir-frying or reheating just as it is. Corn, peas or leftover cooked vegetables can be popped into the pan last minute and covered for a bit just to heat through.

Quotable quotes; in the category; You Gotta Have Rice!

"Without rice, even the cleverest housewife cannot cook."  Chinese Proverb

Monday, June 2, 2014

Bento!

It's been a long time since I posted about bento - mostly because I have not been making or eating them (except in my mind).

Here is a sort of "fusion" bento I made which was quite tasty and attractive.  Since we "eat with our eyes" looks actually ARE everything!


The bento contains, clockwise from upper left, mini ham & cheese sandwiches on homemade bread; a "kinpira" of sliced carrot, peppers & onions cooked in sesame oil with mirin, red pepper flakes, sake & soy sauce; a Japanese style potato salad - potatoes & carrots doused with a little mirin, rice vinegar, a pinch of sugar & salt, then dressed with mayonnaise and garnished with oven roasted tomatoes; and sliced nectarine.

I had intended to add a few boiled edamame but I forgot until it was too late.  As it was, I could only finish half the potato salad & kinpira.  I kept the leftovers for the next day & enjoyed them again.

Even though this bento is packed in a serviceable but plain plastic sandwich box, it's still pleasing to the eye as well as the stomach.  Enjoy your bento and let me know what  you had!

Quotable quotes; in the category If You Ain't Got This You Ain't Got Nothin'!

"A kitchen without a knife if not a kitchen."  Masaharu Morimoto, Japanese Chef