rice & grains

Our friend John prepared this dish for us long ago. Completely delighted, I meant to ask for the recipe but kept forgetting. The southeast Asian mix of fresh garlic, fish sauce, lime juice, sugar and chili pepper is divine.

southeast Asian-style shrimp and Persian cucumber with rice

southeast Asian-style shrimp and Persian cucumber with rice

Recently I was craving it so I decided to take the risk of making/mixing my own sauce. I may have made it a bit Japanese with the addition of mirin and rice vinegar for an extra bit of sweetness and tartness. You know rice just goes so well with these two flavors, right?

Another thing I find makes me eat with gusto is atypical use of cucumber, here served in a warm dish. I grew up eating cucumbers only in salads so enjoying them any other way is incredible. The cukes were warm but still crunchy. I think Persian or Japanese cucumbers work best for this dish.

southeast Asian-style shrimp and Persian cucumber with rice

1½ cups rice (Thai Jasmine, Basmati or Spanish)
4 tbsp olive oil
1 lb wild caught shelled and deveined medium sized shrimp
6 Persian cucumbers
sea salt
1 clove of garlic
Chili pepper flakes
Freshly ground black pepper

sauce:

juice of 5 large limes
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 clove garlic
1 green or red chili pepper seeds partially removed
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp rice vinegar
1 tsp mirin
2 tbsp chopped cilantro leaves

Heat olive oil in a large pan, add rice and a sprinkle of salt. Toss to coat rice with oil. Add 2 and ½ cups of hot water. Bring to a boil, stir, reduce temperature to low, cover pan and cook for about 15-20 minutes until soft and water absorbed. Removed from heat and keep it covered for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, cut a ¼ inch top of the cucumber and rub cut sides together for good luck and good flavor. This will create a bit of a gooey slime that you should rinse away in cold water. Cut cucumber into ½ inch disks and soak in cold water. Repeat process for remainder.

Turn oven on to broil. Rinse and pat dry shrimp. Toss with juice of ½ lime, salt, chili flakes and one garlic clove that has been crushed. Spread shrimp loosely on a large baking sheet then broil for about 5 minutes or so. Remove from the oven and let rest. For a delicious charred flavor and lovely grill marks use your outdoor grill.

To make the sauce, put garlic, sugar and pepper in a mortar and grind ingredients to a paste. Transfer to a bowl. Add lemon juice, mirin, fish sauce, soy sauce and cilantro. Toss to combine. This sauce should be salty, sweet, sour, and pungent with a spicy kick. Taste and adjust flavor with more of any of the ingredients. If you find my mix to strong you can dilute it with a bit of cold water. You should have around ¾ to 1 cup of sauce.

Drain cucumber slices and pat dry on a dish towel.

Mix rice, cucumber, shrimp and shrimp juices carefully not to break the rice too much. Drizzle most of the sauce over and carefully give it another toss. Taste and add more sauce if needed.

This is a delightful, simple, and chock full of flavor meal.

{ 4 comments }

vegetable paella

by Heguiberto on July 10, 2013

Yottam Ottolenghi’s Plenty attacks again! His vegetable paella is divine. It is full of color and flavors. If pilaf and paella have the same linguistic root, then I think this vegetable paella must be either an early progenitor of both or perhaps the modern trans-national child of the pair, as it not only uses saffron threads, but also turmeric and chili powders common to Indian and Middle Eastern cuisines: incredible! And then there’s the sherry… Wow.

vegetable paella

vegetable paella

Yotam recommends using Calasparra rice but to be honest I have never heard of it before, so couldn’t even begin to think of where to find it. At any given time my rice pantry will always have few different varieties, so I made do with what I had. My choice was Thai jasmine rice. I selected this kind because I’ve made successful paella before with it. He also recommends using freshly shelled fava beans which would have been great but I was not able to find them in the market. Instead I substituted them for a fresh frozen shelled bag of edamame.

This dish is vegetarian and vegan. So flavorful, your meat eating loved ones will enjoy it too.

vegetable paella

6 tbsp olive oil
1 medium Vidalia onion sliced thinly
1 red pepper cut into strips
1 yellow pepper cut into strips
½ fennel bulb cut into thin strips
4 garlic cloves crushed
2 fresh bay leaves
½ tsp smoked paprika
½ tsp sweet paprika
½ tsp ground turmeric
½ tsp chili powder (cayenne)
¾ cup sherry
1 container of saffron threads (0.020oz)
2 cups Thai Jasmine rice
3 ½ cups vegetable stock – hot
thin half-moon-shaped lemon slices
4 tbsp julienned sundried tomatoes packed in oil, drained
8 halves of grilled artichokes, preserved in oil, drained
¾ cup pitted Kalamata olives, halved
1 pint of mixed small heirloom tomatoes, halved
~ 2tbsp chopped parsley
Kosher salt

You need a paella pan or a similar large shallow pan for the dish. On high heat, add olive oil followed by the onions and cook until translucent, about 5 to 8 minutes. Lower the heat to medium, add sweet peppers and fennel and continue cooking for about 10 minutes. Peppers and fennel will soften a bit but still hold their crunch.

Mix in turmeric, bay leaves, paprika. Add rice and mix it again so rice gets some coloring. Stir in saffron and sherry, continue to cook long enough for the sherry juices to be absorbed/evaporated. Add vegetable stock, and kosher salt to taste, lower the temperature and cook for about 18 minutes. Liquid will be almost fully absorbed by the rice. To prevent the rice from breaking refrain from stirring while cooking. Turn off the heat.

Tuck in olives, artichokes, sundried tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, lemon slices, then sprinkle with parsley. Let rest, covered, for about 5 minutes. Remove the lid, drizzle with some extra virgin oil and serve.

{ 6 comments }

My default winter squash is either kabocha or butternut. I rarely buy acorn but they were so fresh when I spotted them last week at the Alemany Farmers Market that I couldn’t resist. Plus it was a bargain: organically grown and it cost me less than a couple of bucks!

basmati and wild rice stuffed acorn squash

basmati and wild rice stuffed acorn squash

I borrowed the idea of baking and stuffing it with rice from Martha, though stuffed acorn squash is really a classic. You can check out her recipe here.

Because acorn squash is already a bit sweet I altered the way I made the rice stuffing so it would be more on the savory side with a bit of heat. For that I used sundried tomatoes, black pepper and cumin.

basmati and wild rice stuffed acorn squash

1 medium sized skin on acorn squash, halved and cleaned
½ cup wild rice, rinsed
1 cup basmati rice, rinsed
1 tsp tellicherry peppercorns
½ tsp cumin seeds
3 cloves garlic, chopped fine
¼ cup chopped white onion
3 tbsp chopped sundried tomatoes packed in oil, drained
1 bay leaf
Kosher salt to taste
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Set oven temperature to 350F.

Sprinkle some salt over inner part of acorn squash halves. Rub one tablespoon olive oil over skin and flesh. Place acorn squash in a shallow baking tray flesh side down. Wrap aluminum foil around it and bake for about one hour. Test for doneness via piercing the skin with a fork. It should slide in easily otherwise bake it for a little longer.

Place wild rice in a pressure cooker, add 2 cups of water and a sprinkle of salt, cover the pan and cook on high temperature until it starts whistling. Once it does, turn temperature down to medium and cook for 10-12 minutes. Remove from heat and let the pan rest until pressure is gone. Drain rice if any water remains in the pan. Alternatively you can just cook it on the stove top. That will take about an hour or so. Watch while it cooks because water evaporates very fast.

In large sauce pan add two tablespoons of olive oil followed by chopped onion and cook until translucent. Add cumin, garlic, bay leaf and peppercorns. Stir around for a minute, just long enough for the garlic to cook and the spices to release their flavors. Add basmati rice, salt, and 1¾ cups water. Toss to combine. Bring temperature to high, and when rice starts to boil, reduce temperature to low and cook covered for about 15-20 minutes until water has been absorbed. Add cooked wild rice, sundried tomato and finish it with a tablespoon of olive oil. Cover and let it rest for another 5-10 minutes for flavors to marry.

Remove squash halves from the oven. Slice off a bit of the bottom of each half so they lay flat on a plate. Sprinkle the inside of each acorn half with a bit of salt and pepper. Fill each with the rice mix and serve decorated with some rosemary.

{ 6 comments }

Our old friend David went to Seattle last year and brought us a little tin filled with the aromatic Turkish powder, baharat, from that city’s famous Public Market. I have been shy about using it. Frankly, I thought the spice mix was for meat dishes only. So I’d sort of side-lined it to the back of the spice cabinet, that is until I read Yotam Ottolenghi uses baharat in a tabbouleh recipe from his new book, Jerusalem.

Yotam’s baharat-seasoned tabbouleh

Yotam’s baharat-seasoned tabbouleh

So I did a little research. Turns out, baharat is a mélange of allspice, cinnamon, black pepper, cardamonn, cloves, coriander, cumin, chili pepper and nutmeg. It has a wonderful scent.

Yotam’s baharat-seasoned tabbouleh

½ cup bulgur
3 large ripe tomatoes, chopped fine
2 shallots, chopped fine, rinsed in running cold water
Juice of 3 lemons or more
3 large bunches of Italian parsley, washed, drained and chopped fine
5 leaves of escarole, washed, drained and chopped fine
2 bunches mint, rinsed, dried and chopped fine
2 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp baharat mix
1/3 to ½ cup first cold press, top quality, arbequina olive oil
Sea salt and fresh black pepper to taste

Rinse bulgur in a strainer. Add to a bowl, cover with water and let soak for ½ hour. Drain and squeeze it to remove as much water as possible. Transfer to a large bowl, add tomatoes, shallot, parsley, mint, escarole, spices, salt and pepper. Toss to combine. Add lemon juice and about two thirds of the olive oil. Toss again. Let it rest at room temperature for about 15 minutes. Just before serving add more olive oil and lemon juice and toss again.

{ 4 comments }

Sweet or savory, most countries have their own style of making pancakes. I really like the Vietnamese version, bánh xèo. This recipe is especially interesting because it utilizes two ingredients very common on our table in a totally different way: rice and beans, a favorite combination on this blog. See what I mean here.

Bánh Xèo AKA Vietnamese mung bean pancakes with leaft lettuces, mint etc. in the afternoon sunlight

Bánh Xèo AKA Vietnamese mung bean pancakes with leafy lettuces, mint etc. in the afternoon sunlight

I’ve often seen this with shrimp or pork. (I used fish sauce in the spicy dipping sauce, otherwise this would be vegan.) Omitting these two still delivers a pancake packed with delicious flavor. I’ve adapted this bánh xèo from two sources: flavor explosions and Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty cookbook. It didn’t come out as crisply as I expected, probably due to me limited experience in this art. Nevertheless these were divine.

Bánh Xèo AKA Vietnamese mung bean pancakes

For the batter:

½ cup hulled mung beans, soaked for 2h, drained and then steamed till soft and cooled down
1 cup coconut milk
2 cups rice flour
½ cup corn starch
2 cups water
1 tsp kosher salt
¾ tsp turmeric powder
4 whole scallions, chopped

For the stuffing:

I lb mung bean sprouts
1 shallot, chopped
Canola oil
1 pack enoki mushrooms, stems discarded

For the salad condiments:

Any sweet lettuce, mint leaves, cilantro, chives, mung bean sprouts all undressed

For the spicy dipping sauce:

1 serrano pepper, seeds and ribs partially removed, chopped and slightly crushed
1 tsp chili garlic sauce (Túong Ót Tói Viet-Nam)
2 tbsp fish sauce
6 tbsp water
5 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 limes
1 large fresh clove garlic peeled and smashed

Place sugar, water, vinegar, fish sauce, Serrano pepper, chili sauce and juice of one lime in a small pot. Warm on stovetop until sugar just melts. Remove from heat and let cool completely. Add juice of second lime, and garlic.

Next prepare the filling. Sauté shallot in one table spoon of canola oil until translucent, add mung bean sprout and cook briefly just to wilt them a bit. Sprinkle with salt. Set aside.

To make the batter, place cooked and cooled mung beans, salt, turmeric powder, and coconut milk in food processor and whiz until smooth. Transfer to a large bowl. Add water, rice flour, corn starch and whisk to combine. Mix in scallions. Adjust consistency if too thick with a bit more water.

Add one tablespoon canola oil to a non-stick skillet on high heat. Let it warm up. Depending on the diameter of the pan, ladle in one or two scoops of batter. Spread batter evenly on surface of pan, add some mushrooms so tips are showing on the edge of one side of the pancake. Cook for a couple of minutes, until border is crispy. Flip with a spatula and cook for another minute, flip back again, add a bit of sautéed mung bean sprouts and fold it to shape into half moon. Repeat process with rest of the batter.

Serve the pancakes and salad with spicy dipping sauce.

{ 0 comments }

Polenta is a popular staple back home in Brazil. I grew up eating lots of it and never got bored. My mother cooked it on her fire wood stove in an iron pan. It had to cook forever! So she would use a wooden spoon to stir it occasionally while she prepared other delicious dishes at the same time. Wood fires are tricky and you can’t always get excellent temperature control. Occasionally the polenta would burn a bit at the bottom. That was the part I liked the most. That burned crust had a singular smoky flavor whose memory makes my mouth water. Mom didn’t like it, despite everyone praising it to the skies. She was a perfectionist in the kitchen.

shiitake mushroom polenta with truffle salt

shiitake mushroom polenta with truffle salt

my polenta and truffle salt--thanks for that Devaki!

my polenta and truffle salt--thanks for that Devaki!

My mother made her polenta in one of two ways. Both started with just corn, salt and water. For the first variation, she’d cover it with a nice tomato sauce. Alternatively, she’d let it harden then cut it into finger-sized pieces which she’d fry in hot oil. Sometimes day old polenta would appear for our breakfast too. Delish!

Yotam Ottolenghi in Plenty tells the story of his dad making polenta for him while growing up which reminded me of my own childhood. So this dish is in the spirit of Ottolenghi’s father and my mother. I’ve modified his recipe mostly because I didn’t have all the ingredients. And of course I made the polenta mom’s way (on an electric stove if you were wondering).

shiitake mushroom polenta with truffle salt

6½ cups vegetable broth*
2 cups yellow corn grits (I used organic Bob’s Red Mill)
1 tsp kosher salt
½ cup 6 month aged Manchego cheese, sliced thinly
1/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Kosher salt
2½ cups fresh shiitake mushrooms, halved with stems if soft enough
Truffle salt
3 tbsp butter
4 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp chopped chives
3 cloves garlic, minced

*for the broth:

1 carrot
2 shallots
1 stalk celery

Begin by making the broth. Fill a pot with 8-10 cups of water, add celery, carrot and shallot, bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Discard solids.

Add 6 and ½ cups veggie broth to a heavy bottomed pan and bring it to a boil. Add salt, gradually stir in corn grits. Reduce temperature to medium low and cook for 30 minutes. You need to stir it frequently to prevent sticking. A whisk does this job fairly well.

Ten minutes before polenta is ready turn the broiler on and prepare the mushrooms. Heat a large skillet on high. I did mine in two batches. Add ½ of the olive oil. Once it becomes aromatic, toss in half of the mushrooms and sauté them until slightly caramelized on the cut side. Stir to cook evenly. In the last minute, add ½ of the garlic. Toss together with mushrooms and just cook long enough for raw aromas to dissipate. Transfer to a bowl and keep warm. Repeat process with the second batch.

At this point polenta should be ready. Turn heat off. Add butter and Parmegiano-Reggiano. Stir. Add a bit more kosher salt if needed. Pour into a serving platter. Spread slices of Manchego cheese over the finished polenta. Broil the dish long enough for cheese to melt and become bubbly, about a minute or so. Remove from oven, top polenta with mushrooms and sprinkle with truffle salt. Return to the oven and broil for a couple of minutes more. Remove from heat. Sprinkle with chives and voilá!

{ 4 comments }

With this unusually cold and wet spring in San Francisco, I feel like I want to eat hearty, earthy food. Something flavorful that fills you up and makes you happy and satisfied. Something like mushroom risotto.
Initially I was going for the Italian approach. The thing with the Italian approach is all that cheese and butter.

Japanese mushroom risotto, or kinoko gohan

Japanese mushroom risotto, or kinoko gohan

I wasn’t feeling dairy-ish. Inspiration struck when we went to a Korean market in Daly City.

The market has a huge assortment of fresh mushrooms for sale. I settled for the shimeji, button and shiitake types. I also bought some aanori seaweed salad, a couple of servings of cucumber and cubed daikon kimchi to serve as side dishes to jazz up our meal a bit more. I served the Japanese mushroom risotto with pan fried mahi-mahi steaks and kabocha pumpkin wedges cooked in dashi-shoyu broth, so we had fun.

Mushroom risotto is still English-Italian. This is originally called kinoko gohan in Japanese. Kinoko stands for mushroom, and gohan, for rice. The dish is rich and flavorful yet does not use a single drop of fat.

Japanese mushroom risotto, or kinoko gohan

1 tray (100g) fresh white shimeji mushrooms, aka beech mushroom, rinsed and very bottom discarded
1 tray (100g) fresh brown shimeji mushrooms, rinsed and very bottom discarded
8 large fresh shiitake mushrooms, rinsed, cut into ½ moons, stems chopped and reserved
1 lb fresh white button mushrooms, rinsed and quartered
3½ cups dashi broth (see below to make fresh)
2 cups Japanese sushi rice
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
1 tbsp mirin
2 tbsp sake
4 tbsp soy sauce
Kosher salt to taste
scallions
toasted sesame oil
Ponzu-soy sauce
1 4×4 inch piece dried kelp (kombu)

Wipe white layer of salt off the kombu leaf using a wet paper towel. Put it in a sauce pan with 4 cups of water and shiitake mushroom stems. Let soak for 30 minutes. Place saucepan on stove top, and bring to a boil. Immediately turn it off, remove from heat and let kelp and mushroom stems continue soak for another 15 minutes. This is your dashi broth. Discard mushroom stems. Kelp can be stored in the fridge and reused another time soon, otherwise simply discard it.

Bring three cups of prepared dashi to a boil. Add ginger, mirin, sake and soy sauce, a sprinkle of kosher salt and all the mushrooms. Cook mushrooms for a couple of minutes. Scoop them out of the broth and set aside. Top up broth with hot water (if needed) to make up for 3 and ½ cups then add rice. Bring temperature to a boil. Turn it down to medium low. Stir rice to prevent sticking. Cover and cook for about 14 minutes, lid on, until liquid absorbed. Stir occasionally. Top with mushrooms and their liquid. Cover and cook on low for another couple of minutes to warm through. Remove from heat and keep pan covered for another 5 minutes.

Transfer rice to a serving platter. Scatter with chopped scallion. Serve with toasted sesame oil and ponzu-soy sauce on the side.

{ 3 comments }

quinoa tabouli

by Heguiberto on March 13, 2012

quinoa tabouli

quinoa tabouli

I made this dish for a “healthy-“themed potluck at the office the other day. Several areas of my company are on an inter-departmental contest for weight loss. I am impressed with the dedication of my colleagues and the number of pounds some people are dropping. Go marketing team! The recipe is a variation on tabouli with endive and escarole, which is also quite healthy. Here the quinoa adds additional protein. They’re these incredible little seed power-packs. I was inspired by our recent visit to Herbivore where we tried something similar. This makes a perfect vegan meal.

quinoa tabouli

1½ cups quinoa
4 whole scallions, chopped
1 bunch Italian parsley, chopped
1 bunch mint, chopped
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cube vegetarian bouillon
1 pinch cayenne pepper
Freshly ground black pepper
Kosher salt

Rinse and soak quinoa for about 10 minutes. Drain, transfer to a sauce pan add 2 cups of water and the cube of vegetarian bouillon. Bring to a boil then reduce temperature to low and cook until soft but not mushy. Add more water if needed. Pour quinoa over a strainer and let it drain excess water and cool down to room temperature.

Once quinoa has cooled, add the rest of the ingredients. Adjust salt to taste. Let sit at room temperature before serving, or better yet, refrigerate and serve the following day. The tabouli will taste even better.

{ 3 comments }

black-eyed peas with purple kale and polenta

March 12, 2012

This intensely flavorful recipe comes from the wonderful blog, Pescatarian Journal. We always feel a spiritual connection with Alaiyo’s food, which is land-animal free, often vegetarian and low fat, and using both familiar and unusual ingredients in exciting ways. Her black-eyed peas and polenta with minced collards really caught my eye. This then is my […]

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authentic Brazilian-style white rice

January 26, 2012

This is one of those recipes that is so simple, one wonders why it should even be written. Though I had no idea how to prepare flavorful white rice until I met Heguiberto. It was not something in my culinary universe. If pressed, I’d just toss the rice in with some boiling water and let […]

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