jasmine rice

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 it cook. But that never tastes very good.

authentic Brazilian-style white rice

authentic Brazilian-style white rice

This is the traditional recipe Heguiberto’s Brazilian mother taught. I’ve travelled to Brazil several times now and his sisters make it in just the same way. We tend to use Thai jasmine rice at home, though any will do.

authentic Brazilian-style white rice

1 cup Thai jasmine rice or similar
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp Kosher salt
2 cups water

Add olive oil and salt to a medium saucepan on high heat. Once oil heats up, add rice. Stir to coat with oil. Next add water and bring to a boil, covered, stirring occasionally. Keeping pan covered, reduce to simmer. Stir during simmer. Cook until all water absorbed. Remove from heat, and let sit covered about 5 minutes. Fluff and serve.

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I made this Mexican rice the other day to go with my tutu de feijão. I don’t even know anymore how Mexican or Tex-Mex, Brazilian or Californian this combo might be. It is vegetarian, but that sounds as limiting as any other category. I want to call it “international,” but these days that implies sort of gourmet multinational with a fancy presentation. And though this is gourmet, it sure ain’t fancy. So I’m going to follow the lead of my sometime culinary muse, Alton Brown, and quote him. This is simply “good eats!”

vegetarian rice with tomatoes

vegetarian rice with tomatoes

vegetarian rice with tomatoes

1 cup jasmine rice, rinsed
1 cup diced canned tomatoes with juices
1 cup water
1 clove garlic, crushed
½ small yellow onion, chopped
½ tsp ground cumin
Salt and black pepper to taste
4 tbsp olive oil

Heat saucepan with olive oil. Add onion and sauté until translucent. Add garlic and sauté until aromatic. Add rice and toss to coat. Add water, tomato, cumin. Bring rice to a boil, turn temperature to low. Give it a good stir. Cover and cook until liquid is absorbed—about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let it sit, lid on, for 10 minutes before serving it. Obviously, serve with beans.

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The first time I ate homemade paella was at our charming friend, Cesar Rennert’s, beautiful beach house in Remsenburg, on Long Island, NY, many summers ago. He prepared it himself, which was already remarkable, as he much prefers eating out at restaurants. It was simply incredible: so many thrilling and flavorful ingredients, and the final dish, presented family style at table, was so colorful. He taught us how to make paella that very day.

seafood paella with Maine lobster

seafood paella with Maine lobster

The following year we went on vacation to Spain. Ah, Spain: what a marvelous destination. Actually we didn’t expect much before going. It was David’s idea. Then Steven and I were more fascinated by Italy than anyplace else. But wow! Spain rocks. So much history, gorgeous people, delicious food, and you’re practically swimming in olive oil wherever you go. I like that. As a souvenir, we bought a non-stick paella pan from the gourmet supermarket chain, El Corte Inglés.

We’ve been using it since, for lots of things, including some of paella’s many tasty cousins, like pilaf and polow.

Paella is great for a party because it tends to be big, beautiful and impresses a crowd. Do you make paella? What kind? In Spain, there were so many varieties that you could get entire cookbooks devoted to paella, make a new recipe every day and probably be able to cook something different for a whole year.

This lobster paella was a special treat for my niece’s recent California visit. We went to our favorite, Sun Fat, for the freshest seafood. Impulsively, Steven suggested the lobster. I wasn’t so sure, since the whole Dungeness crab slaughter in December, I didn’t think that I was ready for a repeat performance quite yet. But they’re great at Sun Fat, and did the dirty deed for me. I didn’t watch the gruesome spectacle. Instead I selected the rest of the seafood.

This was my first go cooking lobster. I sort of improvised after the Joy of Cooking let me down (they only teach you how to cook it whole), thinking of it as very large shrimp or something. The final dish was really good. This is interactive food. You need to use your hands to really get the most out of it, so perhaps this isn’t for upscale dining.

assembling the seafood paella

assembling the seafood paella

seafood paella with Maine lobster

2lb fresh lobster, split in half and cleaned
1lb cleaned squid bodies and tentacles, bodies cut into rings
1lb mahi-mahi steak, cut into 1inch cubes
1lb large sea scallops
1 cup basmati rice, rinsed
1 cup Thai Jasmine rice, rinsed
1 lb small clams (little neck)
~4 cups (homemade) vegetable broth
4 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup Spanish green olives, sliced
1 tsp Spanish sweet paprika
1 small container saffron threads (a large pinch)
½ cup dry white wine
Arbequina olive oil
Black pepper
1 cup sweet peas
1 red bell pepper, diced
Sea salt
Wedges of lemon (optional)

Make vegetable broth by boiling water for about 10 minutes with bits of vegetables from your fridge. I used stalks of collard greens and celery, couple of slices of onion, one carrot. Set aside.

Briefly scald red pepper and peas in vegetable broth, set aside.

Add a couple tablespoons of olive oil to paella pan along with half of garlic. Sizzle for a minute or so. Add lobster, sprinkle with salt and black pepper, cover pan and cook for 3-4 minutes until lobster shell turns red. Crack claws. Transfer lobster to a platter. Pour excess juice into a bowl.

Return pan to burner. Add a bit more of olive oil to it then the fish. Sprinkle with a bit of salt, cook for a minute or so on each side. The inside will be a bit raw but that’s okay. Transfer to a warm platter. Pour any excesses juices into bowl with lobster juice. Prepare the scallops the same.

Return pan to burner, add a bit of olive oil to pan then squid. Sprinkle with some salt and pepper and cook just for a minute, remove from pan as the squid begins to curl. Transfer juices to lobster juice bowl.

Return paella pan to burner, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add saffron and paprika and stir to tint the oil. Add rice, seafood juice and broth to make up to approximately 3½ cups of liquid. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce temp to medium and let it cook until juices are about three fourths absorbed.

Meanwhile heat up one tablespoon olive oil in a small pan, add remaining garlic, salt, black pepper and sauté until aromatic. Add clams. Shake pan so clamshells get covered with olive oil. Add wine, cover and cook on high heat until most clams have opened. Immediately remove from heat. Let rest for few minutes, covered, so the remaining clams will open. If there are any that don’t, discard them. Pour remaining wine/clam juice over rice. Remove and discard the clamshell without any meat in it. Keep meat-filled clamshells warm.

Stir pepper and peas into wet rice. Arrange lobster halves, mahi-mahi cubes, scallops, clams in half shells, squid bodies and tentacles over it. Cover and let it finish cooking for another 5 minutes. Scatter olives over, drizzle with a bit more of olive oil and serve with wedges of lemon.

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This recipe is a take on stuffed cabbage drama, the delectable Macedonian stuffed cabbage dish our friends Aleks & Christian taught us to make in 2009, right before their move back to New York. Of course, that was the original drama: their relocating back East. And the fact that there were five chefs in our tiny kitchen added to the excitement. We miss you guys!

vegan stuffed cabbage

vegan stuffed cabbage

In his recipe, Aleks used preserved whole leaf cabbage, which, for some reason, is not easy to come by here in California. Maybe we’re too far from Eastern European? They gave us a whole jar as a going-way gift when they moved. The brand is Zergüt. They are purveyors of Eastern European foods as well as Greek and Indian. I think their things are pretty good, so if you bump into any give them a try.

Aleks mentioned that the stuffed cabbage “drama” can be made using fresh or preserved cabbage, or a mix of both. Since I still had that single jar of the preserved I got from them, I decided to go with the mixed method.

I changed the original recipe a bit. For instance I rinsed the preserved cabbage to get rid of the salt and the excessive kraut flavor, not that there’s anything wrong with that. I just wanted to make it a bit milder.

To prepare the fresh cabbage leaves for stuffing, I followed the excellent advice of a great food blog, whose name, unfortunately, I don’t remember and forgot to write down. This blog recommended steaming the whole fresh cabbage after removing the core with a knife. That allows you to easily peel the leaves free (though they’re hot, so watch your fingers).

This turned out to be really good. We loved it the first night. We brought some leftovers to our dear friend, John’s, the next day and we all enjoyed them again. The leftover-leftovers proved to be super the following day, too. For sure I shall be making more of this once we get the kitchen back in its groove again.

vegan stuffed cabbage

1 jar preserved whole cabbage leaves (sauerkraut)
1 medium to large head of fresh cabbage
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cups Thai jasmine rice
½ tsp dried fenugreek leaves
1 cup broken raw cashew nuts
1 cup soy protein
1 can Roma tomatoes with juice (24oz)
1 tbsp paprika
5 fronds Italian parsley
Fresh black pepper to taste
Kosher salt to taste
3 fresh tomatoes, cut into slices
½ lemon, juiced (or more)
1 green bell pepper, chopped
~2 cup hot lightly salted vegetable broth or just plain water
5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 whole scallions, chopped

steaming the fresh cabbage

steaming the fresh cabbage

beautiful steamed cabbage leaves ready for stuffing

beautiful steamed cabbage leaves ready for stuffing

Soak soy protein in hot water for about 10 minutes. Rinse in cold water and squeeze out as much water as possible. Set aside.

Place 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a stockpot. Add onion and cook until translucent. Add soy protein, paprika, salt, black pepper, cashews then sauté for a couple of minutes. Add rice and continue sautéing for another minute or so. Add canned tomato with juices along with ½ cup of water. Bring temperature to a boil and then reduce to simmer for about 5 minutes, just as so to parboil the rice. Stir every minute or so to prevent burning and sticking. Set aside with lid on for all juices to be absorbed.

filling the base of a heavy pot with veggies prior to adding stuffed cabbage prevents sticking

filling the base of a heavy pot with veggies prior to adding stuffed cabbage prevents sticking

beginnning to layer the stuffed cabbage

beginnning to layer the stuffed cabbage

more layers of stuffed cabbage

more layers of stuffed cabbage

boiling the veggie broth after stuffed cabbage have all been added

boiling the veggie broth after stuffed cabbage have all been added

Rinse and drain preserved cabbage, reserving a couple of tablespoons of the preserving liquid to pour over the rolled cabbage later on.

Meanwhile cut the core of the fresh cabbage off from its base using a pairing knife. Remove any wilted or damaged outer leaves. Place trimmed cabbage in a steamer and steam for about 12 minutes. Carefully peel outer leaves off and set aside. They should be large enough to roll up with stuffing. With mine I was able to stuff about ¾ of the cabbage.

Trim the leaves a bit by cutting off the bumpy part next to the stem to allow them to flatten better.

Using a large heavy pot, fill the bottom about an inch with leftover fresh and a leaf of preserved cabbage that you’ve chopped. Scatter tomato slices, green pepper, and scallions over cabbage. Lightly season with salt and pepper. Drizzle about a tablespoon of olive oil over top.

Build your stuffed cabbage by flattening the leaves on a cutting board. Then add a tablespoon or more of the rice mix in the center of each leaf, depending on its size. Fold it like you were rolling a cigar or making a burrito, tucking the sides in. Place it carefully, folded side down at the bottom of the pan. Repeat process with remaining leaves. Pack them tightly in the pan, trying to alternate between fresh and preserved cabbage. Pour hot broth and reserved kraut juice over stuffed cabbage, add parsley, drizzle with remaining of olive oil. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for a half hour. Let stand 10-15 min before serving. Despite all the steps I find making this is a breeze. So give it a try sometime and let us know what you think. Cheers!

wonderful platter of vegan stuffed cabbage

wonderful platter of vegan stuffed cabbage

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I made this simple rice dish using some of the leftover fish stock from Hegui’s salt cod with chickpea purée on Texas toast that he made the other day. I tried to be fancy by wrapping the finished rice in nori sheets, sort of like hand rolls that you might get at your favorite sushi place. The experience was humbling and gives me new admiration for sushi chefs. Even something so simple-looking—wrapping up a sheet of seaweed paper in a cone shape—proved incredibly difficult, at least if you want it to look elegant. The taste was good, though.

Thai jasmine rice cooked with codfish stock wrapped in nori

Thai jasmine rice cooked with codfish stock wrapped in nori

Thai jasmine rice cooked with codfish stock wrapped in nori

1 cup uncooked Thai jasmine rice
2 cups fish stock
2 tbsp. Olive oil
6 sushi nori sheets
Kimchi Furikake rice seasoning (optional)

This dish does not need additional salt because of the fish stock.

Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan. Add rice to oil and stir to coat grains evenly and prevent sticking. Add fish stock. Cover, bring to boil then lower to simmer. Cook until liquid is absorbed, about ten to fifteen minutes. Stir occasionally during cooking.

Place about two tablespoons of rice on the center of a nori sheet. Sprinkle with some rice seasoning. Carefully wrap rice. Enjoy.

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