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Archive for the ‘Rice’ Category

“Ahmaga!  AHMAGAHH!”  The Boy was clearly trying to tell me something.

“What?” I asked, half-afraid he didn’t like the kitchari.  I knew I liked it, but he’d never tried it before.  Probably because I’d made him a steak out of misplaced guilt or something.  I do that.

Oh, God, I AM turning into my mother!

Anyway.  The Boy was making frantic fanning gestures at his mouth.

“HAAAHT!  Is haht! ::cough cough swallow::”

What’s that, The Boy?  You’re trying to tell me I’m hot?  Well, way to point out the obvious, but thanks, nonetheless, my good man!

“I was trying to say, the kitchari is really hot.  But oh, man, I could eat this every day!”

Oh.  Right.  Well, that’s still complimentary.  I guess.

But kitchari isn’t exactly pretty or elegant–in fact, it’s best described as, well, gruel.  But he’s right–kitchari kicks all kinds of ass.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with kitchari, it’s a dish that’s very popular among those who live according to the principles of Ayurvedic medicine.  Ayurveda is a philosophy and healing art designed to restore the harmony and balance of the body.  The main premise is that people can generally be classified as having one of four main body types, and that this type determines how you should eat, sleep, and exercise for the best health and longevity.

Whatever, man.  I just think it’s really good.

So what is it? Well, it’s a thick, stew-y dish of split yellow peas, rice, vegetables, and easily-digested spices, with a texture that I can best liken to a very thick, starchy oatmeal.  Because it’s low in fiber, non-challenging for compromised digestive systems, and extremely nutritious, it’s often used as the sole means of sustenance for ill people trying to get their bodies back into balance.

READ: I eat it when I’m hung over.

But that doesn’t mean kitchari is bland–the spice blend of fresh fennel and mustard seeds, along with crushed cumin, coriander, and turmeric makes this savory, warm, and not boring at all.  Try kitchari if you’re recovering from digestive upset and feel you may not be getting the nutrition you need.  Ulcer-sufferers, IBS patients, vegetarians, those poor, poor people making unkeepable promises to never, ever drink again, and even just healthy people who want a big, warm bowl of something primitively nourishing can all benefit from a big, warm bowl of this MAGICAL STUFF THAT TOTALLY BROUGHT ME BACK TO THE LAND OF THE LIVING OH GOD.

What’s that you say?  You’re horribly hung over, you say?  You feel sick as a dog, you say?

FAN-FUCKING-TASTIC!  Let’s eat!

Kitchari Recipe
Makes, like, a whole bunch

Go Get:
1 cup Brown Jasmine Rice (traditional recipes recommend white/basmati rice…I love the scent and texture of brown jasmine so that’s what I use.  You use what you like.)
2 cups Mung Dal (split yellow peas); I’ve also used half yellow split and half green split with great results
7 cups water
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 Tbs. Ghee (I just use regular melted butter, unclarified; use oil to make this vegan)
1Tbsp Fennel Seeds
3 tsp. Mustard Seeds
2 tsp. Cumin Seeds
2 tsp. Turmeric Powder
2 tsp. Coriander Powder
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
Generous pinch ginger
1 heaping cup frozen peas
2 medium yellow potatoes
Large handful baby carrots, sliced into wheels
Large handful chopped cilantro leaves

Go Do:
Rinse and sort mug dal thoroughly.  Heat the butter/ghee/oil in a large, thick-bottomed pot, like a Dutch Oven.  Sauté the seeds in the fat until they start to pop.   Then add the other spices.   Add the mung dal and salt, and sauté for 1 or 2 minutes. Add water, bring to boil, then simmer for 30-40 minutes or until the dal is about 2/3 cooked.

Add rice and these vegetables. Stir to mix, adding extra water if the mixture is too thick.  Bring back to a boil, then simmer for 20-30 minutes or until rice is fully cooked.  Keep checking to see if you need to add more water.  You want to achieve as little remaining water as possible, so make sure you leave the lid on the pot when you’re not stirring or checking it.  You’re not making a soup, or even a stew–remember my thick oatmeal analogy.  When the rice is cooked through, taste the mixture to see if it needs additional salt.  Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the chopped cilantro.

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When very little else last night was coming together with minimal effort, at least dinner was–this soup took ten minutes, and the hardest thing about it was cooking the brown rice I served alongside it.  Quick as a flash!

Which, of course, makes me think of The Flash.

In my ignorance of such important details, I’d always assumed The Flash’s superpower was his ability to intimidate and disgust by getting naked really quickly. 

Whatever, the name’s really ambiguous, all right?  

APPARENTLY, The Flash is actually more about doing important things super speedily.  Here I would just like to interject that under the right circumstances, getting naked to intimidate and disgust could be considered an important activity.

Look, I’m not saying The Flash went around flashing people to get his jollies.  I’m just saying he could have, if he’d wanted to.  And his wanting to is not that far-fetched a concept.  I mean, what if The Evil Doctor Whatshisface, turned psychotic by his disfiguring childhood accident while doing…whatever…, decided to hold the Mayor Blahington III of Somewheresville hostage, and if people didn’t turn over X natural resource, which was the only missing component to Doctor Whatshisface’s new mind-control thingy that runs on insert obscure crystal here, Doctor Whatshisface would kill the Mayor Blahington III, who’d been the only man capable of cleaning up the effed up streets of Somewheresville when they’d been overrun by violent gangsters and warlords who it turns out–GASP!–were actually henchmen of Doctor Whatshisface, and OMG, this comic just got soooo deep!?  The Flash could’ve probably zoomed in on Doctor Whathisface’s ass and been all, Hey, check this out, and Doctor Whatshisface would’ve been all, Lol, The Flash, you think you’re so cool, well not even you can save–OH SWEET GOD IN HEAVEN PUT THAT AWAY!!–and he’d be so intimidated and disgusted that The Flash would have time to zip up his little pleather suit and make off with Mayor Blahington III.

So about that recipe! 

Thai Coconut Curry Soup with Shrimp

Go Get:
1/2 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined (I had the frozen, ready to go kind on hand…YES!)
1 can coconut milk
3 cups fish stock or chicken broth
2 Tablespoons red curry paste (The Boy and I like it hot, but you might want to start with 1 and work up from there if you’re not sure)
1 inch piece ginger, peeled and minced
2 Tablespoons lime juice
2 Tablespoons oyster sauce
2 Tablespoons fish sauce
1/2 cup carrot slices
1 cup snow pea pods or green bean segments
healthy handful of fresh cilantro, roughly chopped

Go Do:
Cook your rice or whatever you’re serving alongside, as the soup will come together quickly.  Put stock, ginger, and lime juice into a large pot and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and add the coconut milk, oyster sauce, fish sauce, curry paste, and vegetables.  Cook, covered, until vegetables are crisp-tender (keep an eye on this–it shouldn’t take more than a few minutes).  Throw in the shrimp and continue to simmer until the shrimp is just cooked through, around 3 to 4 minutes.  Toss in the cilantro.  No joke, you’re done.  Taste it to make sure the heat level is up your alley, and then ladle it up, serve alongside a healthy scoop of rice, and ponder the power of nakedness.

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Hey, misfits, have I ever told you guys about the time I accidentally got covered, head-to-toe, in fresh risotto?  And then, how I shamefully ate a full cup of it off of myself before trying to clean up?  And after that, how I used to dab myself behind the ears with risotto before going out for dates and special occasions, just to duplicate the scent?!  No?!  I haven’t?!

Well, thanksfully, that never happened.  But I not-so-secretly wish that it had.

I’m a big fan of risotto, especially now that I’ve devised a few shortcuts for when you’re dog-tired, don’t feel like a trip to the store (time that could be spent drinking, people!), and aren’t fussy about making risotto the “real” way.  First, I start with rice that I’ve pre-cooked in seasoned broth.

Calm down, you purists, you!

Second, I do not use arborio rice, as plain old brown rice works just fine.

Oh, relax!

While these two steps are not authentic and will probably not please the risotto authorities that be, you will end up with a damn fine dinner, and if they help you to consume larger quantities of risotto, then by golly, who do these risotto purists think they are?!  Who?!

No, seriously…who are the purists?  And where do they hang out?  I always wanted to meet one.  (Are they different from Puritans?  Do they not dance?  Dance a little?  Dance only by the book?  Is there a dancing book?)

This isn’t to say that recipes and cookbooks and rules and such don’t have a place–of course they do.  I have what the DSM IV would probably call a clinical addiction to cookbooks.  And if you don’t approach a new food with a bit of humility, you won’t learn something new, and it’ll be harder to strike out on your own with confidence.  But if you have a tendency to let perfectionism paralyze you, you’ll have to make a conscious effort to keep your sense of fun and adventure about you as you cook.

After all, no one ever shed serious tears over a cookie that had way more than the recommended dosage of chocolate chips in it.  Or if there are such people…they must be way boring to party with, no?

And remember, you can just forget what the purists say about risotto–it can, and does, make one hell of a perfume!

Shortcut Pumpkin Bacon Risotto
Makes about 4 servings if you don’t ladle it over yourself, substantially fewer if you do

Ingredients:
3 cups cooked rice
3-5 cups seasoned broth (or do as I do and use half broth, half wine)
olive oil
1 Tablespoon butter
3 thick slices all-natural, nitrite-free bacon, diced
About 1 cup pureed pumpkin (I roasted and pureed my own pumpkin, but canned will work fine as well)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, finely chopped
1/2 tsp. Jamaican Allspice (preferably from The Spice House)
1/4 tsp. Saigon Cinnamon (preferably from The Spice House)
1/2 Tablespoon dried parsley
salt
pepper

Directions:
Put the broth in a pot on the stove and keep it at a nice, gentle simmer.  In a large saucepan, heat a small splash of olive oil and the butter over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and bacon, and sautee, stirring occasionally, until the bacon begins to render its fat, but before it’s crispy or dark.
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At this point, stir in the rice and cook it, stirring constantly, until the rice takes on a golden color.  Add two ladles or so of hot stock, and stir constantly until the rice has absorbed almost all the liquid.  Add another ladle-full and repeat the process.  When the rice mixture is just short of creamy (see picture; you may or may not have to add another ladle to get it there, depending on the rice you used), add your pumpkin and another ladleful of stock.

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Stir gently to combine, and add the allspice, cinnamon, parsley, and salt and pepper to taste. Continue to stir until the risotto has a creamy and tender (though not mushy) consistency.  You’re done!  We actually topped this with a drizzle of black truffle oil, but it’s delicious as is, served along with a bowl of delicate greens.

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