Pilaf: Cooks Best if You Remember the Rice

Pilaf: Cooks Best if You Remember the Rice

I went through a phase where I tried to replicate a recipe without re-reading it. Sometimes that works out great. Other times, such as when I made this pilaf and forgot the rice – but not the amount of water you’d need to make it cook through – it did not work out at all.

Live, learn, and then remember that without the rice, a rice-and-lentil pilaf is just a bunch of lentils swimming in spice.

Rice and Lentil Pilaf from “The Vegetarian Gourmet’s Easy International Recipes”

dallop oil for sauteeing
1/2 c onions, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp silvered almonds
2 3/4 c water
3/4 c brown rice, uncooked
1/2 c lentils, uncooked
1/4 cup craisins
2 tsp soy milk
1 tsp curry
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp ginger
1/8 tsp allspice
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper

sautee onion and garlic in oil until translucent. Add in all ingredients, bring to a boil. Cover pot, and simmer for 40 minutes. Do not uncover. If time allows, let sit for 5 minutes after removing from flame, fluff rice, and serve.

Antidote to Desperation: All the Food Groups Salad

Antidote to Desperation: All the Food Groups Salad

I hit rock bottom while holding a bag of frozen succotash. Two years ago I was standing in Trader Joe’s, fifteen minutes before closing, next to a basket so full that I could only get it across the store by dragging it. I had no food in the house and no time to cook whatever I could purchase in the next few minutes.

A week before this episode, Special Correspondent Na’ama pointed out that I could order groceries online and have them delivered. I considered that but there were two problems; I was never home – left at 7am and returned at 12am – and I still didn’t have time to cook. Could I have gotten around that? Probably. But I didn’t have the wherewithal.

I was tired.

I was overworked.

I wasn’t thinking straight.

So, for the months that my work schedule subsumed my life, I ran to the grocery store late at night and grabbed anything that didn’t require preparation and appeared marginally nutritious. I don’t remember what else was in my cart when I picked up the succotash; I do remember wondering wondering why a grocery store would close before 12am and how I was going to get my basket all the way to the registers – and somewhere in the back of my mind was the question of what succotash tasted like.

I wish I had had this recipe then. Because it turns out that I don’t like succotash. Maybe because it’s not meant to be eaten straight out of the freezer.

All the Food Groups Salad

1/2 package frozen corn [If you have time to buy and cook corn, go for it.]

1 cup barley [cooked]

1/2 red onion, diced

1 cup cannellini beans

1 to 2 cups chopped vegetables [I used 1 cup sliced snap peas]

2 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp apple cider vinegar

spices to taste

It’s excellent served warm. Or cold. And it’ll last until it’s time to go shopping again. At which point, head straight past the succotash.

Supreme Kashi Judge

Supreme Kashi Judge

Arguments happen. Sometimes they’re ended when people agree to disagree – as long as they privately know the other person is totally, completely, and irrevocably wrong. On occasion, they’re resolved when one side convinces the other. But then there are arguments which are so all-important that neither side can concede but a resolution must still be reached. That’s when you need a judge of final resort.

In the kitchen, Bubby was that judge. When Special Correspondent Ellen said I couldn’t replace sugar with applesauce, when my dad said I couldn’t leave chicken out overnight, and when I insisted that bread could last more than 6 months in the freezer, Bubby was called in to arbitrate. The answers were you can, you can’t, and of course it does.

There was, however, someone else I could have called. The one person who cooked with Bubby every Rosh Hashana and Peasch for more decades than I’ve lived. A person to whom Bubby would defer. Great-Aunt Rita. Sisters-in-law, they lived a few blocks away for over 40 years – and still they’d talk on the phone almost daily.

So, when Aunt Rita passed judgement on Dad’s kashi, it was fearsome. This is what happened, according to Dad:

The kashi was brought out, and Aunt Rita began her questioning.
Aunt Rita: What kind did you buy?
This had taken a turn that I was not expecting. I was going to be quizzed. I knew she meant. She was asking what was the size of the kashi grains.
Me: Coarse, uhhh sometimes medium.
Aunt Rita: Right
She didn’t say good, because good would imply a range of correct answers. There was only one.
Aunt Rita: How do you make it?
Me: the recipe on the box.
She nodded. I was relieved. She did not ask about bow ties, which I took to mean that she didn’t think they were essential. I had left them out.
Aunt Rita: I have a new way of making it. You mix the kashi with egg, microwave, separate with a fork, as you have to do. Microwave again and pour boiling water over it. It comes out great.
I have not tried it yet, but maybe the next time.

For traditionalists, the original recipe is still available here.

Grains, grains, and more grains

Grains, grains, and more grains

First, I finished off the kasha and quinoa.

Then the excess bread.

Now, the rice is gone too.

Here’s how it happened.

Neither kasha nor qunioa are native to my homeland – or my pantry. However, they were both called upon in recipes and had been hanging around in the back of my cupboard – far in the back, behind the sprinkles and icing – ever since. They probably thought they were getting thrown out, but I had other plans.

To clean them out of the pantry, I found a recipe that called for quinoa – more quinoa than I had on hand. So kasha filled in as excess quinoa, and no one knew it was a mixed marriage of grains. Though the combo did leave me craving Bubby’s Kashie

Quinoa & Kale Salad: Spicy, sweet, and peanut buttered

[based on a true recipe which is Thai and doesn’t involve kale]

1 c uncooked quinoa and kasha
1 3/4 c water or vegetable stock
2 carrots, sliced
1 to 2 heads of kale [the real recipe doesn’t call for kale. I thought it did and purchased some accordingly. Rather, I tried to purchase some but the signage was unclear. I might have purchased collard greens instead. However, hearty lettuces are all interchangeable. Don’t worry about it; I didn’t.]
2 scallions, minced
2 coloured peppers
3 handfuls of peanuts; ie, whatever is left in the cupboard

3 tsp peanut butter
3 tbsp sriracha sauce
3 tbsp vinegar
1 tbsp water
1 1/2 tbsp brown sugar
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp lemon juice [there’s so much of this in the fridge, it might never get finished. Hope the new roommates enjoy a healthy dose of lemon juice]
1/2 tsp ground ginger

In a pot, combine the quinoa, kasha, water, carrots, and kale/collard greens. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

In a teflon-coated pan, melt peanut butter. Beat in the remaining dressing ingredients.

Mix grains with scallions and peppers. Pour dressing in, and integrate. Garnish with peanuts and present with pleasure.


As for those other grains – the bread and rice – they became Stuffing and 1-2-3 Rice Salad. Excellent as usual.

It appears that neither of those recipes have immigrated from the soon-be-defunct googlereader to the blog. Here they are – better than ever:

Bubby’s Stuffing

Old bread (half a freezer full, or thereabouts)
3 onions, chopped
7 cloves of garlic, minced
2 eggs

soften bread in water. Squeeze out water and crumble soften bread into a bowl, mix in 2 eggs. Sautee onions and garlic with oil – use twice more than you usually would. Mix sauteed onions and garlic with bread, stir in salt, pepper, basil and oregano to taste. Bake at 350 for 1 hour.

For the total Bubby treatment ball the mixture and voile – stuffing as it was meant to be eaten at Bubby’s table. 

For the rice salad that can’t be beat – also known as Dad’s Signature Dish when made with barley –

 1-2-3 Rice Salad 

1 tbsp tamari/soy sauce
2 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp oil
1 clove garlic, minced

2 cups of cooked rice
1 carrot, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
1 tsp chives or parsley

1/4 cup of nuts, chopped
1/2 can chickpeas

Mix the dressing and allow to sit for 1/2 hour.

Mix the rest of the salad and dress.

Dad’s Note: The salad is flexible, and adaptable to all sorts of ingredients. Also great for green salads and as sauce for fish. 

There’s Kashie In Your Future

There’s Kashie In Your Future

I cannot see the future. But sometimes I think I know just how people will response to life. For a sample of my prowess: I know that anytime I say “penguin,” people will smile.

But not everything is as simple as that. About a year ago, I decided to make kashie, also called buckwheat groats, and told Special Correspondent Perel just how I foresaw it:

me: I also really want to make kashie, or kasha varniske as Ellen calls it. But Ellen said that groats are expensive.
Perel: Ohhh yum.
me: Is there truth to this?
Perel: Do they still make groats?
me: Yes, Perel, people are still farming buckwheat. Some of them in your home state.
Perel: I thought groats were a kind of goat. I guess that’s wrong of me.
me: It’s a rather odd position to take. Well, if it’s a reasonable price I’ll call Bubby and have her walk me through the recipe. Then I’ll call my Dad as I make it in a panic, knowing it won’t be as good as Bubby’s, but instead my Mom will answer the phone and she’ll give me good advice about groats – and how to make them Indian-style.
Perel: And there you have it.
me: Well, that only gets you to the making-it stage, then I have to report back. That’s when Bubby tells me that mine must have been better than hers; at which point I say that it was the same, meaning delicious, or that I ruined the dish. If I ruined it, she’ll tell me I didn’t. Then I’ll try to convince her I did – only when I tell her how much I had to throw out will she believe me. Then she’ll repeat her very vague instructions, and I’ll agree to having done all of them. When I tell my dad he’ll either congratulate me, if I did well, or lament with me if it came out poorly. If it didn’t come out well, he’ll tell me not to blame myself – it needed more gribines which they just don’t carry in the stores anymore. When I tell my mom she’ll break out in her “I Love Kashi” song, but she’ll probably hold off on the dance moves.
But that’s not how it turned out. I bought all the ingredients, and called Bubby. She didn’t answer. She was out of her apartment, doing something more exciting than waiting by the phone. I called again, and she was still out with friends. I tried a third time and when there was no answer I gave up.
I called my parents instead, and my dad picked up. I explained my dilemma  and he reassured me that it was no problem; there was a recipe on the box. I checked, but my kashie came in a bag without a recipe. So, my dad poked around in the cabinets until he found a box of kashie, and read off the following recipe:
2 c broth
2 tbsp margarine
1/4 to 1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1 c kashie
1 egg
1 onion

Heat broth and margarine to a boil, add kashie. Stir in salt and pepper, simmer for 8 – 12 minutes until all liquid is absorbed. My dad explained that the egg was optional. I quizzed him about it, and he thought it added nothing. So out it stayed.

Separately, fry 1 onion. Upon consultation, I fried three.

To make my kashie just like Bubby’s I cooked bow-tie noodles – that came in a box with instructions – and then stirred together the kashie, onions, and noodles.

It was good, but not as delicious as Bubby’s.

I called and told her – this time she answered – and that part of the conversation went exactly as anticipated. She told me I was wrong, and that it had been delicious. She insisted, until I caved. Finally, I admitted that it had been fine – but not as good as hers. That got her thinking, so Bubby had me read her the directions my dad had dictated.

“Well,” she said, puzzled, “that’s right.” I interrupted to say that I’d left out the egg, because my father told me it was fine. “I use the egg,” replied Bubby, though she voiced doubt that an egg could cause a difference in flavor. However, I was satisfied and left it at that. I did resolved to call her the next time I made kashie so that she could walk me through it – just as I’d originally planned.

But I didn’t plan for the fact that I can’t see the future. Before I made kashie again, Bubby passed away. In the year since, I don’t think I’ve made any of her recipes. It was just too discouraging to know that I couldn’t call her for help when something didn’t taste right. I was convinced that Bubby’s version would always be better.

But the truth is that Bubby was convinced that anything I made would be better than anything she could make. While I might not have agreed, Bubby was the more knowledgeable cook. So who am I to argue?