Skip to content

Archive for

rhubarb & orange jam

One of the fruits that I remember adoring from early girlhood was rhubarb. The other was watermelon. I think the love I had for watermelon had more to do with the “staging” than anything else.  Warm July or August, my mom would set me on a sun-warmed patio step. She’d lower a plate into my lap stacked with deep red watermelon wedges, polka-dotted with their shiny black seeds. The sugary juice would drip down my tan arms and fall from my elbows. I remember first her demonstrating, and then her happy encouragement that I spit the seeds as far as I could. (They’d be sprouting like weeds the next summer!) If seed-shooting was what watermelon-eating was still about, I’d probably still be eating it. I’m not sure when and how it happened that watermelons lost their favor with me.  But rhubarb endures. I’ve learned over time that if ever life combines sweet with tart, it makes me deliciously happy.

Those long red and green rhubarb stalks are beginning to appear in our local markets. And with plump, heavy-with-juice navel oranges stacked high, it was time to break out the canning gear. If you’d rather just put jars in the freezer, you can avoid the canning piece.  Seeing these color-filled jars (and others like them) lined up on pantry shelves gives one a sense that all is well, and that (to me) seems worth the effort (even if it’s only an illusion.)

On fresh bread toasted, or (even better!) on buttery brioche, or on a bagel with its thick slab of cream cheese, or spooned over breakfast yogurt, parfait-style, it’s a tart sweet treat.

Rhubarb and Orange Jam

  • 2 navel oranges
  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (reserving the squeezed hulls and seeds)
  • 3 pounds rhubarb, trimmed of any green or soft areas, cut into ½-inch cubes (about 9 cups)
  • 2 cups sugar

Prepare for water-bath canning. Sterilize the jars and keep them hot in the canning pot. Put a small plate in the freezer, and put the flat lids in a heat-proof bowl.

Use a vegetable peeler to cut the outer zest from the oranges, then stacking the slices, cut them into thin julienne strips. Working over a bowl to catch the juices, segment the orange. (If you’d like tips on how, see here.) Reserve the membrane. Put the membranes and any seeds, along with the reserved lemon hulls and seeds, in a cheesecloth bag and tie the bag closed. (Pectin appears naturally in these parts of the fruit and will result in the thickening and setting of the jam.)

Read more

parsnip, sage & parmesan cheese bread

Early this morning I posted a recipe for a curried soup of Parsnips and Apple, but the link I supplied was broken. You’ve probably read in the news lately about the tremendous storms occurring on the sun and the disruptions they’re causing to satellites and GPS’s, with talk of whole electrical grids being knocked out and thousands doing without power for days, and the like. (Do I dare? Or does it sound too much like my dog ate my homework?) Anyway, in an attempt to correct my the sun’s mistakes I’ll provide another link here for the soup, the soup that goes so very well with the bread…the bread that’s so quick and easy to make, and ridiculously easy to eat, still steamy warm and smelling of sage.

Parsnip, Parmesan and Sage Bread

  • 6 ounces (175 g) parsnips
  • 2 ounces (50 g) fresh parmesan, cut into ¼-inch (5 mm) cubes (if your cheese is a bit on the hard and stale side, it won’t melt properly)
  • 1 rounded Tablespoon chopped fresh sage leaves
  • 8 ounces (225 g) self-rising flour (see note)
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • 2 large eggs, beaten lightly with 1 Tablespoon milk

For the topping:

  • 1 ounce (25 g) thin parmesan shavings
  • 1 few whole small fresh sage leaves
  • a little extra flour for dusting
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil

NOTE on self-rising flour: If you don’t have and don’t intend to buy self-rising flour, you can find recipes on line for how to make it yourself using baking powder and salt along with regular flour. I’m not supplying the recipe for it here – I’m not certain how well it stands in for the one you’d buy ready-made enough to recommend it…but a number of people do swear by it.

Preheat oven to 375° (190°C). Position an oven rack quite high. 

 Sift the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl. Coarsely grate the parsnips and add to the flour, then toss well to coat. Add the parmesan cubes and chopped sage and toss. Slowly, a bit at a time, add in the egg/milk mixture, mixing after each addition with a palette knife (or table knife if you don’t have one.) You’ll end up with a rough, loose, sticky dough but don’t be concerned with its looks.

Read more

Sri Lankan Fish “Stew”

On bleak and chilly days, before the Spring, and before the Spring-runs of salmon – which is generally when we’re craving it most we buy a frozen salmon fillet and this is one of our favorite ways to prepare it.  (The salmon remains tender, succulent, moist – if you hadn’t bought it yourself, you wouldn’t know it was frozen.) This dish is savory, sour-sweet (thanks to the tamarind),  warmly and mildly spicy, and coconut-milk-creamy…and, as a bonus, it’s an incredibly healthy meal.

A note on the SPICES:  (I like to use whole seeds when I can, and dry-roasting them brings out their “sweetness” and adds another dimension of flavor to a dish. Besides that, spices you buy already-ground have started to lose some of their potency by the time they make it to your spice cupboard. But if you don’t want to make the purchase and you already have the ground spices on hand, by all means, simply cut in half the quantity of seeds specified below as your guide.)

Sri Lankan Fish Stew

(this should serve at least 4)

  • 2 Tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
  • ½ teaspoon whole peppercorns
  • ¼ teaspoon fennel seed
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • scant 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 3 Italian plum tomatoes chopped (+ 1 more for garnish, or cherry tomatoes, chopped)
  • 1 can unsweetened coconut milk (13½ ounce or 420 ml)
  • 1 Tablespoon tamarind paste, dissolved in 3 Tbl. warm water
  • 1¾ teaspoon teaspoon sugar
  • salt (to taste)
  • 2 pounds (1 kg) salmon (halibut, or sea bass fillets)
  • small bunch cilantro leaves, torn – as garnish
  • Cooked rice, to ladle the stew over. (Basmati is wonderful with this.)

Drop the coriander, cumin and fennel seeds, along with the peppercorns, into a small skillet, using no oil. Place over medium heat and toast the seeds & peppercorns until seeds have begun to release their aroma and have turned a toasty brown, stirring or shaking the pan often. Remove the skillet from the heat and allow to cool for just a minute then grind finely with mortar and pestle or in a spice grinder.

Measure out the other spices and have them ready to add all at once.

Cut the tomatoes in half crosswise – squeeze and shake over sink to release most of their seeds. Then chop.

Read more

“pint-size” spinach souffles

Soufflés – you thought they were beyond you? Tricky, prone to collapsing into an eggy puddle? Or perhaps you thought that only the French have that certain “something”, perhaps in their very genes – an innate knowledge of how to coax great heights out of these poofy delicacies, using the only love language eggs understand. It’s a common misconception, but it’s just Not So! There’s nothing about this dish that puts it out of your league…I can almost promise you that. Making a soufflé in a larger dish, that IS a bit trickier, more prone to collapsing, or rising very lopsided in the first place…but baking each portion in its own little ramekin or cocotte is nearly fool-proof. And really…how cute?

Soufflés aren’t just for breakfast or brunch either. When paired with a crunchy baguette and salad, soufflés make for a light and satisfying dinner. (Pour a bottle of French wine, and they’ll feel right at home.)

Mini Spinach Soufflés

  • 3½ ounces (90 grams) baby spinach leaves
  • 2 Tablespoons (30 g) butter (+ extra for buttering ramekins)
  • ½ cup (50 g) all-purpose flour
  • 3 eggs total – the whites of 3, the yolks of 2
  • 1½ cups milk (350 ml)
  • ½ cup freshly-grated Parmesan
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • dash or 2 nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).

Butter the ramekins or mini-cocottes.

If you aren’t using spinach that was pre-washed (3 times) when you bought it, it’s best to wash again and dry thoroughly. Place the dried spinach in a blender and process until fairly finely chopped.

Separate eggs. Place 2 of the yolks in a small bowl, and gently whisk.

The béchamel (white sauce): In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the flour and stir to blend. Gradually add the milk, stirring or lightly whisking all the while, until mixture has come to a boil and thickened. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add dash or 2 of grated nutmeg. Remove the pot from the heat and allow to cool slightly.

Add a spoonful at a time to the beaten yolks, stirring constantly. Once you’ve added a few spoonfuls to gradually warm the egg yolks, add them to the saucepan stirring as you do so. Stir in all of the spinach and half of the grated cheese. Set aside for the mixture to cool. Read more

a pizza-sorta

kinda Greek-a.

It all begins with our blogging buddy Chicago John’s Spianata. (He’s no stranger to many of you. But if somehow life has passed you by and you’ve never visited his warm Italian home kitchen, come in out of the cold, take off your coat, pull up a chair, smell what’s steaming on the stove and get ready for something like love at first sight.)

For the Spianata dough…if you follow the link above, it’ll take you right there, and John’s background on a dish is always nearly as savory and delightful as the dish itself. But I’ll also provide the recipe here so you don’t have to continually flip back and forth. It’s much like a focaccia, thick, dimpled, moist, pungently olivey. It develops its flavor slowly, with the yeasty “sponge” left overnight, and the dough finished the following day. The way I chose to make this dish is to bake the herb-scattered dough in a hot oven, adding the toppings when it comes out, still steamy hot – the sweet caramelized onions, the roasted small tomatoes, the leaves of baby spinach, the Kalamata olives, the shavings of Feta, and a scattering of Mediterranean herbs. Drizzled with a bit (more) olive oil and a sprinkling of balsamic – it’s sweet and savory and devastatingly delicious! 

The Dough

For the sponge

  • 1 cup flour (5 ounces)
  • 1 cup warm water (approx. 110°F)
  • 1 tsp active yeast

For the finished dough

  • 1/2 cup olive oil, divided
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups flour (10 ounces)
  • 1 teaspoons dried mint
  •  ½ teaspoon dried oregano

Pour water into a small-medium bowl and add the yeast; allow yeast to dissolve and for a bubbles to begin forming on the surface.  Add the flour to make the sponge, mix well, cover, and set aside at room temperature. The sponge should be allowed to rise for at least 8 hours but no more than 20. 12 to 16 hours is usually best. When you ‘re ready to proceed, the sponge’s surface should be mottled with bubbles and it should have a strong yeast scent. (yum!)

To the sponge, add the flour¼ cup of the olive oil and the salt. Knead dough for 5 to 7 minutes. The consistency of the dough should be neither sticky nor dry…the “test” I use is to grab hold of the dough with an open hand, hold it firmly for a few seconds…if when you remove your hand the dough almost wants to cling to it but releases without actually sticking, it’s about perfect. If not this, then add water by the drop-ful or flour by the teaspoonful.  It’s been kneaded enough when the dough is soft and supple, smooth and elastic, and when you press it with a knuckle the dough springs right back at you.) 

Place the finished dough in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic and allow it to rise until doubled – depending on the warmth of your kitchen and a couple other factors, this will take from 1 to 2 hours.  While the dough is rising, prepare all the other ingredients, for which you’ll find instructions below.

Punch the dough down, turn it out onto a floured work surface and cover with a towel. Allow it to rest for 15 minutes. This rest relaxes the dough, making it more pliable.

Pour the remaining ¼ cup of olive oil into a 9 x 12-inch pan, covering the entire bottom of the pan.

After the resting period, place dough onto the pan and, using your fingers, begin stretching it to fit the pan. When it covers about 2/3 of the pan, flip the dough over and continue stretching until the entire pan is covered and there’s enough dough to create a ridge around the pan’s edge. Cover with a towel and allow to rise until doubled again, about 1 hour.  20 Minutes before it’s ready, preheat the oven to 425°F.

Sprinkle with the salt and pepper, and 1 teaspoons dried mint and ½ teaspoon dried oregano. Place it in the preheated oven on the middle rack and back for about 25 minutes. It should be lightly browned. Remove from the oven and top immediately with the toppings in the following order.

The Toppings

Baby Spinach Leaves

Caramelized Onions

Roasted Tomatoes

Kalamata Olives (allow to come to room temp. or gently heated)

Feta Cheese (thinly sliced or crumbled)

a small handful of whole parsley leaves

Aged Balsamic Vinegar

A drizzle more Olive Oil

You’ll want approximately  1 cup each of the spinach leaves, olives, and feta. Instructions for the caramelized onions and tomatoes follow.

“Sun”-dried or Roasted Tomatoes

  • ½ pound to 1 full pound cherry tomatoes (1 pound will leave you quite a few extra to use as you like. They’ll keep in the fridge for at least a week.)
  • coarse sea salt
  • freshly-ground pepper
  • ½ teaspoon (or more) dried mint leaves
  • olive oil (about 2 teaspoons per pound tomatoes)
  • balsamic vinegar (about 2 teaspoons for 1 pound tomatoes)

Preheat oven to 375°F. Cut the tomatoes in half lengthwise and lay on a parchment-lined baking sheet, cut side up. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and mint. Drizzle the olive oil and balsamic over top.

Bake until edges have begun to brown and juices have started to caramelize beneath them. (About 30 to 40 minutes.)

Caramelized Onions (& Garlic)

  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 (or 2) cloves garlic, minced

Read more

Orange Almond Cake

17th of February – we’ve made it more than half way through winter now. The last of these winter days seem to creep though, slow and dark towards Spring. There’s hope of it, and there are signs. Brilliant green soft points of daffodils are pushing through the wet earth near our front door. I put my nose close to a tree’s branches this morning and saw the tiniest swellings of buds. I was in need of seeing them there. I find comfort knowing that tightly folded leaves are tucked safely beneath those leathery coverings until the sun is high enough in the sky to warm this winter air. Weeds, opportunistic and first-comers always, are springing up in our herb garden. It’s time I put my rubber boots on and got after them.  All good signs. I count each one. So while I can know that Spring is inching closer, with bright green leaves and clusters of blossoms only just beneath the surface, I’m still missing the sun very much these days.

It’s about this time of year that I go piling my basket with oranges, and grapefruits, Meyer lemons and limes. Is it the same for you too? We’re craving the citrus. Maybe it’s the wisdom housed in our bodies telling us we need those extra stores of vitamin C to fight the last chill and bugs of winter. Maybe it’s the very shape and color we crave, round and warm. Most irresistible to me though, of all the beautiful citrus this time of year, is this brand new crop of freshly-picked oranges. To me they are

s u n   in  a  winter  sky

and when we lift them to our mouths it’s like eating sunshine. They grew with their juices inside warmed and multiplied by the sun. Our very sun is beneath those peels, in each plump segment, and in each tiny puckery pouch within those segments.

A whole bag of the most beautiful heirloom oranges came home with me the other day. Some of them found their way into a not-too sweet dessert that manages also to be gluten free. No flour here. No butter either. Mostly just oranges, eggs and almonds, ground to a fine flour. After baking, the cake is doused in a delicate orange syrup, laced with a bit of Grand Marnier. It’s optional, but you’ll see it here decked with candied thin slivers of peels, every last bit of bitter removed, their color a glimmering translucent orange. Serve alongside some whipped cream, lightly sweetened, and if you have it on hand, a touch of fragrant Orange Flower Water, from the very flower that becomes the fruit.

For this cake, including the candied zest, you’ll need a total of 5 oranges. Because you’ll be using the zest as well the juice, it’s best to use non-sprayed organic oranges. If you can’t find them, wash the oranges very well before zesting. 

Orange Almond Cake

(makes 8 to 12 servings)

  • 6 eggs
  • ¾ cup (155 g – 5¼ oz.) sugar
  • Zest of 3 oranges
  • 1½ cups (200 g, 7-1/8 oz) finely ground almonds (almond flour)

For the syrup

  • Juice of 3 oranges
  • ½ cup (95 g – 3½ oz.) sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon Grand Marnier  (orange liqueur) – optional – but strongly advised 😉

For the candied zest

  • 2 oranges
  • 1 cup (200 g – 7 oz.) sugar*

For serving

  • Whipped cream, lightly sweetened – with an optional bit of Orange Flower water sprinkled in

* If you’re concerned about the amount of sugar, keep in mind that this cupful is making a syrup that candies the peels – but the bulk of it is tossed after the peels are finished.

Heat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Grease a 9- or 10-inch (23 or 25 cm) springform pan, and line the bottom of it with a circle of parchment paper.

For the cake, separate the eggs into two large bowls. Beat the yolks with the sugar and zest until very thick, pale, and ribbony. (You’re looking for the mixture to run from the whisk in a steady ribbony stream, one that can write on the surface of your batter.) Then stir in the almond flour.

Beat the whites to stiff peaks.

Stir a spoonful of the whites into the yolk mixture to thin it a bit, then gently fold in the rest. The loft for this cake all comes from the air you’ve whisked into the batter, so be gentle not to deflate it. Pour the batter into the pan. Bake until set, about 45 minutes, but check after 40. Allow the cake to cool slightly, then un-mold it onto a serving platter.

Read more

romantic dinner timeline

I apologize! I’d meant to post a schedule for the Valentines dinner but life started suddenly running faster than I could, and here it is days later. Most of you weren’t looking for this anyway, but a promise is a promise, so here we go…

If you wanted to substitute a steak for the ahi, everything would proceed essentially the same as the timetable below. Just replace sesame seeds with cracked black pepper for the steak.

(For the stacked crab bistro salad, hints were already given for how with a few prep steps out of the way the night before, this can be very easily assembled in only a few minutes just before plating. You could enjoy a cocktail and an appetizer and then, in under 40 minutes have the rest of dinner ready to share.)

I know parts of this for some will seem overly simplistic – my hope is that a lovely dinner, this or some other, could be easily accessible and do-able for everyone. Very little should keep you (at least every now and then) from being able to put some love on the table for a sweetheart. So, with that, on to the rest of the dinner:

0:00 (oh-100 hours – I never thought I’d have the occasion to talk like that! 🙂 I sound like a sailor! Oh wait, that’s not what I mean, is it?)

Remove ahi from the fridge to take some of the chill off, and pat both sides with good sprinkle of coarse salt and then the sesame seeds. (Measure water for rice and put on to boil. Have dinner plates nearby for serving, with pickled ginger and wasabi paste on them. Put the rice on to cook. Set the timer for 30 minutes for the rice. 6 minutes total elapsed time.

0:06

Are you blanching the sugar snap peas the night before? Oh good for you. That’ll save time. Remove peas from fridge. The rest of this will come together so quickly. Brush the mushrooms clean, remove stems, slice thinly – about 1/4″.  Slice the shallot. Peel ginger, cut in thin slices (about 1/8″ or thinner). Cut those slices again in narrow strips to form matchsticks. Elapsed time 12 minutes.

0:18

Put one skillet on the stove for your ahi. (Cast iron works great, but any heavy skillet. Turn heat on very low just to gradually bring the heat up.) Put canola & sesame oils in another skillet for peas. Bring heat up to medium. Measure out the tamari and cooking sherry and put together in small cup at the ready. Pat of butter on standby. Pan’s hot, add shallots, 1-2 minutes add mushrooms, 30 seconds later add ginger. 2-3 minutes add peas, 2 minutes or so, add liquids. Stir til thickened. Add butter. Put lid on and hold. 11 minutes elapsed time.

29:00

Towards the end of the cooking time for peas, raise temperature on ahi pan. Once smoking hot, add ahi. Watch for doneness as directed in post. Timer just went off on your rice. Remove from heat, leaving lid on. Turn ahi when ready. Seer on other side. Fluff riceElapsed time somewhere around 3-5 minutes.

32:00 – 35:00 

Ta-dah!

 Ask your honey to pour the wine and light the candles. Plate the dinner and bring to the table. Bon appetít – enjoy your night!   ♥

(To print a copy, click here. )

pears poached in red wine, honey & cardamom

This will be my final sweet offering for Valentine’s night. Ever since my eyes first fell on these burgundy beauties, I’ve been wanting to devour make them for my honey. These pears poach slowly in the oven for hours, but they require almost none of your active time. Steeped in honey and red wine, with a few crushed pods of cardamom, they’re a dream. Served with a dollop of vanilla-ed softly whipped cream, they may be a dream hatched in heaven.

Pears Poached in Red Wine, Honey & Cardamom

  • 4 Bosc pears (or 8 small Anjou)
  • 1 bottle dry red wine
  • ½ cup honey
  • 3 green cardamom pods, lightly crushed

Preheat oven to 250°F  (120°C.) Peel the pears, leaving the stems intact.

Pour the wine and honey into a medium saucepan and add the cardamom pods.  Over medium-high heat, bring the mixture to a boil. Place the pears into an oven-proof pan or lidded baking dish with sides high enough to accommodate the wine mixture, keeping as much of the pears submerged as possible. Pour the wine over top. Place a lid on the pot and slip the pears into the oven. Bake for 4 to 5 hours, turning the pears gently from time to time to evenly poach and color them. Read more

a dinner for lovers

Yesterday’s post explained why this is what’s for our Valentines dinner…it’s quick and easy to prepare, colorful, pretty, sensuous, light in the stomach, delicious in the mouth. Tomorrow morning I’ll lay out a schedule for how to get it from kitchen to table in under an hour. That will be easy as pie if you just spend maybe 10 or 15 minutes of light prep work the night before. (Tomorrow or Sunday will also bring another option for dessert.)

~ ~ ~

A reminder of the menu:

To whet (& wet) the Appetite:

Passion Fruit Cocktails for Two

Stacked Crab Bistro Salad with Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette

Dinner:

Seared Sesame-Encrusted Ahi Tuna

Sugar Snap Peas with Shiitake Mushrooms and Ginger

oh-so Forbidden Rice

Dessert:

a sweet multitude of options

~ ~ ~

A very little time spent prepping the vegetables the night before will make this dish a breeze.

Sugar Snap Peas with Shiitake Mushrooms and Ginger

  • ½ pound sugar snap peas
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil (I love toasted sesame oil for this, but not necessary)
  • 2 teaspoons canola oil
  • ¼ cup thinly sliced shallots
  • ¼ pound shiitake mushrooms, (stems removed & discarded) – sliced
  • 1 to 2 Tablespoons ginger, thinly sliced & sliced again into matchsticks
  • 1 Tablespoon + 1 teaspoon soy sauce or Tamari
  • 1 Tablespoon cooking sherry
  • 1 teaspoon unsalted butter

Wash the snap peas and remove their strings, if any. Put a pot on to boil, add salt. Have a colander in the sink and a bowl of ice-water close by. When the water comes to a boil, add peas. Cook for only 1½ to 2 minutes. (You want peas to be bright green and crispy, nearly tender.) Empty into colander. Transfer peas to bowl of ice water for one or two minutes to cool. Remove from water. Place in a clean kitchen towel, and roll and pat to dry. (At this point you can put them in a plastic bag and put in the refrigerator if you’re preparing ahead.) Otherwise set aside as you prepare the other ingredients.

Remove the stems from the mushrooms and slice fairly thinly. Cut the ginger into tiny “matchsticks”.  (Whether you opt for 1 or 2 tablespoons is entirely dependent on your love and tolerance of spicy warm ginger.) Thinly slice the shallots.

Heat the canola and sesame oils in a good-size skillet over medium heat. When oil is shimmering, add the shallots and, stirring constantly, cook for 1 to 2 minutes.

Add the ginger. Stirring constantly, cook about 30 seconds, then add mushrooms, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes longer. They’ll have begun to release some of their liquid and have started to sizzle. Raise heat to medium-high and add the peas. Stir occasionally, allowing peas to be touched by bits of brown. Add the soy sauce and cooking sherry, deglazing the pan of brown bits. (Taste for salt, adding a bit more soy if needed.) Add a pat of butter, stir to melt and glisten the peas and mushrooms. Serve.

Printer-friendly version of the sugar snap peas, click here.

~ ~ ~

Ever hear of forbidden rice? It’s the deepest darkest shade of purple – like aubergine. Royal purple. With all its brilliant color (phytochemicals) it’s rich in antioxidants. (The stuff that protects our cells from free-radical damage.) It’s a whole-grain, even more nutritious than its brown cousin, but cooks in only slightly more time than its white relative. (About 30 minutes.) I suppose it was chosen for this menu for obvious reasons. How can one not be a little tempted – at least intrigued – by what’s labeled forbidden? It got its name in ancient China when it was grown and harvested and fed to only the Emperor. Anyone caught with purple grains between his teeth was summarily executed. Well, perhaps I’m playing loose with the facts there, but it makes a rather dramatic story. And a great introduction for a side dish for lovers. (It’s not on every market’s shelf, but some of the better-stocked markets will carry it. It costs more of course, but it’s not prohibitive…a small bag will make enough rice to feed 8 to 10 and cost about $5.00.)

oh-so Forbidden Rice

(will serve 4)

  • 1 cup forbidden rice
  • 1¾ cups water
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • optional: 1 teaspoon chicken bouillon (I like Better than Bouillon – concentrated, natural good flavor)
  • chives, finely chopped

Bring water to boil, add salt, butter and bouillon (if using.) Add rice, stir, return to boil, then lower temperature to simmer. Cook on simmer for 30-35 minutes. (My simmer took 35.) Turn the heat off and allow pan to sit for 5 minutes or so before removing the lid. Fluff rice with a fork. Return the lid if not serving immediately. Before serving sprinkle with chopped chives.

Printer-friendly version of the rice, click here

~ ~ ~

Read more

a menu for valentines & a stacked bistro salad

Can I see a show of hands? Who among you would like to spend several hours in the kitchen preparing a beautiful meal for your love on Valentines Day?     Oh. Well that’s surprising.  Alright then, Plan B. Who among you would like to spend under an hour (excluding dessert) preparing a luscious and (well) sort of sexy Valentine dinner? We got some hands on that one!

Let’s talk about the menu then…You with your hands up…this is for you…(the  others, you’re obviously being well taken care of.) What are we looking for in a meal for lovers? Ok, it was already decided that we want it easy. Of course you’re right. After all, where do we want to spend our love and energy?  (That’s rhetorical – thanks, but no need to share.)

Ok. What else? Color? Good! It should be pretty shouldn’t it. Sensuous? Oh, I like that! What else? Not too heavy? Oh that’s a good one, yes! Who’s looking to drift into a coma immediately after pushing their plate back. Anything else? Oh, taste! Of course! It should taste really good!

What do you think of this then?

A Valentine Dinner for Lovers

~

To whet (& wet) the Appetite:

Passion Fruit Cocktails for Two

Stacked Crab Bistro Salad with Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette

Dinner:

Seared Sesame-Encrusted Ahi Tuna

Snap Peas with Shiitake Mushrooms and Ginger

 oh-so Forbidden Rice

Dessert:

a sweet multitude of options

~

Tomorrow I’ll post the 3 dinner items, along with how to get it done in less than 1 hour, with just a tiny bit of prep work the night before.  Each is so easy.

I’ll have one more dessert as an option, posted Saturday I think.

Now, for the appetizer:

Read more