Have you ever done something that seemed strange, maybe wrong, but you did not know why and you just did it anyway?
I really never thought about it growing up. My grandmother did it, taught me, and always seemed naturally comfortable doing it. It was one of my earliest food memories.
I knew, of course, that my grandmother was a tad off. Born in Edinburgh, she grew up on the island of St. Helena [yes, the place Napoleon was exiled, too], eventually taught piano to the Czar’s family in St. Petersburg, and ended up marrying a railroad engineer in Montana. I never got the story in detail, and now there is no one to get it from. All I have are those disjointed snippets of a life.
Those images and her method for eating white rice. The first time I sat down to dinner with Suzen and we had rice, I began to follow my grandmother’s habit. I put butter on my rice, which drew Suzen’s attention. Then I reached into a sugar bowl and took out a teaspoon of sugar.
“WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” Suzen screamed. Yes, she can scream.
I held the teaspoon above my rice, my hand quivering slightly. Yeah, I had always thought it was a little strange — white rice with butter and sugar — but it went well with pork chops.
I explained it all to Suzen. “People don’t eat rice like that, Brian,” she said.
“My grandmother did.”
“Gene pool,” she mumbled.
I’ve never done it again. I think if I tried she’d put a fork in my hand. But, in compensation, I have learned how to get rice with flavor and with sweetness. From Mexico, here is a side dish that pairs yummily with just about anything. Suzen served this with pork in adobo sauce. Chicken or fish are equally fine partners.
The rice has almonds for crunch, raisins for sweetness, and cilantro for the herby tones that rice always seems to beg for. It’s the perfect side dish.
I think my grandmother would have like it.
Cilantro, Raisin and Almond Rice
Yield: 6 servings
- 2 cups hot steamed white rice
- ½ cup raisins
- ½ cup slivered almonds
- ½ cup snipped fresh cilantro
- 1 tablespoon butter
In a bowl, stir together all ingredients. Taste and, if desired, add salt or pepper. Serve alongside the entry or in a separate bowl. Garnish, if desired, with a cilantro sprig.
Source: Better Homes and Gardens Special Interest Publication: Mexican, 2013
Photo Information: Canon T2i, EFS 18-55MM Macro lens shot at F/2.8 1/60th second, ISO 3200
“I said a bite, not half.” Sometimes my husband can be a pig.
“I, um, uh,” Brian kept chewing. “I actually like this.”
“So did I.” I turned, walked back into Amy’s Bread at Chelsea Markets at 15th Street. Before the Meat District became upscale, I worked just across the street in my family’s printing business. My family sold the building, and I went into food. Now I was happily back enjoying one of the great food districts in New York City.
In line at Amy’s, I decide that this time I would buy my own private damn scone, and I would not share it. I still can’t believe it: outside the man was eating cranberries and walnuts and rolled outs.
Scone in hand, my anger had subsided. I went back to him and checked for fever. He would not eat a healthy thing unless there was something wrong. Mild fever. I didn’t even bother with an aspirin.
There is nothing, nothing wrong with these absolutely wonderful sweet scones from Amy. I’m presenting the recipe as written in The Sweeter Side of Amy’s Bread. At home, I’ve baked my own and allowed my imagination to flow: instead of cranberries and walnuts I have used raisins and slivered almonds.
Amy emphasizes toasting the nuts before adding to the mix. That’s very important here. You need a strong nut flavor to compete with inherent taste of the oats.
Oat Scones with Cranberries and Walnuts
Yield: 12 large scones
- 1 ¾ cups + 1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
- ⅔ cup whole wheat pastry flour
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 ¼ teaspoons kosher slat
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ¾ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 ¼ cups unsalted butter, cold, in ½-inch dice
- 2 ½ cups old-fashioned rolled oats
- ⅞ cup dried cranberries
- ¾ cup walnuts, toasted, coarsely chopped
- 1 ½ cups buttermilk
- 1 large egg
- Turbinado sugar for sprinkling on top
Position one rack in the top third of the oven, one rack in the bottom third of the oven, and preheat the oven to 400⁰F. Line the two 12 x 17 inch sheet pan with baking parchment.
In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, combine the 2 flours, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and baking soda and process them for 5 seconds, until they are just combined. Add the butter and process again for 10 top 15 seconds, until the mixture looks like coarse meal. The largest pieces of butter should be about the size of tiny peas (if you don’t have a food processor, mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl with wire whisk and cut in the cold butter with a pastry blender or 2 knives). The butter should be suspended in tiny granules throughout the flour, not rubbed into it to make a doubly mass. Transfer this mixture to a large bowl and stir in the oats, cranberries, and walnuts until they are evenly distributed.
In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and egg. Remove ½ cup of this mixture and set it aside. Pour the remaining liquid over the dry ingredients and lightly and briefly stir them together, just until everything is barely moistened. It’s fine if there is a still a little bit of unmoistened flour in the bottom of the bowl. Don’t’ over mix or your scones will be heavy and doughy. This dough won’t be a single cohesive mass. It should look more like moistened clumps of flour and fruit.
Using your hands, drop free-form portions of dough about 3 ½ inches in diameter on the prepared baking sheets. Evenly space 6 scones on each sheet. Don’t try to press them down or squeeze them together — they should look like irregular mounds or clumps. Using a pastry brush, dab the reserved buttermilk/egg mixture generously all over the tops the scones and sprinkle them lightly with Turbinado sugar.
Place on pan on each oven rack and bake for 1 5minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 375⁰F and rotate the pans from top to bottom. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes longer, until the scones area deep golden brown on both the top and bottom. A toothpick inserted in the center of a scone should come out clean. Remove the scones from the pans to cool on a wire rack. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature. Store any leftovers in an airtight container. They’re best if eaten within 2 days. [That will not be a problem.]
Source: The Sweeter Side of Amy’s Bread by Amy Scherber and Toy Kim Dupree<