Suzi's Blog

Rice Pilaf with Pine Nuts

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Our good friend Marie Simmons wrote a wonderful book, Rice: The Amazing Grain, and she was spot on. Suzen and I are fortunate to live in Manhattan where, in less than 15 minutes, we can walk to 30 restaurants serving rice. All of them Asian or Italian.

Now, I am fond of risotto but it is the Asian cuisines that I relish for the incredible diversity of their rice creations. And I’m not just talking about the 1000+ plus ways to do fried rice — my personal favorite. There are sticky rices in Japanese restaurants that go so well with tonkatsu — or just that spicy tonkatsu sauce all by itself. Thai dishes abound with rice wonders. Show Suzen a menu with Coconut Rice on it and she’s on it, too.

America does have some rice dishes that are delicacies. A Louisiana gumbo, steaming and shimmering, then served over rice is a bit of a culinary wonder. The flashing colors and dashing aromas sailing up in the steam cloud can silence a table, as everyone just waits for the temperature to drop one more degree. Forks are at the ready. Beer bottles raised.

Rice originated in Asia, perhaps 13,000 years ago. And Asian dominates both the production and consumption of rice. China grows the most: 204 million metric tons. Then India with 150 million metric tons. After those two, all other countries are pikers. The United States is 14th in world production with a magnificent 9 million metric tons, about 4% of China’s yield.

Most of that US rice is grown just 6 states: Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Texas. Now, some of those places may be surprising, but you can rationalize them a bit. However, growing rice in California and Texas, given their ongoing drought situation, is a proposition that continues only because of Federal monetary support and farm programs. Rice growing in California began in the mid-1800’s when there were Chinese workers building the first transcontinental railroads. Things may have gotten a little out of hand.

And rice pilaf? It’s a dish served round the world, but the origins lie in India. So it is only appropriate that this pilaf dish is rich in spice and laden with oriental flavor.

Pilaf is simply gorgeous to behold, yet it is quick to prepare. Starting with raw ingredients, you can make this dish is well under an hour. Make it in abundance because leftover pilaf is as good the next day as, well fried rice.


Rice Pilaf with Pine Nuts

Yield: 8 servings

Ingredients:

  • 4 to 5 cups chicken or vegetable stock or water
  • 1 ½ cups long-grain rice
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil or vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons mustard seeds
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • ½ cinnamon stick
  • 1 star anise
  • ¼ tsp saffron threads, crushed
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • ½ cup pine nuts
  • ½ cup chopped fresh herbs (cilantro, parsley, chives, mint or a combination)

 

Preparation:

Heat the stock in a pot over medium high heat.

Rinse the rice a couple of times until the water runs clear and drain well in a fine mesh strainer.

In a larger pot, add the oil and butter and heat over medium-high heat. Add the onion and peppers and cook until the onions are just beginning to color. Add the mustard seed and garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the rice and cook for about two minutes, just until the rice starts to color. Add the broth or water, enough to cover the rice by two fingers. Add the cinnamon stick, star anise, saffron and a big pinch of salt. Stir once, cover the pot and reduce the heat to low. Cook until the rice has absorbed most of the liquid, about 15 minutes.

While the rice is cooking, toast the pine nuts in a small skillet over medium heat.

Stir the rice again just once, cover and remove from heat. Let sit for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the cinnamon stick and star anise and stir in pine nuts and herbs. Taste and adjust seasoning and serve.

Source: adapted by CBTB Chef David Domedion from Sara Foster’s Casual Cooking with historical input from Wikipedia

Photo Information: Canon T2i, EFS 60mm Macro Lens, F/4.0 for1/30th second at ISO‑250

 

Smoky Roasted Corn Soup with Chipotle

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Before you comment, I have an explanation. I know the picture above is marginal. Cocktails and soup are the toughest foods to photograph. I’m working on it. It’s not easy.

And, when I get a chance, I will take a better shot. But it may take a while and in the meantime this is peak corn season and I don’t want to wait to share this recipe. You don't want to wait to try it and then enjoy a chile smile.

Many of the posts here are driven by Suzen’s culinary team building program at Cooking by the Book. Clients want a hands-on cooking event, they pick a menu, they come and cook and eat, and I get to take photos and eat, too. Thing is, it’s been a while and no one has chosen this soup again. I’ve waited and I’m out of time and Suzen is busy testing the “next” recipes and does not have time to revisit this one.

Actually, we will. Because I think this wonderful soup can be the perfect gateway to a Thanksgiving turkey. Pictured above, next to the soup, are the Chipotle and Cheddar Biscuits I blogged back in April [April 22 actually]. I can see serving the biscuits on Thanksgiving Day. Or, I can imagine making them on the Tuesday before, letting them dry out a bit, and stuffing the turkey with them. Some herbs, diced chiles, and a shot of tequila?

I’ll see if I can stir Suzen’s imagination. In the meantime, this is a rollicking good soup recipe with a delightful twist. You don’t just use the corn kernels here. You cook with the cobs as well, extracting every last bit of corn flavor from the plant. The corn may be yellow, but this is a very green idea to “use it all.” It’s smart and something I would never have considered on my own.

Corn, chipotle, and cream. Unbeatable.


Smoky Roasted Corn Soup with Chipotle Chile

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 3 ears corn
  • 1 Poblano pepper, ¼ inch diced
  • 1 small-red bell pepper, ¼ inch diced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ cup finely chopped red onion
  • 2 garlic cloves thinly sliced
  • ¼ teaspoon chipotle chile powder
  • ¾ teaspoon coarse (kosher) salt
  • ½ cup heavy cream

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Using a chef's knife, scrape the corn kernels off the cobs onto a rimmed baking sheet, reserve the cobs. Add the Poblano and bell pepper to the pan drizzle with the oil, and roast for 25 minutes, tossing the vegetables once or twice, until the corn is lightly browned.

Meanwhile, cut the cobs into thirds crosswise and place in a medium saucepan with the water. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 20 minutes, or until the liquid is flavorful. Strain the corn broth into a bowl.

In a large saucepan, heat the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 7 minutes, stirring occasionally-until the onion is tender. Add the roasted corn and pepper mixture, the corn broth, chipotle powder, and salt and simmer for 5 minutes for the flavors to blend. Add the cream and gently heat. Serve hot.

Source: The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Cookbook

Photo Information: Canon T2i, EFS 60 mm Macro Lens, F/4 for 1/40th second at ISO‑250