Food Buzz

Because maybe you do care what I had for lunch...

Friday, February 10, 2006

French red rice pilaf with chicken, mushrooms, and cauliflower

Tonight I used the first of my Kalustyan food finds, some French red rice. It's a lot like wild rice in taste and texture, but shorter-grained and, as you can see, red. I took some advice from one of my favorite, food books, How to Read a French Fry, by Russ Parsons (food editor of the Los Angeles Times). I love this book because it teaches you the science behind cooking techniques. Once you understand the how's and why's of cooking you're better equipped to improvise your own recipes, though the book itself includes over 100 recipes. I highly recommend this book.

Back to the rice: for fluffy rice Parsons recommends rinsing the rice well, cooking the rice in some sort of fat first, avoiding stirring the rice once you have added the liquid, and letting the rice sit covered for about five minutes more once you've removed it from the heat. The red rice needed only a little rinsing. I cooked it in about three tablespoons of butter along with some chopped shallot and then added broth from some chicken thighs I'd poached earlier. The package gave no directions so I had to guess on the amount of liquid (I did 2 parts liquid to 1 part rice). I simmered the rice for about 20 minutes before checking it; I'd added way too much liquid and the rice was almost cooked. So I strained the rice and steamed it for another 10 minutes with just the tiny bit of liquid left. It still came out fluffy.

Meanwhile I sauteed some sliced cremini mushrooms and one chopped head of cauliflower in a tablespoon of butter for about a minute. Then I added a cup of chicken broth and some thyme and let this simmer on high until the vegetables were soft. Then I added the chicken (which I'd skinned, boned, and shredded) just to heat it and to soak up the remaining liquid.

Ordinarily the mushrooms and cauliflower would have made a dull-looking dish over most starches, but over the red rice the green flecks of thyme stood out and made the dish look almost exciting enough for a Friday night. I think some white wine would have improved the vegetables some, but overall I was pretty happy with the dish.

For dessert we had this fig cake. There is a store, called International Taste, I think, that specializes in Lebanese foods (among other imported foods). Every time we pass it there's a man kneading a thick "dough" of figs and other dried fruit with nuts. It's a great little gimmick and they hooked me, especially when I discovered that he was forming the cakes into the shape of a heart for Valentine's Day. I picked out one with Christmas-colored sprinkles because that just seemed so wrong it was charming. And then I took it to the cash register: 20 bucks. Yes, 20 bucks for mushed dried fruits and nuts.

I was too shocked to protest or return the cake. I just handed the bill over and stumbled out. But the cake is actually pretty good -- not $20 good, but still, good. It's a mixture of figs, apricots, cranberries, cherries, coconut, and more nuts than I could identify. There's even a tiny bit of chocolate. I was afraid it was going to turn into one of those food-albatrosses that take weeks to consume, but Jasper and I managed to munch away a good third of it just this evening. I would have really liked a glass of Muscat to accompany it. Maybe we'll have some when we finish it this weekend.


shaunamama said...

The dish sounds wonderful...although, I'm not a huge cauliflower fan..I love chicken and mushrooms. You can find some of the most interesting food stuffs there in New's incredible!
The cake looks delicious...20!!!

Writermama said...

Thanks for the book recommendation. I've been looking for something like that. Great cake photo! Now what will you cook to stay cozy in the face of the impending blizzard?

Co said...

Unrelated question...

My friend, who lives in Hawaii, asked me about the squash "upo." Apparently, it's Filopino.

My friend's landlord grows it and gives them some, so she's trying to figure out what to do with it. She's already learned that you can't cook it in garlic without peeling it first. She tried it in ratatouille and that worked okay. Do you know, Adriana?

ticklethepear said...

Funny how different kinds of rice requires varying proportions of took a bit of experimentation to cook brown rice in our rice cooker (made for Asian white rice). When in doubt I always goes for the "water level between the first and second joint of the third finger" methodology.

Not sure if this is worth $20 since it only has one fruit but it's a big hit whenever we serve Moroccan food.

Linked from the Friends of Morocco website....

Moroccan Date Cake

Serves: 6
Ingredients: 13
Cuisine: Moroccan
Category: Dessert


1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup sugar (or up to double amt.)
4 eggs
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup unbleached white flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup pitted, chopped dates
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 fresh whipped cream


Preheat the oven to 325 F. Cream together the butter and sugar. Beat in the eggs. Combine the baking powder, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Add the dry ingredients to the egg mixture, beating well. Mix in the milk and vanilla. Beat well. Add the chopped dates and walnuts and stir again to distribute them evenly. Butter and flour a 9-inch cake pan. Pour the batter into the pan. Bake for about 30 minutes, until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Serve with fresh whipped cream.