Weekend Fried Rice

On the weekends, you may have to throw a fabulously complicated dinner party. However, most weekends are my time to “relax” a bit and not worry about getting the dishwasher unloaded from the night before, a load of laundry started, and escorting my son to school, all before 8:15 am! A leisure morning of pancakes and eggs, along with a late morning shower are all in order. I also don’t enjoy grocery shopping on the weekends. (Well, except for going to the farmer’s market!) And that usually leaves my fridge full of fantastic left-overs for lunch and a number of odd ingredients to throw together for an early evening weekend meal.

After an unusually warm January day in New York, filled with train rides downtown and afternoons spent in the playground, I was left with little time to throw together something for dinner. Luckily I had a few ingredients in my fridge, which allowed me to create a fantastic fried rice. It’s always a good idea to try to stock your pantry with a few items you enjoy, so when you are pinched with time, or mere idleness, you have the ability to whip up something easily that, at the very least, tastes fantastic.

I tend to stock my fridge with sweet peppers and fresh herbs and my pantry with coconut milk, soy sauce, sesame oil, fish sauce, and various spices, such as cumin, curry, turmeric, and coriander. Most likely you have some left-over meat in your fridge, just waiting to be incorporated into a new dish. And if you don’t, no worries! You could always make a strictly vegetarian fried rice. The following recipe is what I had on hand today, but they are simply a guideline. Feel free to incorporate whatever you may have lying around your kitchen. And by all means, feel free to alter the amounts of each ingredient to your liking. I tend to put a splash of something here and there while cooking fried rice, without exactly measuring, so if you happen not to have a certain ingredient, you can always exclude or substitute it with another.

Yield: 4 adult dinner portions

1 1/2 c. jasmine or basmati rice
1 c. chicken stock
2 c. water
1 Tbl. butter, or oil
2 strips of bacon, heritage breed/organic preferred, chopped into very fine pieces
3 green onions, thinly sliced on a diagonal
2-3 cloves garlic, sliced
1 2-inch piece of ginger, grated
1 red bell pepper, preferably organic
1/4 c. frozen (or fresh) peas
8 oz. coconut milk
1 egg, beaten
1/3 c. peanut oil
1 tsp. turmeric
1/2 tsp. whole corianer seeds, ground
1 tsp. sesame oil
1 tsp. fish sauce
1 tsp. oyster sauce
2 Tbl. organic, low-sodium soy sauce
splash of rice vinegar
small squirt of rooster sauce
large handful of fresh coriander, chopped finely

Cook the rice with the chicken stock and butter. You may omit the chicken stock if you prefer, however it does give the rice another nice element of flavor, which the water can not provide. Keep covered; set aside.

Meanwhile, prepare each of the above ingredients, setting them aside until you are ready to heat your pan. Preferably, use a wok, however, if you don’t own one, you can still prepare a delicious stir fry with a large skillet. Add about 1/3 c. of peanut oil, or other vegetable oil, to your prepared, hot pan. Once hot, add the bacon (Note: if you are using another type of meat, such as a left-over steak or chicken, add the meat in at the end, just to heat through.) and allow to cook on medium-high heat. After about 2 minutes, add the onion, garlic, ginger, and dry spices. Add the chopped red pepper and allow it to cook for 1-2 mintues. Add the coconut milk, sesame oil, rice vinegar, fish, oyster, and rooster sauce. Once you begin to smell the aromas of the spices, after about 2-3 minutes, add the beaten egg, being careful to contanstantly stir it until it has incorporated nicely. Add the peas and green onions, and give the dish a good stir or two. Add the cooked rice and soy sauce. Stir to combine. Take a taste and add whatever seems to be missing.

And that’s it! A nice, simple, tasty dish to satisfy just about anyone after a busy weekend afternoon. Enjoy the weekend and happy eating!

Rice, Nut, and Seed Loaf

This is a nice meat-alternative dish that is hearty enough to please even the meat and potatoes crowd.  In fact, my very carnivorous husband sometimes even requests this!  Served like a meatloaf, it does well as the centerpiece of a meal, or as an accompaniment to pasta and veggies.  It also freezes well, uncooked, so if you have a large enough mixing bowl, consider doubling the ingredients for an easy meal another day.

This is also a great recipe for the novice cook – it simply requires a bit of chopping and shredding, and if you have a food processor, those steps are a snap.

We realize that this is not the most visually appetizing dish, but it does taste good!

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups cooked brown rice
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups shredded cheese (more or less depending on your taste) — cheddar or mozzarella, or a combination of the two
  • 4 lightly beaten eggs
  • 1 medium chopped onion
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesano Reggiano cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup chopped sunflower kernels
  • 1/8 cup sesame seeds
  • 1/8 cup flax seeds
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon of Italian seasoning, or 1/2 teaspoon of each of the following dried herbs: thyme, oregano, basil, marjoram, parsley

Combine all the ingredients and pack into a greased 9″ loaf pan.  Bake at 350°F for 50-60 minutes or until firm.  Let cool in pan for 10 minutes.  Serve in slices and top with warm marinara sauce.

Mexican flavor variation — instead of Italian seasoning, use chili seasoning (cumin, paprika, chili powder, and oregano) and replace some of the cheese with shredded Pepper Jack or Monterey Jack.  Top with your choice of traditional red tomato salsa or salsa verde.

Mi Favorito Arroz Con Leche

If you do not yet have a recipe for arroz con leche, this is the one to save.  Arroz con leche is a delicious dessert that is ubiquitous in the Spanish-speaking world, and there are as many occasions and traditions associated with this dish as there are ways to make it.  Take a few heavenly bites, and you will never look at plain pudding the same way again.  Like so many things, this recipe is an amalgamation of many that I have tried, resulting in sweet and creamy (yet flavorful and slightly chewy) spoonfuls of pure goodness.

Ingredients:

3/4 cup arborio rice

1 1/2 cups water

3-4 pieces of lemon peel, about 1″ in length each

1 cinnamon stick

4 cups whole milk

1 14-ounce can coconut milk

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 vanilla bean (or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)

Place the rice, water, lemon peel, and cinnamon stick in a 5-quart dutch oven.  Cover and bring to a low simmer for about 5 minutes.  Meanwhile, combine the coconut milk, milk, salt, and sugar in a separate pot and heat to just under a boil.  Slowly add the milk mixture to the rice and maintain the slow simmer at the lowest heat.  Stir the mixture often, making sure to scrape the bottom to avoid any scalding.  If you have a whole vanilla bean, make a cut down the length of the bean, scrape out the seeds, and stir them into the rice.  Before the milk gets too thick, remove the lemon peels and cinnamon stick and discard them.  At this point add the vanilla extract if you did not use a whole bean.  Continue to cook, uncovered, while stirring frequently until most of the milk is absorbed.  Total cooking time is about 30-45 minutes.  As an option, after ten minutes of cooling, the texture may be smoothed with a wand blender.  I like to smooth it partially, leaving small lumps, but this is up to your discretion.

To me, a small dish of arroz con leche is a wholesome indulgence.  It can be garnished with raisins or a sprinkling of cinnamon.  Some people also like to add a small spoonful of sweetened condensed milk to the top.  It can be eaten warm or cold — a Colombian friend explains that she likes to eat it warm, like soup.  Another friend says that in Panama, they traditionally serve arroz con leche when a baby sprouts a first tooth.  The pudding is served in small containers to family and friends to mark the milestone!  In fact, it is often served around the holidays and for celebrations, but a special reason is not necessary for this delicious treat.  This makes at least 8-10 servings, so enjoy it and invite over your loved ones to share!

Forbidden Rice Salad

If you ever come across a black or deep purple-hued rice called Forbidden Rice, buy it, immediately.
Here’s what to do with it:
Rinse one cup of the rice with cold water, then cook it according to the packaging directions, adding 1 T. of chopped ginger to the water.  After the rice is cooked but still hot, add one cup of frozen corn and 1/2 c. of chopped red pepper (about 1/2 of a pepper).  The residual heat from the rice will thaw the corn and soften the pepper without over-cooking it.  Let it sit for 5 minutes, then add 1/4 c. of chopped green onion, 1 T. of sesame oil, 1 T. lemon or lime juice, and a few splashes of soy sauce.  Salt it to taste, although it might not need any because of the soy sauce.

I like to make this ahead of time and serve it at room temperature.  This is great any time of year, but especially for summer picnics and barbecues.  It goes great with just about everything.  Every time I make this I get rave reviews, and it’s so healthy!  This rice is high in iron and other nutrients and has a nice nutty flavor.  Not all stores carry it, but I have bought it from Whole Foods.  I’ve also found it at some Asian markets and other natural food stores.  In fact, this dish was inspired by something I once tried at the deli counter of one of my favorite grocery stores in Pittsburgh called Right By Nature.  Try it, and you’ll become a fan!