September 2011


I don’t remember the last time I made regular white rice on the stovetop—instead, I almost always make brown rice, and I have a few tricks. For at least the past few years, I’ve been using this amazing method from Cook’s Illustrated to make baked brown rice, and I usually keep some cooked rice in the freezer in case of rice emergencies. And just recently, I learned from Mark Bittman how to swap brown rice in for white in any recipe (boil the brown rice for 10-15 minutes, then drain and continue on as the recipe directs), and it worked beautifully in an otherwise lackluster vegetable paella.

But probably my favorite rice trick these days is this baked “Mexican” seasoned brown rice. It’s only a hair more involved than the Cook’s Illustrated brown rice, but you end up with something worlds away from plain old brown rice.

Nice spiced rice.

Toss in some beans and veggies, maybe with cilantro and cotija cheese on top, and it’s a fabulous meal.

Nice spiced rice, you more than suffice!

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Photography is not my strong suit, but this is probably one of the least useful pictures I’ve ever taken:

Is it custard? Butterscotch pudding? Salad dressing? Aioli? From the photo, heaven knows. Conveniently, though, this post has a title, so you can probably guess what it is.

It’s one of my very favorite soups, an odd concoction that supposedly hearkens back to the days when “gazpacho” was basically nothing but¬†stale bread and olive oil¬†rather than tomato-based liquidy salsa. This version, which I first fell in love with at Jaleo, is essentially just pulverized and strained almonds, bread, garlic, olive oil, sherry vinegar, grapes, and cucumber. It turns into a lovely, delicate, and refreshing soup—just right for the tail end of summer.

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In addition to the frequently-mentioned-here Smitten Kitchen, another of my favorite bloggers is Orangette, who has been responsible for plenty of my favorite recipes. This exquisite chocolate cake is among them—I swear it will be the best all-but-flourless chocolate cake you’ve ever had.

Choc.O.Late.

Even more impressive is the fact that Molly of Orangette baked a bajillion of these—which a friend of hers dubbed cakes to win hearts and minds—to be her own wedding cakes. That speaks volumes about (a) how delicious this cake is, (b) how easy it is to make, and (c) how bonkers it is to bake your own wedding cakes. I had the good fortune to only be baking one—although it was for a bachelorette party, because rumor had it the bride was a fan of chocolate.

But that this is a cake fit for either weddings or wedding-related shenanigans does not mean that it should not be made all the darn time. Because it most certainly should.

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Scallops truly are the candy of the sea, and it’s rare that I can pass them up when I see them on a restaurant menu. But I’ve always been hesitant to make them. The first time I tried to sear scallops at home, they emitted a strange milky liquid and ended up steaming more than searing. They were still tasty, but disappointing. I’ve since learned that those scallops must have been “wet” scallops—treated with yummy-sounding sodium tripolyphosphate, which is apparently often the case with supermarket scallops. What you want to get, it seems, are “dry” scallops. (According to Cook’s Illustrated, if you’re not sure what you have, place one scallop on a paper-towel lined plate and microwave for 15 seconds; if it’s, wet, it will release liquid. And then, if you do have wet scallops, soak them in a solution of one quart cold water, 1/4 cup lemon juice, and two tablespoons table salt for 30 minutes.)

Still, disheartened by my first attempt. it took me nearly two years to try again. I’m deeply sorry that I waited so long.

It was difficult to stop eating long enough to take this photo.

Armed with Cook’s Illustrated’s science—and the suggestion of using butter—I finally found the nerve to give it another shot. Way to go, science! And butter! Sea scallops are still frustratingly expensive, but with this technique they make for an insanely quick and fabulous weeknight supper.

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