Coconut Rice Pudding

image

Today was all about Loretta.

She begged for a doll and for rice pudding. She got both.

The pudding is a Tamar Adler recipe that I've made a few times before since I usually have cold rice in the fridge and coconut milk in the pantry. 

And the doll? It called for a poem.

Girl Power

Suddenly, after seven years of girlhood,
you wanted a doll.

In the toy aisle, there's Rachel, Tess,
Ashley, Star. They have horses, roller skates,
tea sets, electric guitars, and big price tags
next to your crumpled allowance.
You pick Phoebe
because her hair is long.
You're talking to her before we're home.

I forget how much love you have to give.

Now, on the living room floor, you're brushing,
humming, cooing, changing her shoes,
making her a bed. Something in me knows
this is the easiest
being a girl will ever be--
before rejection, scales, first love, 
before unraveling, tidal desires--
one suntanned, lively second grader
who wants only a doll, a Sunday afternoon,
and snacks all around.

Coconut Rice Pudding
I don't know how Loretta got rice pudding in her head, but she did. My kids have a one-track mind (treats!) just like their mother has a one-track mind (cheese!). Phoebe had some too, of course.  

2 c. cold cooked rice
2 c. coconut milk
1 c. heavy cream
1/3 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
grate of nutmeg
1 tsp. vanilla
lime zest if you like

Combine all ingredients except lime zest in a heavy medium saucapan. Stir and bring to a simmer. Turn to low and cook until rice has absorbed a lot of the liquid and pudding is the consistency you like. Tamar says 50 minutes--I did more like 25. Once done, spoon into bowls and top with lime zest, if you like. (or stewed fruit, cinnamon, toasted nuts...) Phoebe likes hers plain. 

Curried Basmati Rice Salad

Curried Basmati Rice Salad

If I had t-shirts with all my slogans on them, we'd have to rent a storage unit.

This week's t-shirt would say, "Put it all in one bowl!" I'm a fan of cramming as many colorful and crunchy things as possible into a bowl and then eating off it for as long as possible.

Today, it was a curried rice salad with toasted coconut and almonds, candied ginger, and veggies. I brought it to Amber's School's Out! party, and we sat on her deck drinking gin and tonics, snacking, and crying about our 5th graders moving on to middle school. Wayne, my father-in-law, couldn't believe how sentimental I got at Wyatt's 5th grade graduation. I told him that if they had these events when Yancey was 11 and they played a 6-song slideshow that included Chariots of Fire, he'd cry too.

As Wyatt and Loretta get older and we all keep being present to the ups and downs of parenting, I am so, so thankful for the community of mothers in my neighborhood who help me laugh instead of cry, who watch and watch out for my kids, who remind me that my best is usually good enough. Liz, Elizabeth, Breeze, Amber, Kristen, Michelle, Debi, Kristy, Joy, Jen, Kelly, Teri, Cameo, Kate, Tracy and so many more. It's good to be together.

Curried Basmati Rice Salad
You could add so many other things to this--chopped raw or roasted broccoli or cauliflower, shaved carrots, currants instead of raisins, Asian basil, diced red onions or chopped green onions.

4 Tb. butter or coconut oil
1 c. finely chopped onion
2 minced garlic cloves
2 Tb. finely minced fresh ginger
2 Tb. curry powder
2 c. basmati rice, rinsed
1 c. raisins
2 Tb. sugar
1 English cucumber, diced
1 bunch cilantro, washed and coarsely chopped
handful fresh mint, coarsely chopped
1 red jalapeno, seeded and diced
1 c. toasted unsweetened coconut flakes
2 c. toasted slivered or sliced almonds
1/4 c. chopped candied ginger
salt
juice of two limes

For rice: In a heavy medium saucepan, melt butter or coconut oil. Add onions, garlic, ginger, and curry powder and saute until melded, about 5 minutes. Add rice, 4 cups water, sugar, and raisins and stir. Bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer, cover and cook for 20 minutes. Turn off heat after 20 minutes and let sit covered for 10 minutes. Remove the lid, fluff with a fork, and pour into a big shallow salad bowl, stirring to release heat and separate the grains.

To assemble the salad: Add cucumber, cilantro, mint, jalapeno, coconut, almonds, and candied ginger, saving a little of each to garnish the top. Mix with salt (keep tasting and add plenty!) and lime juice. Top with reserved ingredients.

P.S. To make this heartier and serve it for dinner, grill some chicken or roast some tofu to go on top.

What I Bring to Potlucks

IMG_4112

I feel two ways about potlucks. On one hand, they're the only sensible way for a big group to gather and eat together. In all my magazine-reading (have I mentioned how much I love magazines? The paper kind?), I often come across "Easy Do-Ahead Party Menus!" that look atrocious. More work than I have ever put into having anyone over in my life. Maybe each step is technically easy, but you'd still have to be unemployed (or have a kitchen staff), hyper organized, and LOVE cooking to pull it off. So potlucks solve this problem.

However, *&%$#!. Sometimes too many potlucks stack up in one week, and I find they are just as much work (or more) than what I would have made for my family that night. And I have occasionally cursed potlucks, though please don't tell anyone. Puget Sounders are supposed to love them. Always.

I adore people that bring a hot, main dish to potlucks. People with crockpots (I gave mine away as it was suffering from disuse), people with those handy Rubbermaid sets with thermal jackets. If you're one of those, thank you! Keep doing your thing!

As for me and my house, we will supply the salad. It's usually something like this one--brown rice and kale salad with cranberries and pecans. Here's my reasoning:

  1. It's vegan and gluten free. And I label it as such. 
  2. It's filling. Though I'm not a Main Dish Super Hero (God bless you!), it's conceivable that someone could eat a **#load of this and feel fairly satisfied.
  3. It's delicious. Have I ever let you down? (Don't chime in if I have. I know readers have slaved over some recipes and been ruinously disappointed. I'm sorry!)
  4. It is best served room temperature (Potluck Royalty!).
  5. It can sit in its vinaigrette forever and just get better. You don't have to worry about it getting soggy.
  6. Crazily, I usually have everything I need for a version of this salad--grains, greens, homemade vinagrette. If you wash and dry kale and put it in a ziploc bag in the fridge, it lasts a really long time. (Though it gets gobbled up around here. Along with a latte and Triscuits, it's the food I eat almost every day.)
  7. It looks bright and beautiful with the macerated cranberries and the green kale. There's never any left.

And for those of you that have been following this blog since its inception almost 4 years ago, you might remember the very first recipe I posted was something similar--Barley and kale salad with dried cherries and blue cheese. I had taken it to my Mom's birthday party and been accosted with requests for the recipe. I prided myself on always delivering recipes (handwritten and cobbled together from memory) to people who asked for them, but had the idea of putting it online to save my fingers from so much work. I made up the name on-the-spot, and I've always been glad I didn't think it about it much. Otherwise it wouldn't have happened. (I have a couple dear friends who are contemplating--and contemplating some more!--the idea starting a blog. Just get out there. We'll all be better for it.)

Happy Week of Giving Thanks. As always, I'm thankful for you.

Kale and Brown Rice Salad with Cranberries and Pecans
You could use white rice, barley, quinoa...so many other grains here. The important thing is that it's had a chance to cool down a little bit so the grains can separate. If you can't cook it ahead of time and chill it, just spread it out in a very shallow layer, drizzle a little bit of olive oil over it, and stir it occasionally to release the steam.

4 cups cooked grain (I made brown rice in my rice cooker the day before)
1 large bunch curly green kale, de-stemmed, washed, dried, and coarsely chopped
1/2 c. toasted pecans, coarsely chopped
2 Tb. honey
salt and pepper
2 garlic gloves
4 Tb. apple cider vinegar
1/4 c. olive oil 
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced 
1/2 c. dried cranberries

For dressing:
Combine honey, salt and pepper, garlic, vinegar, and olive oil with an immersion blender. (Or with a whisk if you use a garlic press.) Add more of anything to taste. Drop the sliced onions and dried cranberries into the dressing to marinate.

To assemble salad:
In a large bowl, combine rice, kale, and dressing. I use my hands. Make sure everything is covered with the vinaigrette. That's what makes this salad. Scatter the toasted pecans over the top and maybe a little more coarse salt and pepper. 

Wokking and Walking in 2012

New Year's Stir Fry

My wok will be 2 years old in April. I am pathetically keeping track, since 2 years is supposed to be the time when an often-used wok is finally seasoned perfectly. Sometimes I get it out, set it on the cooktop, and just look at it. It's getting so wondefully burnished and banged up. And, more importantly, absolutely nothing is sticking to its surface. 

I talked here about wok love and about Grace Young's book, The Breath of a Wok. What I'd add this time around is the following:

  • If I'm making an Asian stir fry, I use vegetable or peanut oil. More and more, though, I'm using olive oil and getting very far away from traditional Asian combinations. The "recipe" here is an example.
  • I've gotten discouraged a couple times when, just when my wok seemed to be developing the longed-for patina, it all disappeared because of enthusiastic vinegar use, wok cooking naiveté, or other mysterious reasons. My admonishment is Keep Going! The only way to really wreck a wok (say that 5 times fast) is to let it get rusty with standing water or to not use it. Continued use, even if it takes you 5 years, will pay off.
  • It's really hard to experience what I'm talking about here if you have an electric cooktop. Woks need raging heat. 

And, wok cooking is a fabulous way to eat more vegetables in one sitting than you ever thought possible. The stir fry here is 80% cabbage, kale and brussel sprouts, with just a handful of cold brown rice thrown in at the end. That description sounds depressing, but it was DELICIOUS. And made my fiber and Vitamin A off-the-charts that day.

I'm starting out the new year realizing I've spend most my energy the past six months caring for others, and not enough caring for myself. Sound familiar, anyone? When I do that, carbs (empty ones, of course) somehow taste so good, show up everywhere, and supplant the vegetables my body really wants. I'm trying to change that, and trying again to move as much as possible, even if it's not the 60 minute workout I want. Wokking and Walking. You'll hear more about it in April, I'm sure, when I throw a little birthday party for the blasted thing.

New Year's Stir Fry
Serves 2. (If you want to serve 4 as a meal, you'll have to do this twice, since an over-filled wok just steams everything.) Thinly slice 1/4 head of green cabbage, a few cups of washed kale leaves (stems removed), and a couple handfuls of washed brussel sprouts. Mince 2 cloves of garlic, thinly slice 2 red Fresno peppers (red Jalapenos), and see if there are any stray bits of meat in your fridge. You can use ham, cooked or uncooked chopped bacon, proscuitto, etc. This is optional, but yummy. Heat your wok over high heat for about 15 seconds, then pour 2 Tb. olive oil in. Add garlic, stir, then add veggies. Fry over high heat for about 4 minutes, moving everything around quite a bit, and add kosher salt to taste. When everything's getting crispy/tender, add 2 handfuls of COLD cooked brown rice (or white rice or bulgar or quinoa or barley), fry for another minutes, then add 1 Tb. of white wine vinegar and fry for another minute. Dump everything into 2 bowls and top with some crumbled feta, if you like. Or a fried egg.

Rice and Beans for Lent

Yes
What is Lent, anyway? If you don't practice in the Christian tradition, it must be REALLY confusing. People walking around with ashes on their foreheads, giving up coffee, chocolate, or alcohol (and probably moaning about it).

Growing up, my Dad drove a 1959 Rambler American with a continental kit on the back. We called her Dumplin'. I remember a little magnetic reminder stuck on the dashboard: Live simply so others may simply live. That's what I think of when Lent comes around--how can I remind myself, in a daily way, that suffering is part of life? How can I focus my longings less on food, entertainment, and consumption, and more on justice, love, and sharing?

If you've been reading for any length of time, you know that our family as a method for this. Rice and beans every weeknight for the 40 days of Lent. I don't preach that everyone should do it, and it's not a perfect method for engaging this season. But, if you're interested in the rationale or logistics and thinking you might just follow along, here's the 411:

  • Once or twice a week, I'll cook a batch of rice (white or brown) and a big pot of beans (pinto or black). We reheat these every weeknight for dinner. You could certainly experiment with other beans (lentils, red beans, etc.) but the point is not to spend a bunch of time hunting down exotic beans. It's to free your money, time, and energy up for other things.
  • We'll often have a simple salad as well--just greens with a little vinaigrette.
  • Salsa, cilantro, chopped onions, and sometimes cheese accompany the rice and beans.
  • Weekends are exempt because it's too hard to control if we'll be home or not. But we usually end up eating rice and beans at least once on the weekend, too.
  • The kids are down with this. They like having more time to spend with us in the evening, and they happen to love rice and beans. I'm sure it would be harder if they complained, but I'd do it anyway. This lesson is as much for them as it is for us.
  • It's tempting to make up for the monotony with lunch, especially when I'm on my own, scheming about how to have work meetings at my favorite restaurant, for instance. I really, really try to resist this and eat simply at other meals as well.
  • This starts on Ash Wednesday--two days from now!

My hopes for our family this Lenten season is that we will deepen in gratitude for one another and for everything we have. I hope we can give the money away that we would have spent on a more varied diet, have more time to play together in the evenings, and recognize the millions of people in the world and in this country who are intimately familiar with suffering.

So what will this mean for In Praise of Leftovers? There won't be many recipes going up, but I plan to still write. Part of what can be so transformative about Lent is seeing things in new ways. I've got my camera, my never-ending thoughts, and I imagine those will make their way here. If you decide to try this in any form, I would love to hear about it and learn from you.

Lenten Loretta

 

Cumin Fried Rice with Chorizo and Kale

 

cumin fried rice

Remember when I went on and on about my wok? With romantic metaphors, even? I suppose we are past infatuation and into the settled domestic partners stage. The patina is developing as planned, and I can now fry rice, noodles, or meat without any fear of sticking. I've often thought what a wonderful gift it would be to season a wok for someone else. But I don't want to give up cooking with mine.

I haven't posted a ton of wok recipes because most the things I make in it are so completely and utterly everyday. I'm not sure there's a lot of interest in a fried-rice-a-day calendar. I've sizzled a few delicious numbers, but it's too damn dark at night for decent photos. So you'll have to trust me on this wok thing.

Except for today's version of fried rice, which is a typical example of what I've been up to. This weekday lunch was made possible by:


  1. The fact that I am self-employed.
  2. My addiction to cleaning out the fridge.
  3. The hard work I put into cleaning and prepping vegetables (a ritual part of every weekend around here).
  4. My habit of cooking up some kind of whole grain (brown rice, in this case) and having it in the fridge all week.
  5. PCC's stocking of chorizo in the deli. Real stuff. I couldn't get it in my neighborhood before. Dangerous.
  6. My ongoing commitment to use my wok almost daily. This is a very serious relationship.

Have I mentioned I'm on another health kick? Choosing whole grains over stripped ones, working to get all my servings of fruits and vegetables in, watching my portion sizes, cutting down on sugar and fats. I'm thankful for this body that has such grace for me and responds so energetically when I take care of it. In this season of overeating and constant indulgence, this is my little rebellion.

Cumin Fried Rice with Chorizo and Kale
Serves as a light lunch for two. The important thing with fried rice is that your rice is cold--it's been in the fridge for at least a few hours. For this reason, I always make more than I need and refrigerate the rest. And using brown rice here is no sacrifice--I think it makes a much more delicious version. If you don't have a well-seasoned wok, a large nonstick skillet will work. And you can certainly use other veggies here--peppers, green onions, carrots. The important thing is that they are cut to uniform size.


1 Tb. olive oil
1 Tb. cumin seeds
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 large clove garlic, minced
2" length of cured chorizo, finely diced
1 small zucchini or 1/2 medium zucchini, finely diced
2 c. shredded green cabbage
2 . chopped kale
kosher salt
1 1/2 c. cold brown basmati rice
squeeze of lemon
handful of crumbled feta

Heat your wok on high until a drop of water flicked into it disappears instantly. Add oil, swirl to coat, and add cumin seeds, red pepper flakes, and garlic. Stirfry with a metal spatula for 10 seconds, stirring constantly.

Add chorizo, zucchini, cabbage, and kale, and stirfry to 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add salt and rice and cook for 2-3 more minutes until rice is warmed through and vegetables are getting crispy in places. Dump into two bowls, squeeze some lemon over, and top with a bit of crumbled feta.

Firsts and Lasts and Rice and Bean Salad

rice and bean salad

Two events this week--one that feels major for our little family, and one that's devastating for lots of people in my community.

First, Wyatt and I are separated for five days. He's staying with my parents and going to camp. He's having the time of his life, calling every night with reports of going pedal-boating, eating ring pops from the camp candy store, and being spoiled by his grandparents. I opened my Mom's fridge to find a cup of blackberries with this note sticking out the top. I've never been away from him this long, and it's made harder by the fact that I'm especially infatuated with him right now.  I miss his helpfulness, his little routines around the house, standing over his bed and watching him sleep. This is ridiculous. He'll be home Friday night.

do-not-eat

And my dear friend and colleague Bud passed away on Sunday night. I can't really get my head around it yet. My heart aches for his wife and my friend Kathy, for all of us that loved and knew him. I'm so grateful for his life, for the love and generosity he showed to me, and that his community will be together soon to celebrate him.

Bud's death has made these last few days seem especially poignant and fragile. I haven't wanted to let Loretta out of my sight, and dragged myself to my meetings today. What is this life, if not precious? We are all born to die, but I manage to skirt that reality quite a bit most the time. Right before I got the dark news, Loretta asked, "Mom, how do persons die?" And tonight she said, "Well, that's okay if you and me die. We just won't have bodies anymore." But right now, we have these bodies, and the only thing to do with them is love. I plan to do it more fiercely than ever.

Postscript: Here's a salad I've made twice this week. Once for Jordan's homecoming picnic, and today to drop off for Kathy. Comings and goings, firsts and lasts. Chalk another one up for the comfort of the kitchen. At the very least, it's something to do with our hands when nothing else makes sense.

grilled zucchini

Rice and Bean Salad
This salad is great to take to potlucks or to grieving households. It's vegan (though you could add some crumbled feta or queso fresco), gluten-free, and quite sturdy. It can sit in the fridge and be picked at for lunch or dinner, or can be piled on top of greens with some grilled chicken for a main dish. Or you could deliver it with some torillas, shredded romaine, and chipotle crema to make roll-ups. It might not garner a bunch of oohs and ahs at first glance, but the garlicky cumin dressing will hook people. This makes a very large bowlful. Halve it if your life is slightly less full of potlucks than mine has been.

2 1/2 c. brown basmati rice
2 15 oz. cans black beans
4 small zucchini
2 c. fresh corn kernels or Trader Joe's roasted corn, (sold frozen)
couple big handfuls chopped Italian parsley or cilantro
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 yellow bell pepper, diced
1 orange bell pepper, diced
1/4 c. raw pumpkin sides for garnish

For dressing:
1 Tb. coarse salt
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ancho chile powder
Fresh ground pepper
Juice of two limes
2/3 c. extra virgin olive oil

Cook your rice. I do mine in a rice cooker, then let the whole batch cool in the fridge overnight, breaking up clumps when I dump it into the bowl. However you do it (lots and lots of water on the stove would be another way), your grains should emerge separate, not all stuck together, and you'll want the rice down to cool down a bit before proceeding.

Grill the zucchini (I used my grill pan). Cut each zucchini in half crosswise, then cut each half lengthwise into four 1/4" flat strips. Toss the strips with a bit of olive oil and salt, and grill for about 2 minutes/side. Cool a bit, then dice.

If you're not using Trader Joe's amazing frozen roasted corn kernels (my new favorite thing), you can just use raw corn if it's really sweet and fresh. If it doesn't fit that description, toast it in a skillet with a tiny bit of olive oil and salt for a few minutes just to take the raw edge off.

Gently toss rice, zucchini, corn, and all other ingredients together.

To make dressing, combine first four ingredients, then whisk olive in to emulsify. Gently toss salad with dressing, and top salad with pumpkin seeds.