Monday, April 23, 2007

Odds and Ends -- Cauliflower Slabs, Wheat Berries, Brown Rice

Here are some recent odds and ends from my kitchen (or slabs, grains, and sprouts):

Slab of cauliflower
Perhaps it is some kind of return to my days of eating meat, or perhaps the colder than usual winter affected me, but for some reason the idea of cooking cauliflower in slabs has been attractive. It is an easy way to deal with cauliflower, and the large flat areas increase the probability of golden brown areas (thus unleashing the Maillard Reaction).

It's very simple to cook cauliflower in slab form: wash the cauliflower, then slice through the entire head to get 3/8" (~1.5 cm) thick slabs (or whatever thickness you desire). The slabs can be prepared in the oven (brushed with oil, sprinkled with salt and pepper and roasted at 400 or 450 F) or they can be cooked in a skillet (over medium heat).

Stir-fried bean sprouts and chives
When making Pim's pad Thai recipe, I always have leftover bean sprouts. Not having a lot of experience with them, all too often they rot in my refrigerator. But then I discovered a simple and delicious recipe in James Oseland's highly-regarded Cradle of Flavor. Basically, you briefly stir fry some shallots and garlic, then add bean sprouts and soy sauce, and finish the dish with a handful of garlic chives (a.k.a. Chinese chives, Allium tuberosum). I didn't think I would like the dish, but I was wrong. The sprouts have a lovely flavor and pleasing crunch.

Warm lentil and wheat berry salad
Ever since reading Jeffery Steingarten's piece in Vogue on the amazing healthfulness of whole grains (via Mighty Foods and then Gustiamo), I have been trying to eat more whole grains. The latest grain of interest is Full Belly Farms' organically grown wheat berries (the raw material for flour), and my latest experiment is a lentil and wheat berry salad. The wheat berries offer more texture than flavor, with a pleasant chewiness that contrasts to the mushiness of the lentils. Here's a rough sketch:

Remove any stones or foreign material from dried brown or green lentils, then rinse them. In a pot, combine the lentils, whole wheat berries, diced carrot, diced onion, and some herb sprigs (rosemary, thyme, parsley). I use a 5 to 1 ratio of lentils to wheat berries. Add water to cover by one or two inches. Cook until the wheat berries are tender, about 20-30 minutes. Drain away the liquid.

Add a splash of vinegar (I used sherry vinegar), a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, some capers, salt, and additional fresh herbs to taste.

Massa Organic Brown Rice
On a Saturday a few months ago, I noticed a new vendor at the Berkeley Farmers' Market, Massa Organics. His table had just one product: two pound bags of organic brown rice. The rice is grown near Chico, California, in the Sacramento River valley (about 190 miles away). A week later, I bought a bag.

My pantry always contains a variety of rices (latest census: basmati, jasmine, arborio, short grain, some Italian non-arborio rice, plain long grain), but no brown rice. Although I learned to cook using crunchy granola books like Laurel's Kitchen (my first cookbook purchase) and Moosewood, I was never really into brown rice. The main reason was that it took too long to cook, but another is that Indian food goes so perfectly with basmati rice, and a Thai curry pairs brilliantly with jasmine rice, and who has ever heard of a brown rice risotto?

Risotto aside, Massa Organics is making a convert of me. Sure, it takes three times longer than white rice, but it has an 'integrity' that white rice doesn't, a certain chewiness and richness of flavor.

(Note: I have no financial connection to Massa Organics. I just like their rice.)

Random link from the archive: Interview with John McPhee (September 2005)

Technorati tags: vegetarian : Food


Brett said...

Marc, I'm the same when it comes to rice. I never saw the point of brown. That is until, like you, I bought a bag from Massa. I cooked some last week and loved it.

cc said...

#1 reason for eating brown arborio rice risotto: it will never give one diarrhea, no matter how much of it is consumed. I once bought a bulk bag of California grown organic brown arborio rice from a vendor in the SF Valley. Now I can't bring them up on my server. If you know of any thru Berkeley, land of vegetarians/vegans, please let me know. Only CALIFORNIA GROWN ORGANIC BROWN ARBORIO RICE, that is what I'm looking for: NOT basmati, short-grain brown, white arborio, Italian-grown arborio, non-organic, etc.

pinkboi said...

Your excuse about basamati and jasmine is silly. Any kind of rice you can get in white you can get in brown and I must say brown basamati rice is one of the most delicious things you'll ever have! I like to have brown jasmine with a little bit of coconut milk powder and lime leaves..

If you get a really good Japanese rice cooker (not the crappy American kind, which is just a glorified steamer), you can cook perfect brown or white rice without having to attend to it, nullifying the time issue (provided you plan ahead)