Sunday, April 29, 2007

Rice Bowl

I ran across a new veggie variety at the produce market yesterday, a golden zucchini, not to be mistaken for a yellow squash, or summer squash as we northerners call them. This was the identical size and shape of the familiar green zucchini but it was vibrantly yellow, not the pastel yellow of the familiar summer squash with its thin, tapered neck. Varieties of this yellow squash are called Golden Dawn or Golden Girl and I just had to have some.

Late in the afternoon, I was pleased to find a new posting from the top of my Blog Favorites list, Heidi Swanson's 101 Cookbooks. Heidi had made a great, fast rice bowl featuring the convenience food, frozen brown rice to which she added asparagus, slivered almonds and a piquant tahini dressing. Check it out.

And do check out Heidi's newly released book, Super Natural Cooking. It's a beautifully rendered compendium of information and easy to follow recipes that puts to rest the misconception that natural, whole foods taste like cardboard. As if any of us actually know what cardboard tastes like. When was the last time you had some for a snack?

Treat yourself to a copy of the book, and broaden your repertoire with whole food dishes that are fast and fabulous. It's only $13.60 at Amazon. The images, layout, information and recipes will provide big dividends for your small investment. Great for gift giving, too.

Spurred on by the lovely image of Heidi's rice bowl, I ran downstairs to the kitchen, intending to replace the rice with quick cooking quinoa, but when I opened the kitchen cabinet and saw several jars of different Lundberg Farms rices smiling back at me, I chose to cook a cup of Japonica (black & mahogany) rice, in two cups of homemade vegetable broth, even though it would take the best part of an hour. I was in no hurry actually, and the deep, rich aroma wafting through the house as the dark rice cooked, was an added bonus.

Tip: I make up a large stock pot of veggie broth on a day when I'm tackling other projects that keep me in the kitchen for a while. Then when the broth has cooled, I mete it out into one and two cup portions to freeze. I also fill a couple of ice cube trays (one tray, 16 cubes = 2 cups) and when the cubes are frozen, transfer them to plastic freezer bags. These are great when you need a couple of tablespoons of liquid to deglaze a pan, finish off a sauce, or thin down a stew or chili. I do the same with lemon juice when local lemons are plentiful. I have plastic bags of lemon cubes and broth, tucked away in the freezer to use at a moment's notice. Shortcuts like this make cooking a pleasure and give the most humble dish a professional finish.

To round out my rice bowl, I chose to include a cup of edamame, lightly blanched in salted water, to add color and protein, and a sliced yellow onion sautéed along with the diced Golden zucchini perked up its sweet, mild flavor. A handful of toasted, slivered almonds and a little freshly minced cilantro rounded out the dish.

and then I had to make a decision about how to dress it.

Let your imagination flow. I chose to use the juice and zest from half a lime, a teaspoon of toasted sesame oil, a couple of teaspoons of the juice from a jar of pickled jalepeños, for heat, and a tablespoon of Penzey's Raspberry Enlightenment, a magic potion that can add a je ne sais quois to a sweet or savory dish.

When the rice was cooked, I tossed it with the edamame, the zucchini and onions, and the dressing, then sprinkled the toasted almonds and minced cilantro over top.

This is the type of dish that lets your imagination run rampant. There are no right or wrongs. Quantities are arbitrary. Use what's on hand. Think color, not only for presentation, but to assure a variety of nutritional benefits. Use rice or bulgur or quinoa or even couscous or a whole grain pasta. Vary the herbs or use a combination. Use colorful veggie additions based on what's fresh at the market. Then experiment with different dressings from simple olive oil and lemon juice, to Heidi's suggestion of a tangy tahini dressing, to peanut sauce. Don't drown the ingredients. Use a light hand with any dressing, let the myriad of flavors from the grain and veggies shine through.

The choices are endless. Different combinations will provide a whole new dish and practice will form the basis for some super one dish entrées that come together quickly, yet give the appearance of hours spent slaving over the hot stove. Presentation is important in any dish, but the real treat is in the eating. Here's a wonderful windfall of flavors and textures combined with vitamins, minerals and fiber.

Healthy whole food eating at its best.

Till next time . . . keep on cooking.


Linda said...

this rice bowl looks fantastic! so colorful and i bet it's packed with flavor.

love love love heidi! she's so talented.!

Freya and Paul said...

Looks fantastic and after an earlier post of yours, I bought some endamame beans at last!

Kate said...

I love rice bowls mixed with about versatile! Yours looks just scrumptious!