Brown Rice with Shallots

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Seriously, folks. It doesn’t get any easier than this. Throw a bunch of brown rice, chicken broth and shallots in a pot along with a splash of wine and a knob of butter and viola: the perfect autumn side dish.

The type of rice that you use in this dish is key, though. I’ve always used Trader Joe’s Brown Rice medley because it includes daikon radish seeds and I love their texture. However, any brown or wild rice will do just fine.

Wild Rice with Shallots

Ingredients:
2 cups wild rice, rinsed
3 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon butter
3/4 cup dry white wine
1 thinly sliced shallot
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

1. In a medium saucepan, combine the rice, chicken broth, butter, wine, shallot, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil; cover. Reduce heat to low and simmer 1 hour and 15 minutes or until the rice grains have split open.

2. Remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and serve.

Baked Pasta and Cheese with Radicchio, Pancetta and Porcini Mushrooms

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I have four macaroni and cheese recipes that I keep in regular rotation, and this is the most frequently requested of the bunch. It’s also the most labor intensive, so I tend to make it one or twice a year, usually during the holidays. Radicchio is not the most traditional ingredient in baked pasta dishes, but it lends a beautiful light purple hue to the dish and despite all the cheese and other not-so-good-for-you ingredients, you’re getting your vegetables too.

I adapted this dish from a Food and Wine magazine recipe. I use less than half the butter and cream than the original, making it not too unhealthy for a special occasion dish.

Baked Pasta and Cheese with Radicchio, Pancetta and Porcini Mushrooms

Ingredients:

1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
Boiling water
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 ounces sliced pancetta, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3 large garlic cloves, minced
2 heads of radicchio, each cut into 8 wedges through the core
Salt and ground pepper
2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
1 pound medium shell pasta
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups low-fat milk
1 1/4 cup heavy cream
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 pound Asiago cheese, grated
5 ounces Fontina cheese, grated
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter a 3-quart baking dish. In a heatproof bowl, soak the porcini in boiling water until softened, about 15 minutes. Rinse the porcini to dislodge any grit, then drain and chop them. Discard the soaking liquid.

2. In a large skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in the olive oil. Add the porcini, pancetta and one-third of the garlic and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the garlic is fragrant, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a plate.

3. Add the radicchio wedges to the skillet and cook over high heat until wilted and beginning to brown, about 4 minutes. Add the remaining garlic, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until the radicchio is slightly caramelized, about 5 minutes longer. Stir in the porcini mixture and the sage. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl.

4. Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, melt the remaining butter. Add the flour and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until foamy, about 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in the milk and bring to a boil; cook, whisking until thickened, about 3 minutes. Add the cream and nutmeg and season with salt and pepper. Transfer the sauce to the bowl with the radicchio.

5. Add the pasta to the bowl along with the Asiago and Fontina; toss to combine. Transfer the pasta to the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese. Bake for 20 minutes, or until heated through.

6. Preheat the broiler. Broil the pasta for 2 minutes, until the top is golden and bubbling. Let stand for 10 minutes; serve.

Cornbread Muffins

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I am a terrible baker. There, I said it.

I see recipes for bread and cakes and cookies that I’d love to try all the time, but I generally steer clear because more often than not, my “bread” comes out resembling cardboard and my “cookies” end up as hard as a tack. Take cornbread, for example. It took me four Thanksgivings and four cornbread recipes until I finally got it right. But now that I’ve found a recipe that works, I’m never letting go of this one. For the past two years, this has been my staple cornbread recipe. These mini-muffins are moist, crumbly and slightly sweet. Most importantly, they come out of the oven consistently every time I make them.

Cornbread Muffins

Ingredients:

1 cup cornmeal
1 cup all purpose flour
5 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 egg, beaten
3 tablespoons butter, melted

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter mini muffin tray. Whisk cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in large bowl to combine. Stir in milk, egg and butter.

2. Working in batches and cooling tray before each batch, spoon two tablespoons batter into each muffin cup. Bake until pale golden brown on bottom, about 12 minutes. Turn muffins out onto rack and cool completely.

Persimmon-Cranberry Sauce

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I have to be honest with you here: I used to really dislike cranberry sauce. Like yams with marshmallows, it was one of the few hallmarks of Thanksgiving that I never came to fully embrace. It probably didn’t help that the only cranberry sauce I’d ever tried was a gelatinous mass out of a can.

Until last year. I grew up with dual cultural Thanksgivings: baghali polo instead of stuffing alongside the turkey, mashed potatoes and tahdeeg. What better way to make an Iranian-American enjoy cranberry sauce than to throw some persimmons in there? We love our persimmons and now, I love my cranberry sauce too. And since Thanksgiving isn’t too far off, I’ve started craving this (ridiculously easy) recipe again. I adapted it from an old issue of Gourmet to suit my own tastes: less sugar, more persimmons and cranberries, and cinnamon instead of star anise to modify the original recipe.

Persimmon-Cranberry Sauce

Ingredients:

1 lb fresh cranberries
1/4 cup dry red wine
2 tablespoons water
1/2 cup sugar
4 Fuyu persimmons, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice

1. Bring cranberries, wine, water, cinnamon, 1/2 cup sugar, and a pinch of salt to a boil in a medium heavy saucepan, stirring occasionally, then reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes. Fold in persimmons.

2. Transfer to a bowl and serve at room temperature. Stir gently before serving.

Hawaiian Poke

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The first time I ever tried poke was, appropriately, in Hawaii. I was having dinner at Sam Choy’s Diamond Head restaurant in Honolulu a few years ago and the waiter brought around an amuse bouche of raw ahi tuna, tossed with flecks of onion, nori seaweed, edible flowers and the most magnificent sauce I’ve ever tasted.

Ever since then I’ve been obsessed with recreating the dish. One of my go-to cookbooks is Martin Yan’s Chinatown, and coincidentally, it contains Yan’s adapted recipe for Choy’s tuna poke. I made this one day when I was feeling especially wistful for Oahu and you know what? I might not have to get on a plane again to taste that memorable poke.

Tuna poke

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon mirin
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon chili garlic sauce
1 pound sushi-grade ahi tuna, cut 1/2-inch cubes
1 small tomato, diced
1/4 cup chopped onion, preferably sweet
1/2 sheet nori seaweed, shredded

1. Stir the soy sauce, vinegar, mirin, sesame oil and chili garlic sauce and cilantro together in a large bowl until blended.

2. Add the tuna, tomato, onion and seaweed to the bowl and toss until coated. Marinate for 5 to 10 minutes. Serve.