Ode to a microwave

December 11, 2009

   Leftovers are my life, which is one reason I have such a close relationship with my microwave oven. Last night I discovered one more justification for their existence: Nothing makes better basmati rice.
   I learned this long ago from Julie Sahni, and I should have known better than to doubt her. But despite all her assurances that the microwave not only cooks basmati rice perfectly, but actually makes each grain longer, I've continued to use the conventional method.  Last night, however, every burner on the stove was occupied. I decided to do it her way.
    It couldn't be easier: You wash 2 cups of basmati rice until the water runs clear.  Then you put it in a bowl (or some other microwave-friendly vessel), add 3 cups of water and cook at the highest power for 15 minutes.  Cover the bowl, cook it 5 minutes more, and let it stand for an additional 5 minutes.
    Fluff with a fork and proudly serve the remarkably fragrant rice. This rice is long, thin and extremley elegant. More importantly, each grain retains its individuality, refusing to reach out and grab its neighbors in the clingy fashion of so many lesser rices.
  And it makes great leftovers.


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December 11, 2009

Ruth Reichl is the author of Delicious! a novel published by Random House in May 2014. She was Editor in Chief of Gourmet Magazine from 1999 to 2009.  Before that she was the restaurant critic of  both The New York Times(1993-1999) and the Los Angeles Times (1984-1993), where she was also named food editor. As co-owner of The Swallow Restaurant from 1974 to 1977, she played a part in the culinary revolution that took place in Berkeley, California. In the years that followed, she served as restaurant critic for New West and California magazines. 

Ms. Reichl began writing about food in 1972, when she published Mmmmm: A Feastiary. Since then, she has authored the critically acclaimed, best-selling memoirs Tender at the BoneComfort Me with ApplesGarlic and Sapphires, and For You Mom, Finally, which have been translated into 18 languages. She is the editor of The Modern Library Food Series, which currently includes ten books. She has also written the introductions to Nancy Silverton’s Breads from the La Brea Bakery: Recipes for the Connoisseur (1996) and The Measure of Her Powers: An M.F.K. Fisher Reader (2000), and the forewords for Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art, by Shizuo Tsuji (2007), At Elizabeth David’s Table (2011) and .  She is featured on the cover of Dining Out: Secrets from America’s Leading Critics, Chefs and Restaurants, by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page (1998).  She is the editor of Endless Feasts: Sixty Years of Writing from GourmetRemembrance of Things Paris: Sixty Years of Writing from GourmetThe Gourmet Cookbook, released September 2004; History in a Glass: Sixty Years of Wine Writing from Gourmet, 2006 and Gourmet Today, September 2009. Her lecture “Why Food Matters,” delivered in October 2005, was published in The Tanner Lectures on Human Values, Volume 27, in 2006. In March 2007, she delivered the J. Edward Farnum Lecture at Princeton University. 

Ms. Reichl hosted Eating Out Loud, three specials on Food Network, covering New York (2002), San Francisco (2003), and Miami (2003). She is the executive producer of Gourmet’s Diary of a Foodie, public television’s 30-episode series, which debuted in October 2006 and Executive Producer and host of Gourmet’s Adventures with Ruth, a 10-episode public television series which began airing in October 2009. She is currently a judge on Top Chef Masters.

 Ms. Reichl has been honored with 6 James Beard Awards (one for magazine feature writing and one for multimedia food journalism in 2009; two for restaurant criticism, in 1996 and 1998; one for journalism, in 1994; and Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America, 1984.  In 2007, she was namedAdweek’s Editor of the Year. She received the Missouri Honor Medal for Distinguished Service in Journalism, presented by the Missouri School of Journalism, in October 2007. Ms. Reichl received the 2008 Matrix Award for Magazines from New York Women in Communications, Inc., in April 2008. She holds a B.A. and an M.A. in the History of Art from the University of Michigan and lives in Upstate New York with her husband, Michael Singer, a television news producer.


World’s Finest Citrus

December 9, 2009

  Last year I gave a four-year old friend a handful of tiny Kishu mandarins and he actually squealed with delight. “Oranges for children!” he said, clearly wondering why all foods don’t come scaled for little people.  He began to peel the miniature fruit, delighting in the tiny sections.  Then he put one into his mouth.  And didn’t say anything until he had devoured 6 of them.  “More,” he said simply when he was done.

These are extraordinary little treats, better, to my mind because their season is so short. They’re like the first real strawberries of spring, the fleeting local cherries, the tomatoes of high summer… Something to anticipate with pleasure and eat with utter abandon, trying to fix the flavor in your mind so you can bring it forward when all you have is memories. 

Kishu mandarins won’t be ripe until January, but the orchard is taking pre-orders now.  Here’s the link:

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Rice Pudding

December 5, 2009

  Woke up early, snuggled into bed and reached for the nearest books on the table.  First up, “A Place of Greater Safety,”  (I’m on a Hilary Mantel jag, and no wonder when she writes sentences like these.  “I have tried to write a novel that gives the reader scope to change opinions, change sympathies: a book that one can think and live inside.  The reader may ask how to tell fact from fiction.  A rough guide: anything that seems particularly unlikely is probably true.”)

I got so absorbed that I began to understand how easily I could spend the entire day living inside of that book, so I moved on to the old cookbooks I bought at Bonnie Slotnick’s store last month. (Another addiction.)  “The House of Chan Cookbook” turned out to be a ridiculous volume from 1952 that begins in embarrassing pidgen English and offers entire chapters on Chop Suey and Chow Mein. But “Cooking a la Longchamps,” with its evocation of a long-gone New York, was a wonderful slice of nostalgia.  It was a time of “Crabmeat Exquisite,” “Abalone Steaks in Rhine Wine Sauce” and gnocchi that were called “Baked Cream of Wheat with Parmesan.”  Turning the page, I realized what had made me buy the book, My father couldn’t pass Longchamps withoug going in for a bowl of rice pudding. And why not?  They were famous for this dish, which was served in little brown custard cups, with a pitcher of cream to pour over the top.  I loved it too. 

I haven’t made the recipe yet, but I will, soon.  I have to admit that the amount of cream seems suspiciously small; how do you whip half a cup of cream and make it cover an entire casserole? And doesn’t this rice cook an awfully long time? We’ll see.

Longchamps Rice Pudding with Raisins
3/4 cup rice
1 quart milk
3/4 cup sugar
pinch salt
1/2 cup raisins
4 egg yolks
1 cup heavy cream, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla
grated riind of 1 lemon.
powdered cinnamon.

Parboil rice in 3 cups boiling water for 10 minutes.  Drain and combine rice with milk, sugar and salt and cook for 25 minutes until mixture is thick. 

Meanwhile cook raisins in boiling water for 10 minutes and drain.

Beat egg yolks with half the cream. Add to rice with raisins, vanilla and lemon rind.  Put in a casserole.  Whip remaining cream until stiff, spread on top of rice miture, sprinkle with cinnamon. 

Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 8 minutes, until cream turns golden.

Cool and serve with more cream.

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Dumplings Redux

December 4, 2009

 There I was, with a craving for dumplings, and no Chinatown within miles.  So I went scrounging through the refrigerator to see if I had anything that might pass for dumplings.  Happily, I had some wonton wrappers. And a few raw shrimp. In mere minutes I had produced a very satisfying substitute for serious shrimp dumplings.  Herewith, the recipe.

Sort of Shrimp Dumplings
1/2 pound shrimp, peeled
2 cloves garlic
a small knob of ginger
3 skinny scallions
1 teaspoon soy sauce
splash of grapeseed oil
wonton wrappers

I never bother to devein shrimp, but if you’re fastidious, do that. Then chop the shrimp finely (this is much faster and easier than it sounds). 

Mince the garlic, ginger and scallions and mix them into the shrimp.  Add soy sauce and a splash of oil and mix well.

Put a rounded teaspoon of filling in the middle of a wrapper, dab the edges of the wrapper with a bit of water and fold into a triangle, pressing the edges together.  Fold corners together to make a tortellini shaped-object.

Plop into a pot of gently boiling water for about 3 minutes, until filling is cooked.

Eat very happily, dipped into ginger-scented soy sauce. 

This makes about 20 little dumplings.

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