nice rice, lady
My all time favorite rice is Texas-grown Lowell Farms organic jasmine rice. Previously I have always purchased this treasure in 2-pound bags from Central Market and sometimes HEB. The escalating price ($3.79 now) finally drove me to the internet, where I secured a 25-pound bag for about $35, including delivery. I don’t know if that’s the greenest way to get it but we’re almost never without a pot of this white gold in the fridge, and I’m saving about 40¢ per pound. I adore this rice and the intoxicating aroma that fills the house while it’s cooking. Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Daguid recommend this brand in their wonderful cookbook, Seductions of Rice (great book, btw). Lowell Farms sells a brown jasmine rice, as well. I’m not that into brown rice but I welcome your suggestions.
I’ve never had a hard time cooking rice. Or if I did, it was so long ago in my culinary journey that I don’t remember any particular frustrations. I find rice preparation to be pretty easy and straightforward (that is, for a straightforward preparation). You can use a rice cooker, I s’pose, but I’ve never tried one. Here’s my rice routine. Be brave.
- 1 cup Lowell Farms white jasmine rice
- 1 2/3 cups water
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 fresh bay leaf–Yes, I have my own bay leaf bush. So I put bay leaves into most everything. Don’t go out and buy fresh bay leaves just for your pot of rice, though. This magic leaf is optional here.
- a dab of butter
Put everything into a solid 1 1/2 quart (or so) saucepan. As one of my very favorite cookbook authors, Yamuna Devi, advises in her magnum opus, Lord Krishna’s Cuisine, “thin walled pans are useless.” Cover the pot with a compatible lid–a dedicated marriage between top and bottom is important here–and bring it all to a big boil on high heat. Give it a brief stir, turn the heat down to low (lowest on my electric range) and cook for 20 minutes. Set your timer! If you put your ear close to the pot–careful! don’t burn yourself!–you’ll still hear the simmering. Remove the pan from the heat and let it rest 10 minutes. Freshly cooked jasmine rice is indeed seductive. Around here we have to try not to eat it all up plain on the spot.
This is the rice that we eat with whatever needs rice: beans, stir-fries of all nationalities and fusions thereof, puddin’, even Indian food when I can’t get a batch of basmati rice going for some reason. A small bowl of hot rice adorned with a spoonful of chutney or Indian pickle (around here, we favor Patak’s Garlic Relish and Brinjal Eggplant Relish and Laxmi Carrot Pickle) makes a satisfying snack. If you’ve got cooked rice you can even dress it as for bún, utilizing the same accompaniment concept. And if you’re looking for yet another way to use up your nước chấm, try this variation of the Thai/Laotian stir-fry known as
- 1 bundle of bean thread noodles, also known as cellophane or glass noodles
- 2 to 4 eggs, local of course, beaten
- 1 to4 kermit (Thai) eggplants.
- about 1 quarter of a large red onion, sliced
- 3-6 shallots, peeled and sliced
- fresh red or green chiles, halved lengthwise if plump, sliced thin
- nước chấm
Soak the bean thread noodles in hot water for 20 minutes. I put a quart of water in a Pyrex measuring cup and nuke it for 222 seconds. Then I place the noodles into the cup and go about my prepping. After the soak, drain the noodles (I use a sieve), place in a wide bowl and douse with a couple Tablespoons of nước chấm. Distribute the dressing with a fork and cut the noodles into manageable lengths with scissors. I just go at it in the bowl somewhat haphazardly.
Behead your eggplants (I’m still buying my beauties from Ringger Family Farm), halve them from top to bottom and cut each half into 4-6 wedges, depending on size. Toss the wedges with about 1/2 teaspoon turmeric, plenty of freshly ground black or white pepper and a pinch of kosher salt.
Heat up a well-seasoned wok or skillet you can trust with your huevos, add a couple of Tablespoons of your choice of fat, and toss in the eggplant wedges. Stir-fry until you get some browning, it’ll smell great, and add your shallots, then your onion slices. Give the mix a few stirs, then pour in your eggs and scramble them around. When the eggs are nearly set dump in your noodles and stir the whole thing around to finish everything off. Quickly plate it up so you don’t overcook your eggs.
Sprinkle with chile slices and add more nước chấm to taste, if necessary. Babies like these noodles, too!