The simple method of cooking rice, (as with all whole grains), illustrates a most charming lesson for the ‘New Year of the trees’. After washing and soaking the rice, in the pot it goes, covered with water and a snug lid. Once it boils, the heat is lowered and the grain simmers until it’s done. One doesn’t lift the lid during the cooking because it would interfere with the grain’s absorption of liquid by lowering the pressure. If this is the case, then how do I know when the pot is ready to boil without peeking under the lid? How do I resist a quick check when I want to avoid a gucky boil-over?
Experience has taught that if I listen carefully, I can hear the approaching boil. Watching the pot, I can see the top beginning to dance and once a shot of steam escapes, the heat is quickly lowered. Any further effort on my part is interference until cooking is complete. For each of the grains to reach their potential, striving to be distinct and whole, I have to trust the process that I’ve performed many times and keep my hands off.
It’s not easy. Feelings of doubt and nervous energy compel me. How can I trust what I can’t see? Especially when I want good results?
What I’m beginning to learn and absorb more with each meal I prepare is that I don’t control the outcome. I can offer up my best efforts, but, as in life, the end result often develops hidden from sight, even when it is right under my nose.
As trees lie dormant in the winter, it is such a wonderfully perfect Jewish time to celebrate. Not the obvious time when the outcome is there for all to see, but when our food source comes from underground. And through this, we know and believe that the Almighty has, does and will sustain us. And as preparing rice shows me, the most important cooking lesson is to have faith.
To Cook Rice
All rice must be thoroughly rinsed before cooking.
Some like to soak the rice for 30 minutes to 2 hours. You can use the soaking water as part of the measured liquid in which the rice is cooked.
When cooking white rice, a pinch of salt or a squeeze of lemon juice is added to the water for extra flavour
Cook 1 cup rice (brown or white) in 2 cups water to serve 4 to 6 people.
Bring it to a boil, covered and then turn down the heat. Allow it to simmer for 15-20 minutes for white rice and 30-40 minutes for brown rice.
When the rice is finished cooking, remove the pot from the heat and let it stand, still covered for a further 5-10 minutes.
Fluff with a fork and serve.
In celebration on the upcoming holiday of Tu Bishvat, what better way to feel its energy than preparing a meal and sharing it? In the dark, damp days of winter warm nourishment is not only essential to keep the body fortified, but provides inspiration for the soul as well.
Savoury Rice Pudding
2 tablespoons oil
1 onion, peeled and diced
1 stalk celery, sliced
1 zucchini, diced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
¼ teaspoon salt
½ - 1 cup water
2 cups cooked brown rice
1/3 cup bread crumbs
1-2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1/3 cup grated cheese (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Heat the oil in a pan and saute the onion and celery. Add the zucchini and carrot and season with the salt and pepper.
Pour in the water, and cover the pan and let the vegetables braise for a few minutes.
Fold in the rice and turn into a greased baking dish.
Scatter the bread crumbs on the top and dot with the butter or margarine. Sprinkle on the cheese, if using.
Bake the pudding for about 20-30 minutes or until the top is nicely browned and crisped.
During the months when we rely on stored harvest from the growing season, we enjoy root vegetables as the basis of our meals. Vegetables that grow beneath the ground such as onion, carrot, parsnip, beet and turnip where the starch is sugary and the flesh is dense satisfy hunger. Squashes with thick skins that endure cold storage add brilliant flashes of colour and an earthy sweetness to our cooking.
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoon margarine or butter
1 pound parsnips, peeled and sliced into ¼” coins
Salt and pepper
A little honey or maple syrup
¼ cup toasted pine nuts
Heat the oil and margarine in a saut? pan. Add the parsnip coins and seasonings. Cook over medium heat until the parsnips begin to soften and caramelize, about 10-15 minutes.
Glaze with a little maple syrup and garnish with the pine nuts.
How lovely to make a savoury pie where the tart is homey and haphazard. No need for fiddling with this crust.
8 ounces margarine/shortening
2 cups flour
½ teaspoon salt
3-4 tablespoons ice water
1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into chunks
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, thinly sliced
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
½ cup chopped walnuts (optional)
Make the dough. Cut the fat into the flour and salt until it resembles small peas. Sprinkle on the ice water and bring the dough together. Let the dough rest in the fridge while making the filling.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Place squash chunks on a parchment lined baking sheet and roast in the oven for about 25- 30 minutes or until softened.
Saute onions in a fry pan and season with salt and pepper.
Combine onions, squash and walnuts, if using, and let cool.
Roll out the pastry into a rough circle, approximately ¼” thick. Mound the squash filling in the centre leaving a border of 2-3” all around. Gather up the dough around the filling leaving the centre open. Its meant to look unprecise.
Bake the galette in a 375 oven for 25 – 30 minutes or until lightly browned. Serve warm or at room temperature.