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    THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

    Trends, Products & Items Of Note In The World Of Specialty Foods

    This is the blog section of THE NIBBLE. Read all of our content on TheNibble.com,
    the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

Archive for Rice/Beans/Grains/Seeds

TIP OF THE DAY: How To Cook Beans

Beans are delicious, beans are healthful, beans are inexpensive protein, and we should all eat more beans.

That’s beans made from scratch, not canned beans, which have a lot of sodium and a mushier texture. (But, let us hastily add: It’s better to eat canned beans than no beans).

Beans can be added to green salads, served as sides with everything from breakfast eggs to dinner meats. They purée beautifully into dips (try this white bean dip recipe or this white bean bruschetta).

But some people have trouble cooking beans. Here are tips from Steve Sando, proprietor of Rancho Gordo New World Specialty Food. Steve scours the Americas for the finest small-batch, artisan beans. Some are so beautiful, you just want to keep them as decoration in glass jars.

SOAKING THE BEANS

If your beans are taking forever and a day to cook, the first question to ask is whether you are soaking them or not. A good soak should last from four to eight hours or overnight.

Soaking rehydrates the beans, which begin to lose their moisture as soon as they are harvested.

 

Chili with beans. Photo courtesy Ninja Kitchen.

 
Fresh-harvested beans can be cooked without soaking. Otherwise, you need to reintroduce moisture so the beans will cook faster. When rehydrated, the beans will double in size.

Some people have a magical situation where they don’t need to soak their beans, yet they still cook in a reasonable amount of time. But if you have planned ahead and have the time, by all means soak your beans. In addition, soaked beans generally have a more pleasant texture when cooked.

The big question is whether or not to change the soaking water prior to cooking. Old timers insist on changing the water, which gets rid of the water-soluble oligosaccharides that can cause gas.

But you are also tossing out vitamins, minerals and pigments. As Harold McGee says in his seminal work, On Food and Cooking, “That’s a high price to pay.” If gas is really an issue (and from what we hear, and we hear it all, it isn’t), try cooking your beans for longer—or pick up some Beano.

 

Warm Tuscan white bean salad with lemon-
vinaigrette. Here’s the recipe. Photo courtesy
McCormick.com.

 

THE INITIAL RAPID BOIL

More than anything, advises Steve Sando, this is the key to how long beans cook. Whether you are using the soaking water, new water, aromatic broth or some combination, you want to bring the beans and liquid to a full-on boil.

Then, boil for 10 minutes (15 minutes for big, starchy beans or varieties known to take a long time to cook). Then turn the heat to low and allow the beans to cook at a very gentle simmer.

After one hour, check the beans for doneness. Depending on age, size and variety, beans can take anywhere from an hour to three hours to cook through. Add more water as needed to keep an inch of water on top of the beans; stir occasionally.

Low and slow is the way to go. If you’re short on time, you can increase the heat to a gentle boil, but you will compromise the texture of the beans.

 

TROUBLE SHOOTING

Salt: If you’re having persistent trouble getting your beans to cooking, refrain from adding salt or acids until the beans are soft. It may be an old wives’ tale, but it helps some people.The best time to add the salt is when the beans are al dente.

Adding baking soda: The alkaline in baking soda can help break down tough beans, but it can also make the beans feel slimy or soapy. Steve doesn’t recommend it, but does suggest Sal Mixteca (Mixteca salt), which is naturally high in bicarbonates that will actually soften your beans. Just a bit at the beginning of cooking will speed things up if you’re having trouble. It’s like the old trick of adding baking soda, but without the off taste and texture.

Water: The problem might be your water, if you have especially hard water. The solution: Buy a water filtration system (like Brita) and use the filtered water for soaking and cooking.

EASY RECIPE: BEANS ON TOAST

Readers of British mysteries will find frequent mentions of “beans on toast,” a common breakfast, lunch or dinner item.

“I’ve heard that the British love beans on toast, only it’s usually canned beans [in tomato sauce] on plebian white toast,” says Steve Sando. “Here’s my version:”

  • Toast a piece of rustic bread and lightly butter it.
  • Generously pile on hot cooked beans. Any good bean will do, including leftovers.
  • Finally, drizzle the finest olive oil over them.
  •  
    Finish with herbs or other seasoning, from diced onions to shaved Parmesan cheese or sliced sausage. Serve with a side of pickles.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Amaranth, The Grain Of The Future

    Following yesterday’s recommendation of four uncommon whole grains, we received several queries about amaranth.

    Amaranth is planted worldwide, harvested for cereal and leaf vegetables, and used as ornamental plants. It has been cultivated for 8,000 years.

    There are some 60 species, tall plants with foliage ranging from purple and red to green or gold. Like buckwheat and quinoa, amaranth is not a grain but a pseudograin. The difference: True cereals are grasses, pseudocereals are broadleaf plants. Their overall nutrient profile is similar to that of cereals, and they are similarly utilized in cooking.

    The seeds of pseudograins (analogous to the grains of cereals) can be cooked whole or ground into flour, which in turn becomes cereal, goes into tortillas and other baked goods, and becomes snack food: made into candy and chips, popped and made into a bar mixed with honey, sunflower and pumpkin seeds.

     

    Tiny beads of amaranth, the seeds of the plant. Photo courtesy Bob’s Red Mill.

     
    Pseudocereals can be even more nutritious than grains: both amaranth and quinoa are whole proteins and gluten free.

    A whole protein contains all of the essential amino acids—like meat or milk, but actually a higher quality protein. Amaranth also contains significantly more calcium, iron, fiber, magnesium and protein than cereals like oats, rice, rye, sorghum and wheat.

    In fact, amaranth packs more protein than any other plant on earth; NASA selected it as part of its astronauts’ diets. The leaves Amaranth pack more calcium, iron and vitamin C and than spinach. It also can withstand the triple digit temperatures of climate change, which corn cannot.
     
    8,000 YEARS OF AMARANTH

    Amaranth was a staple grain of the pre-Colombian Aztec diet, along with corn (maize). But amaranth was banned by the Spanish conquistadors for its use in human sacrifice rituals. Corn went on to become a staple grain worldwide, while amaranth faded into obscurity in Mexico.

    It did, however, spread around the world: Both leaves and seeds became important food sources in areas of Africa, India and Nepal. In recent decades, amaranth it has spread to China, Nigeria, Russia and Thailand, and other parts of South America.

    And, it’s now grown in the U.S., in Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, New York (Long Island) and North Dakota.

    The plant, called “the crop of the future” by Science magazine in 1977, is finally making a comeback in Mexico thanks to two American philanthropists who are encouraging farmers to grow it. Mexico has the highest rate of adult obesity in the world, yet each year some 10,000 children die from malnutrition.*

     

    Amaranth cookies. Here’s the recipe. Photo ©
    ChocorrolDeVainilla.com.

     

    COOKING AMARANTH

    The flavor of amaranth flavor runs from light and nutty to lively and peppery. It’s a natural ingredient for breads, cookies, crackers, muffins, pancakes and porridge. The cooked grains can be spread sprinkled on salads and soups.

    Cooking amaranth is very easy. As with cereal grains, simply boil with water and salt (6 cups of water per cup of amaranth) for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally; then drain, rinse and eat. The cooking liquid becomes thick and viscous from the starch released as the amaranth cooks.

    Cooked amaranth never loses its crunch completely. Chewing a spoonful of cooked amaranth grains has been compared to eating a spoonful of caviar: a slight pop on the surface and a soft inside.

     
    Try these recipes:

  • Popped Amaranth Crunch
  • Amaranth Polenta With Wild Mushrooms
  • Blueberry Amaranth Porridge
  • Creamy Cannellini Bean and Amaranth Soup
  • Oat and Amaranth-Crusted Ham and Cheese Quiche
  • Amaranth Banana Walnut Bread
  • Amaranth-Ginger Muffins
  •  
    *Ironically, these issues are linked: Childhood malnutrition makes children seven to eight times more likely to be overweight or obese as an adult.

    Sources:
    http://www.forbes.com/sites/devinthorpe/2013/06/26/amaranth-how-will-it-change-the-world/
    http://www.pri.org/stories/science/environment/mexicans-pushing-for-return-of-ancient-grain-amaranth-to-agriculture-14176.html
    http://wholegrainscouncil.org/whole-grains-101/amaranth-may-grain-of-the-month-0

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Try Something New For National Whole Grains Month

    Just because it’s National Whole Grains Month doesn’t mean you have to flock to the brown rice and whole wheat pasta. Good as they are, why not try something new—something you might enjoy as much or more? Because whole grains are not only good for you; they’re delicious.

    Thousands of years ago, many more grains were cultivated; in modern times, the majority have fallen out of fashion. Yet, with focus on the important health benefits of whole grains and the recommended 3-5 servings daily, these largely-forgotten nutritional powerhouses call out for your attention.

    All of the ancient grains are very healthful and excellent sources of protein and dietary fiber. They’re a less expensive way to add high protein to your diet, with minimal fat. You may know farro, quinoa and other newly “discovered” ancient grains, but how about these four?

    1. Amaranth. Amaranth was first cultivated 8,000 years in Mesoamerica. Like quinoa, is actually a seed, not a grain. Like quinoa, it is a whole protein, containing all of the essential amino acids (the amino acid lysine is lacking in many grains); and is gluten free. Amaranth contains unusually high-quality protein and is higher in fiber than wheat, corn, rice, or soybeans. Use it place of corn grits in your polenta. Try this Amaranth Polenta with Wild Mushrooms recipe.

     

    Quinoa cakes with spinach, feta and lemon-dill yogurt sauce is a healthier take on spanakopita. Photo courtesy PaniniHappy.com. Here’s the recipe.

     

    2. Kamut. Kamut is a trademarked term for khorasan wheat, an ancient relative of modern durum wheat. It originated in Egypt thousands of years ago. Legend says that Noah brought khorasan wheat on the ark, hence the nickname “Prophet’s Wheat.” The grain has inherent sweetness and a buttery taste; it also delivers iron, magnesium, selenium and zinc, plus 7 grams of protein per serving. Try using it in a vegetarian main course, such as Kamut Grain and Shiitake Risotto with Thyme.

     

    Banana bread made with teff. Here’s the
    recipe. Photo courtesy
    52KitchenAdventures.com.

     

    3. Millet. Millet was cultivated in China some 10,000 years ago, making it one of the earliest cultivated grains. It was revered in ancient China as one of five sacred crops*. Whole grain millet is a good source of protein, essential amino acids and fiber. Quick-cooking, easily digested and naturally gluten free, millet has a mild, sweet flavor and can be served in sweet or savory preparations. Try it as a hot breakfast cereal. Serve it as an alternative to rice in salads and stir-fries. Serve millet with a drizzle of olive oil, and a dash of salt and pepper in place of mashed potatoes. Add a crunch to deviled eggs, salads and other recipes with toasted millet seeds (recipe). You can also add uncooked millet to breads for a crunchy texture and a hint of sweetness.

     

    4. Teff. Teff is an ancient North African cereal grass, and the smallest grain in the world. The germ and bran, where the nutrients are concentrated, account for a much larger volume of the seed compared to more familiar grains, which provides its “nutritional powerhouse” standing. One serving of whole grain teff averages 4 grams of dietary fiber, 7 grams of protein and nearly one quarter of our suggested daily calcium intake. Cook or bake with it: Here’s a delicious Apple and Pear Crisp made with teff.

    There’s more to consider, of course. Here’s a complete list of whole grains:

    Amaranth, barley (but not pearled barley), buckwheat (kasha), bulgur (cracked wheat), chia/Salba®†, corn (whole grain corn or cornmeal, yellow or white, but not grits), farro (emmer wheat), flaxseed, grano, hemp, Kamut® (khorasan wheat), millet, oats (oatmeal, whole or rolled oats), popcorn, quinoa, rice (black, brown, red, wild), rye (whole), spelt, sorghum, teff, triticale (a barley/wheat hybrid), whole wheat.

     
    *The list varies by source. The Classic of Rites, compiled by Confucius in the 6th century B.C.E., lists broomcorn, foxtail millet, hemp, soybeans and wheat.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Couscous Salad With Grilled Peaches

    Grilled peaches and shaved pecorino make
    this couscous salad very glamorous. Photo
    courtesy Stasty.com.

     

    Want something more sophisticated and whole grain? A salad that can be used as a side or a first course?

    Make a couscous salad. Here’s another delicious end-of-the-summer idea from a very delicious blog, Stasty. Thanks, Vicky!

    The pecorino cheese and salami strips add an Italian twist.

    RECIPE: COUSCOUS SALAD WITH GRILLED
    PEACHES

    Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon melted butter
  • 1 peach
  • 1 apricot
  • 1-1/4 pound/200 g dry couscous
  • 1 or more tablespoons chives to taste, finely chopped
  • Salami or substitute protein, chopped into thin strips
  • Pecorino cheese, shaved
  • 1 teaspoon white balsamic vinegar (substitute
    white wine vinegar)
  • 3 teaspoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  •  

    Preparation

    1. COOK the couscous. Shave Pecorino with a vegetable peeler.

    2. CUT the peach and apricot into segments and remove the stones. Brush with melted butter.

    3. HEAT a grill pan over high heat. Using tongs, place the fruit segments on the pan. Cook for about 2 minutes, then turn and grill the other side. Once the fruit is nicely marked by the grill, remove with tongs and set aside on a plate.

    4. MIX the vinegar and olive oil in a small bowl; add salt and pepper to taste.

    5. MIX the the cooked couscous with the finely chopped chives, strips of salami and shaved Pecorino. Pour the dressing over the couscous and mix together with a fork. Place the couscous in a large serving dish and place the grilled stone fruit on top.

    Serve with a crisp white wine.

     

    Pecorino cheese and strips of salami add an Italian twist. Photo courtesy Stasty.com.

     

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Substitute Tofu For Cream & Try This Dairy Free Chocolate Pudding Recipe

    Soft tofu can be turned into a substitute for
    heavy cream. Photo courtesy House Foods.

     

    We learned from Japanese and Asian-influenced restaurants that you can have lush, creamy tofu-based desserts and not even notice there’s no cream. Substituting tofu for heavy cream helps to save calories and avoid cholesterol. It produces recipes that support kosher, lactose-free and vegan diets. It’s also less expensive than cream, and is available in organic and conventional varieties.

    Erin Dow of Guiding Stars shared how to make a heavy cream substitute from soft (silken) tofu.

    “Abstaining from heavy cream, regardless of the reason, can pose a serious challenge in the kitchen,” Erin notes. “Its thickening power, its silky rich mouth feel, and the flavor-balancing power of its fat content, are tough to replicate with plant-based alternatives. But for certain applications, a substitute made with silken tofu can help. The recipe is simple.”

     

    RECIPE: SOFT/SILKEN TOFU “HEAVY CREAM”

  • Combine one part silken tofu with one part liquid of your choice (see last two bullets) in a blender and process until smooth.
  • If desired, strain through a fine mesh strainer before using.
  • For sweet recipes, use coconut milk or unsweetened vanilla soy milk for the liquid. Add 1/2 teaspoon vanilla for every cup of cream you make.
  • For savory recipes, use almond or oat milk. They will help balance out the flavor without risking a curdled mess.
  •  
    Soft/silken tofu heavy cream is a great substitute for pastry creams and other desserts, quiches and chocolate truffles and for thinning out frostings and dips. Use it to add body to sauces, gravies and smoothies. Extra firm or firm tofu is used for scrambles, kabobs, stirfries and other mains.

     

    And pudding—chocolate, vanilla, butterscotch, etc.: Tofu substitutes easily for cream. The following recipe is dairy free and cholesterol free. It’s a companion to the tofu chocolate mousse recipe we published last year for National Chocolate Mousse Day.

    It was created by Debi Mazar & Gabriele Corcos, hosts of Cooking Channel’s show “Extra Virgin.” Budino is the Italian word for pudding.

    RECIPE: TOFU CHOCOLATE BUDINO

    Ingredients For 6 Servings

  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 8 ounces good quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 package (14 ounces) soft/silken tofu
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  •  

    No cholesterol, no lactose. Photo courtesy Cooking Channel.

     

    Preparation

    1. COMBINE sugar, water, and cocoa water in a medium sized saucepan. Bring to a boil, and stir until sugar is dissolved. Simmer for 5 minutes. Turn off heat and cool slightly.

    2. MELT chocolate in a glass bowl set over a saucepan of lightly simmering water.

    3. PLACE all ingredients in a blender and purée until completely smooth. Divide the chocolate mixture among ramekins and place in the refrigerator for 2 hours or overnight.
     
    ABOUT TOFU

    Tofu was first created from soybeans more than 2,000 years ago in China. While lots of tofu and soy sauce are consumed, approximately 85% of the world’s soybean crop is processed into soybean meal and vegetable oil.

    In Japan, edamame (immature soybeans), miso (soybean paste), natto (fermented soybeans) and kinako (roasted soybean flour) are popular foods. Soy milk, tempeh and textured vegetable protein are increasing in popularity in the U.S.

    If you’re ingredient-conscious, look for organic tofu, made from sustainably grown, non-GMO soybeans. Commonly used tofu processing aids such as defoamers, bleaches and preservatives are not used in organic tofu.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Things To Do With Polenta Slices

    Stack slices of grilled polenta with your
    favorite fillings; here, crab salad and
    guacamole. Photo courtesy Costanero
    Cocoino Peruana.

     

    Polenta—which is both the Italian word for cornmeal and a cooked dish made from it—has become popular in America through Italian and Continental restaurants. But it’s not new to America. For the first two centuries of The United States, American diets contained much cornmeal—in bread, breakfast cereal and other recipes. It was gradually replaced by refined wheat flour.

    While corn itself is a whole grain, polenta is refined: It is degerminated cornmeal, with the germ and endosperm (which contain the fiber and other nutrition) removed. As with all refined grains——the majority of the grains we consume—the protein, iron and vitamins are left on the factory floor.

    But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a delicious addition to the table. We spotted this attractive starter at Costanero Cocoino Peruana, a Peruvian restaurant in Montclair, New Jersey. It reminded us of Caprese stacks, one of our favorite first courses to make with summer’s heirloom tomatoes (see photo below).

    You can make polenta from scratch, or buy it in rolls, available in most supermarkets. The latter makes it easy to create stacked appetizers and sides. It’s available in plain plus flavors such as basil-garlic and sundried tomato.

     

    STACKED POLENTA APPETIZER RECIPE

    The most time-consuming part of this recipe is deciding what to layer in-between the polenta slices. Tips: Select different colors, and check out your leftovers to see what could work. You can serve the stacks with a lightly-dressed frisée or mesclun salad.

    Ingredients

  • Polenta, three slices per serving
  • Pesto, remoulade, thousand island dressing or other sauce for garnish (match sauce to fillings)
  • Optional: fresh herbs for garnish
  •  
    Then, select two fillings:

  • Bacon, crumbled (variation: bacon and onions cooked in the bacon fat) or prosciutto
  • Carrot salad
  • Cheese: goat cheese, mozzarella or other favorite, preferably soft or semisoft
  • Crab, shrimp or other protein salad, finely chopped
  • Cranberry sauce or chutney
  • Giardiniera or marinated chopped vegetables
  • Guacamole or vegetable puree (broccoli, pea, red bell pepper or anything colorful)
  • Chicken, ham, turkey or other protein, diced (a great use for leftovers)
  • Herb-marinated mushrooms, finely chopped
  • Mashed potatoes—update the flavor with fresh chives, basil, or flavored olive oil
  • Sautéed or steamed spinach or kale, seasoned with garlic
  • Smoked salmon or other smoked fish
  • Spread of any kind
  • Anything else that appeals to you
  •  

     
    Preparation

    1. SLICE polenta into desired thickness; broil, fry or grill until edges become slightly crisp.

    2. TOP first polenta round with first filling and top with second polenta round. Use a spatula to make the filling flush with the edges of the polenta. Repeat with second filling and third polenta round.

    3. PLATE as desired, with pesto/sauce, fresh herbs and/or salad.

     
    MORE RECIPES

    There are two styles of polenta: creamy polenta, which is like cooked grits, and sliced polenta, in rounds or squares/rectangles. These recipes use rounds from purchased rolls of polenta. Start by slicing and grilling/frying the rounds.

    Breakfast

  • With maple syrup or topped with a fried egg.
  •  

    A vertical Caprese salad: tomatoes, mozzarella and basil. You can grow the beautiful opal basil here with seeds from BonniePlants.com, or buy it at a farmer’s market.

  • “Huevos rancheros” style, topped with cheese, a poached egg and salsa.
  •  
    Lunch, Dinner Or Sides

  • Topped with mushroom ragu.
  • On a bed of sautéed bell peppers, mushrooms and onions.
  • Topped with any kind of sauce or mix of leftovers: cubed ham, capers, whatever.
  • “Hash browns” or fries: Cut roll into fry-size planks,fry and dust them with grated parm Parmesan.
  • Breaded, fried and served with pesto or a dipping sauce.
  •  
    MORE POLENTA IDEAS

  • Polenta cookies (recipe)
  • Ratatouille With Crispy Polenta (recipe)
  • Smoked paprika Shrimp With Poblano Polenta (recipe)
  •   

    Comments

    RECIPE: Tofu Fries

    A spin on fries: tofu and coconut. Photo courtesy House Foods.

     

    Most people have had french fries in some or all of their variations*, sweet potato fries, zucchini fries, even yucca fries. But how about tofu fries?

    House Foods created this tasty recipe, which evokes coconut-battered shrimp:

    CRISPY COCONUT TOFU FRIES WITH SPICY
    APRICOT SAUCE

    Ingredients

    For Tofu Fries

  • 1 package (14 ounces) extra firm or super firm tofu, drained
  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lime zest
  • 2/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 2/3 cup shredded coconut
  •  

    *French fries in all their shapes—crinkle, curly, shoestring, steak cut, thick-cut, wedges and others—and recipes such as cheese fries, chili fries, poutine, etc.

     

    For the Spicy Apricot Sauce

  • ½ cup apricot jam
  • ¼ cup fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon sriracha† or other hot sauce
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  •  
    †Sriracha is a hot chili sauce from Thailand. It is made from sun-ripened chile peppers, vinegar, garlic, sugar and salt. It can be found in the Asian aisle of some supermarkets, in Asian grocery stores and online.

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 400°F. Spray a rimmed baking sheet with nonstick baking spray.

     

    House Foods makes conventional tofu and organic varieties. Photo courtesy House Foods.

     

    2. SLICE tofu crosswise into 4 slabs. Line a plate with several layers of paper towels, arrange tofu in a single layer on the plate, cover with more paper towels and then top with a second plate weighed down by a heavy pot. Set aside for about 15 minutes to dry out, then slice tofu slabs into 1/2” sticks.

    3. BEAT together eggs, salt, pepper and lime zest in shallow dish.

    4. MIX panko and coconut in a second shallow dish.

    5. DIP tofu in egg mixture, turning to coat; then toss in breading mixture pressing gently to help coating adhere.

    6. ARRANGE in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until crisp and golden, flipping the fries after 15 minutes.While the fries bake…

    7. MAKE the sauce by melting the apricot jam with the lime juice, sriracha and salt in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Transfer to a bowl.

    8. SERVE the fries hot, with the warm sauce for dipping.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: 5 More Uses For Rice

    We overdid it recently, purchasing a jumbo bag of white rice that we’re not likely to make a dent in anytime soon (we try to eat whole grains like brown rice, which we especially enjoy in rice salads).

    So we searched for other ways to use the rice, and found five more ways to employ uncooked rice in the kitchen.

    1. BAKING

    You can buy pie weights to blind bake your crusts, or you can use the rice or beans you have on hand. In this case, reserve the “pie rice” for this exclusive purpose; you don’t want to cook with it after it’s been dried by oven heat.

    2. COFFEE GRINDER

    Clean your coffee and spice grinders—every month, if you use them daily. Beyond brushing out leftover particles, clean the undersides of the blades and absorb other buildup with a “rice treatment.”

     

    Too much rice? Beyond cooking it, we’ve got five ways to use it in the kitchen. Photo courtesy United Rice Mills.

     

    Fill the cavity to the blades with rice, and run it through the grinder. Leading coffee roasters use this trick, and some say it works even better with instant rice.

     

    A grain of rice tells you when the oil is ready. Photo courtesy TastyAppetite.net.

     

    3. FRYING

    How do you check if your cooking oil is hot enough? If you don’t have a deep fryer with a temperature dial, you could use a thermometer. Or, just drop a grain of rice into the oil.

    If the rice rises to the surface of the oil and begins to cook, the oil is ready for frying.

    4. RIPEN FRUIT

    Want to ripen fruit faster? If you don’t have an apple*, store the fruit in a container of rice.

    Check on the fruit twice a day so it doesn’t over-ripen. The rice is still good for cooking.

    *A favorite trick is to place the unripe fruit in a paper bag with an apple. The ethylene released by the apple ripens the fruit overnight.

    5. SALT SAVER

    If you live in a humid climate, your salt make clump. Rice comes to the rescue: Add a few grains of rice to your the salt shaker to prevent clumping.

    For open boxes of salt, put the rice in a tea ball or tie it in a piece of gauze or cheesecloth like a bouquet garni.

    BONUS

    You can also make rice milk from scratch (other than rice, of course!) is water and salt. Here’s the recipe.

    Here are more ways to use rice, for non-kitchen tasks in your home.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Cheese Grits

    Hot and hearty cheese grits. Photo courtesy
    Tillamook.com.

     

    It’s so cold in the Northeast today, we’re warming up with a bowl of steaming cheese grits.

    If you’re not from the South, you might not totally “get” grits, a thick, creamy porridge. They can be bland in their traditional recipe, with salt and a pat of butter on top. (You can use sweet toppings instead: sugar, honey, maple syrup, jam, etc.)

    We like our grits in the classic savory preparation, seasoned with salt and pepper and garnished butter and/or cream for added texture and flavor (when we’re not on a cholesterol guilt trip).

    Cheese is a magical enhancer to grits; and Cheddar, Jack or Parmesan is an even yummier replacement for the butter and cream. This recipe is courtesy of Tillamook, one of the country’s best Cheddar producers. You can go heavier or lighter on the cheese, as you prefer.

    CHEESE GRITS RECIPE

    Ingredients

  • 4 cups (32 ounces) whole milk
  • 4 cups (32 ounces) water
  • 2 cups (12 ounces) grits (stone ground with lots of husk—the best are Anson Mills organic heritage grits)
  • ¾-1 cup (3-4 ounces) sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 3-4 slices (3-4 ounces) sharp Cheddar cheese, broken into chunks
  • ¼ pound (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon fresh-ground black pepper
  • Chives to garnish
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE milk and water in a large pan and bring liquid to a boil. Whisk in grits, making sure that they don’t clump.

    2. TURN HEAT DOWN to a simmer and stir constantly with a whisk. Continue to stirring with frequently and cook for approximately 45 minutes, until a porridge-like consistency is achieved.

    3. ADD shredded cheese to the grits when they are still a semi-liquid like consistency—they should still be creamy, but acting like they want to grab the ladle. When they stick to the ladle they are fully cooked.

    4. ADD the butter, salt, and pepper right after the cheese. Adjust accordingly with more milk if needed.

    5. POUR grits into oven-safe serving bowls. Add a few piece of sliced cheese chunks (or more if you’d like) to the top of each bowl and put under the broiler for about 30 seconds or until cheese is melty. Having the cheese in chunks assists with uniformity and melting the cheese in the grits.

    6. GARNISH with chives and serve immediately.

    TOO MUCH COOKING FOR YOU?

    Make instant grits in the microwave and add 1 table of grated Parmesan cheese per serving.

    MORE ABOUT GRITS…

    …and another cheese grits recipe.

      

    Comments

    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Freekah & Snack Gifts

    A “NEW” ANCIENT GRAIN

    Watch out, quinoa: There’s a new grain in town. Although it’s only new to America; freekeh dates to about 2300 B.C.E.

    As the story goes, freekeh was created by accident when a Middle Eastern village was attacked. The hostiles set the fields of young green wheat blaze.

    After the enemy departed, since food was hard to come by, the villagers rubbed off the burned chaff, cooked the immature kernels and discovered that the grain had a smoky aroma and a nutty taste. A cross between brown rice and barley, freekeh became popular in the cuisines of Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

    Freeheh has great nutrition and great versatility. You can use it in place of rice or any other grain, even down to making freeheh empanadas, jambalaya, paella, tacos, and even freekeh sushi.

    Freekeh Foods makes three freekeh varieties, original and first flavored freekeh we’ve seen, rosemary sage freekeh and tamari freekeh.

     

    There’s a new—albeit ancient—grain in town:
    freekeh. Photo courtesy Freekeh Foods.

     

    If you’re always on the prowl for the new and delicious, get your freak on with freekeh. Read the full review.

     

    Who wouldn’t want a box of new smacks each month? Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.

     

    READY TO SNACK?

    Our Top Pick from last week was a gift suggestion: a snack-box-of-the-month club. We’ve encountered two companies that have entered this space, both serving up artisan snacks that are a delight to discover.

    Each month the recipient receives an assortment of all natural, typically good-for-you snack foods. The choices come from a broad selection of fruit bars, veggie chips, teas, cookies, candies, peanut butter and jam, nut and seed mixes and other yummies.

    Love With Food combines “great food for a great cause,” donating one meal to a food bank for each snack box sold.

    Boxtera aims for a high percentage of organic-certified products, and strives to include products that are gluten free.

    Both are wonderful gifts, as well as self-treats. Read the full review.

     

      

    Comments

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