grains and beans

Pineapple Fried Rice

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I first had the idea to make this fried rice ages ago – I was at Doi Moi on 14th Street with my friend Amy and we had two unbelievably delicious dishes.  One was stir-fried pineapple that was spicy and sweet and savory all at once.  The other is their famous crab fried rice that not only includes terrific local lump crab meat, but also lets all the other ingredients sing.  I think years of crappy fried rice in college had led me astray because I always thought it was slightly greasy and not very flavorful.  Well that night at Doi Moi was a revelation and I spent a lot of time figuring out how to marry that dreamy fried rice with balanced flavor with the intriguing pineapple side dish.  Turns out the key to both elements is a very hot pan and just a little bit of oil.  The heat helps the pineapple really caramelize so it has a more complex sweetness.  It also means the other ingredients like the rice and peppers won’t take on as much oil.  It’s also a good idea to use leftover as opposed to fresh rice, the dryness helps with the oil as well (I used brown rice I had tucked in my freezer).  The result is absolutely delicious and the perfect vegetarian main meal or side to grilled meat or fish.  I had been drooling over images of pineapple bowls on Pinterest so just had to try my hand at it.  I won’t say it was immediately easy to do (or explain as you can see by my tortured explanation below) but just dive in.  By the time I was doing the second half I had figured out the best way for me and it was a breeze.  The good news is since you are chopping up the pineapple anyway it doesn’t really matter what it looks like once you have scooped it out.  What a fun way to spice up the middle of the week !

Pineapple Fried Rice 

  • 1 pineapple (or 2 cups of diced pineapple if you don’t want to use the pineapple as a serving dish)
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh ginger
  • 2 fresno or jalapeno chilis, thinly sliced (seeded if you want less heat)
  • 4 cups cooked brown or white rice
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 4 scallions, sliced

If you want to use the pineapple as your serving dish use a large knife and cut through the center of the pineapple lengthwise, through the leaves and everything.

Then use a small paring knife and follow the edge of the pineapple with the knife at a slight angle.   Use the paring knife to cut out the harder core (throw that away) that runs down the middle and then with the help of a spoon and the knife, cut out pieces.  It gets easier as you do it, just make sure to not cut through the skin of the pineapple.  Once you have most of the fruit out you can use a spoon to scrape the edges and create a wide bowl for the rice.  Dice the pineapple you scooped out into a small dice until you have 2 cups (save any remainder for a snack later).  In a large skillet heat 1 tablespoon of canola oil over high heat.  Add the pineapple and cook for 3 to 5 minutes until the pineapple caramelizes a bit.

Add the onion, garlic, ginger and chilis and cook for another 3 minutes.  Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of canola oil and the rice and stir to combine.  Add in the soy sauce and cook the rice, stirring frequently for another 3 minutes.  Stir in the scallions and serve in the pineapple “bowls” or a large serving bowl.

Chicken Marsala Risotto

One pot dishes are made for the winter time – they are so warm and comforting (and easy cleaning goes with every season).  I love a good risotto but it can seem like a lot of starch to constitute an entire meal so I decided to think of a way to incorporate some leftover chicken I had.  By using marsala wine instead of the normal white wine and adding in sautéed mushrooms, this easy weeknight risotto becomes plenty filling.  The basics are all the same (in case you need my risotto rules again here they are).  One deviation is stirring in some extra marsala at the end of the cooking.  I found that too much of the flavor was lost when you just use it at the start and by adding a dash at the end you get that sweet savory wine flavor burst.  And remember, don’t scrimp on the fresh grated parmesan at the end!!

Chicken Marsala Risotto 

  • 8 ounces of cremini mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 shallots, chopped
  • 1 cup aborio rice
  • 1 cup marsala wine
  • 6 cups chicken stock, warming over low heat
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 roasted chicken breasts

Over medium high heat in a large saucepan melt the butter.  Add the mushrooms and season with pepper (but not salt).  Cook for 5 minutes or so until the mushrooms have softened and are beginning to brown.

Spoon out the mushrooms and set aside.  Add the olive oil to the same pan and heat over medium.  Add the rice and stir it around until all the grains are coated in the oil.  Reduce the heat to medium low and add 1/2 cup of the marsala wine.  Use your spoon to stir the rice as well as deglaze the bottom of the pan.  Once almost all of the marsala wine has cooked off you can start ladeling in the stock.  Add 1 ladelful at a time, stirring near constantly.  Once the rice starts looking dry add in another ladelful.  After about 25 minutes, add the mushrooms and chicken to the pot and start checking the doneness of the rice.  It will probably take another 5 minutes to cook.  Once the rice is done (it’s tender with just a little bit of bite to it) stir in the remaining 1/2 cup of marsala and cook it for 1 minute more so most if not all of the wine is absorbed.  Take it off the heat and stir in the parmesan.  Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed and serve immediately.

Corn Risotto

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To me cooking is like therapy – I can stop thinking about everything else in the world and just focus on turning raw ingredients into great food.  I like the ritual of cooking classics and I like the fun and excitement of cooking new things.  Of course the result itself can often serve as its own sort of remedy, especially comfort food.  Risotto is one of my favorite therapeutic meals because the method is so soothing and the meal itself is creamy and soft and lovely.  I have been toying with the idea of making a corn risotto for a while so when we were on the Eastern Shore of Maryland a couple of weeks ago I made sure to pick up some super fresh ears from a farm stand.  The sweetness of the corn is such a good match with the creaminess of the risotto.  Here I made my own corn broth using the cobs of the corn going into the risotto.  I think this really bumps up the corn flavor but it also adds about 40 minutes to the process.  You could either make the broth the day before and just store the kernels in the fridge or skip that step all together and use chicken or veggie stock you have on hand.

One common misconception about risotto is that there is actual cream in it – there isn’t.  Ok maybe some recipes include it, and I am SURE it wouldn’t be bad, but it’s just not needed.  The special aborio rice used in risotto is really starchy so as you slowly cook it with stock the starch is released and creates its own creaminess.  Whether you are making corn risotto or another kind there are certain rules of the road that you should follow to ensure the right texture.  Once you have learned the basics risotto can really become a vehicle for any ingredient you would like.

Corn Risotto 

  • 2 ears of corn – kernels cut off and cobs reserved
  • 1 onion, unpeeled cut in quarters
  • 2 carrots, unpeeled cut in half
  • 1 celery rib, cut in pieces
  • 1/2 a bunch of thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cloves of garlic, smashed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
  • 6 cups of chicken or veggie stock if not making the corn stock
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 shallots, chopped
  • 1 cup aborio rice
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • chives

If you are making the corn stock put the corn cobs (kernels removed) in a large pot with the onion, carrots, celery, thyme, bay leaves, garlic, salt and peppercorns.  Cover with 6 cups of water and then bring to a boil.  Cover and then reduce the heat to low and let it simmer for 30 minutes.  When its done strain the liquid into a smaller saucepan, removing all the solids.  Warm the stock over low heat.  If you are not making the corn stock at this point add the chicken or veggie stock to a small saucepan and warm over low heat.  In a high sided skillet melt the butter over medium heat, then add the shallots and cook for 2 minutes.  Add the olive oil and increase the heat to medium to medium high and add the corn kernels.  Season with salt and pepper and cook for 4 to 5 minutes.  The sugars in the corn will start to caramelize and crust up the bottom of the pan which is fine, just don’t let the corn burn (if you need to turn down the heat).

Add the rice and stir it around until all the grains are coated in the oil and butter.  Reduce the heat to medium low again.  Splash in the wine and use your spoon to stir the rice as well as deglaze the bottom of the pan.  Once almost all of the wine has cooked off you can start ladeling in the stock.  Add 1 ladelful at a time, stirring near constantly.  Once the rice starts looking dry add in another ladelful.

After about 25 minutes I start checking the doneness of the rice but usually it will take closer to 30 or 35 minutes to cook.  Once the rice is done (it’s tender with just a little bit of bite to it) take it off the heat and stir in the parmesan.  Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed.  Top with chopped chives and serve immediately.

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