Do Your Wash Your Rice?
Soft Diet Salves and Assorted Kitchen Notes
Despite my speedy typing, there's never enough time to answer all of the questions submitted in my weekly chat. Here's one left in the queue that needs immediate assistance.
Washington, DC writes: I am on a "soft diet" after having oral surgery, and I am going to scream if I have to eat another bowl of soup, plate of mashed potatoes, or smoothie/milkshake. Any recipes/suggestions?
Screaming is probably not a good idea after oral surgery, so let's nip that idea in the bud pronto. There are lots of options for food that goes down the hatch without the use of those recovering choppers.
Here's what springs to mind:
A bowl of hummus, my solution to many a culinary conundrum. A puree of chickpeas seasoned with tahini paste, garlic and lemon juice takes all of seven minutes in a food processor and will bring you out of your smooothie-induced madness. As for accompaniments, perhaps small, torn-up pieces of pita bread would be manageable. There's a healthy dose of protein here, from both the chickpeas and tahini.
If chickpeas don't excite, consider pureeing a can of white beans instead. Season with garlic, olive oil, herbs of your choice (I'm partial to rosemary here), cayenne, salt and pepper. This is another easy-breezy lapper-upper easy on the orifice.
For veggie variations on the puree idea, consider baba ghanouj, a common hummus companion on the Middle Eastern mezze platter. Roast a halved eggplant (still available at local markets!) until beyond tender, then puree in and season with tahini, garlic and lemon juice.
Another roast-worthy summer veg that likes being pureed is the zucchini, which transforms beautifully into a bowl of zuke-a-mole.
All of the above pureed dips are best served cold or at room temperature, so if temperature is an issue, consider a bowl of steaming dal, the generic word in Indian cuisine for cooked legumes. I'm thinking of smaller, easier to digest varieties such as mung beans, black urad or yellow split peas, but without a tried-and-true recipe, I'm going to refrain from posting until I get back into the kitchen.
Got a favorite dal recipe to share that would make life more pleasant for this recovering reader or for any of us hankering for a bowl of the good life? Please share in the comments area below.
Also on my mind is rice. To wash or not to wash?
This week, while testing a recipe in my new wok, I was faced with the challenge of washing my rice, something I typically refrain from doing. Cookbooks from rice-centric cuisines around the world, including the Middle East, Japan, China and Southeast Asia, tend to emphasize washing rice, a step this American cook never learned along the way.
The recipe in question (which I plan to report on in coming days) is Mandarin, and so I decided to honor the tradition of washing my rice before cooking. Essentially, I rinsed the rice six or eight times, until the water on top was clear. I could see how the cloudiness from the starch would dissipate with each rinse.
All these years, I've never had issues with rice, an ingredient that trips up many cooks. Along the way, I've learned to add less liquid, taking a page from Asian cooks, but without the time-honored grain washing.
I can't believe what I've been missing. Washing the rice separates the grains and gives them a little extra wiggle room to play on your tongue. My rice of yesteryear was a heap of sticky mush compared to this stuff! The new way brought a new level of finesse to a simple bowl of rice, and the difference, well, it made all the difference in the world.
What do you think? Should the rice cook bother to wash or not? I'd love to hear the grainy consensus.
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