Wednesday, February 20, 2013

chicken sausage and bacon curry fried rice

fried rice, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
I'm a bit obsessed with ethnic inspired rice based dishes lately, since getting my mitts on Jerusalem, the latest, brilliant cookery book by Ottolenghi. The Middle Eastern slant on my own crazy fried rice mash-ups gives me a whole new purpose. I've taken to adding curries, za'atar, sumac, lentils and chickpeas to the standard rice, onion and egg base.
Recipes like this fit into my week so well and my favorite way to use any number of leftovers. It's a great make ahead that's perfect for any meal. I prepare a big batch and then portion it into lunch containers that I can grab and go to work with me or stir into scrambled eggs in the morning or heat up for dinner when I get home and I'm too tired to cook anything.
I make a fried rice at least once a week and it never comes out the same way twice.
This post has been sitting in draft suspension as I attempt to write, write and rewrite a recipe for this particular fried rice. No can do.
I've come to the conclusion-which is exactly where I started-that fried rice is a spontaneous mash-up and cannot be harnessed into precise measurements and cooking time.
Thusly here's the vague process I generally follow:

This one was inspired by a cache of chicken sausages my test kitchen dummy gave me awhile back, frozen and shrink wrapped by his brand spankin' new seal-a-meal-deal. No fancy charcuterie here, just very pedestrian supermarket factory processed keilbasa type links. Not something I generally gravitate to, but always one to accept such gifts with grace and gratitude. I knew a fried rice was their little kitchen destiny.
My general approach to a fried rice is to examine the contents of the fridge and see what jumps out, in other words: Refrigerator Rescue 911.
This one involved a few make aheads:
  • Caramelized onions
  • french lentils (picked over, rinsed then slow cooked for about 4 hours in water with chicken seasoning and fresh thyme).
  • day-old brown rice - I had about 3 cups
other components:
eggs-beaten (approximately 1 egg per cup of rice)
jamaican curry (my home-made blend)
chicken sausage
soy sauce
leftover sauteed mushrooms
fish sauce

The most crucial part of the fried rice is the set up, or mise en place as they call it in the culinary world. All of the ingredients prepped and measured (if necessary) into their respective dices and slices, then contained in individual small bowls assembled together on a tray or baking sheet. Not only is everything at the ready when you need it, you won't forget anything either.
The components  of any fried rice begin with aromatics such as onions (if you're not using carmelized), carrots, garlic, ginger  and/or any spice blend one is fond of such as Chinese five spice, curry, or fajita blend. For this one I used up the last of my jamaican curry blend.
Use the largest skilled you have and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil or bacon fat. Turn the heat to medium-high and when the oil is hot add the beaten eggs. Cook and scramble the egg until it's set, then remove from the pan and set aside.
Add 2 tablespoons of oil to the skillet and immediately stir in your preferred spice blend, stirring the spices until they become fragrant, about one minute. Adding the spices at this point allows the flavors to bloom. If you don't have caramelized onions, add about a cup of diced onions to the skillet, stirring them around to coat and lower the heat slightly and cook until the onions start to brown, then add the garlic and/or ginger and cook for another minute.
If you are using previously cooked caramelized onions, hold off adding them until after the meat (if any) you're using is almost cooked,
The general order:
hot skillet
scramble egg-remove set aside
other aromatics: onion, carrot, garlic and/or ginger cooked until soft and fragrant
uncooked vegetables
uncooked meat
cooked meat
cooked lentils
spicy roasted chickpeas
add the eggs back
soy sauce
fish sauce
fresh chopped herbs and sliced scallions 
Once I've plated or dished out my portions, I like to sprinkle some za'atar over the top. Za'atar is a Middle Eastern spice and herb blend which includes thyme, marjoram, oregano, toasted sesame seeds and sometime sumac. It adds an herby finish  in the end.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

brown rice with toasted chickpeas and fried onions

I get a lot of satisfaction from multi-tasking, especially if it doesn't feel like it. Like riding my bike to work. I get my daily work out whilst I commute. There's only one other thing that makes me feel even more accomplished and smug: cooking in my sleep. I ALWAYS cook beans overnight in the slow cooker. It always used to be black beans I'd cook with the most frequency but I've been on a chickpea bender of late. They are just sooooo freakin' good. I cook them in chicken bouillon seasoned water with either a big sprig of thyme or rosemary. In the wee hours of the morning, I'm momentarily disoriented by the amazing aromas wafting through the room, wondering which evil neighbor tortures me with their enticing feats of cookery. I love that!
This  is a riff on a recipe I found in Jerusalem, the new and brilliant cookbook from London Chefs/Restauranteurs Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi.
I usually cook off a big pot of rice on Sunday to have on hand through out the week so I can make fried rice--my favorite and off-the-hook delish, refrigerator rescue.
This is where that jar of caramelized onions comes in handy-- you know, that one you made yesterday.
Toasted breadcrumbs are another great make-ahead.
Ottolenghi uses a combination of basmati and wild rice (much more attractive and I'm thinkin' much more flavorful in the finished dish) but I didn't have any on hand. He also finishes with fresh dill and oregano-didn't have any of that either, so I used dry. I truly believe that my sub-par substitions were off-set by the brilliance of the caramelized onions-the link below will take you to my method of preparation. You're going to want to make these onions ahead of time, in fact everything here can be made ahead and then tossed together and warmed in the oven or tossed in a skillet to heat everything through.

Brown Rice with Toasted Chickpeas and Fried Onions
adapted from Jerusalem

2 cups of cooked rice

Caramelized Onions
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 large onions, sliced about 1/4 inch thick
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

Toasted Chickpeas
2 cups of cooked or canned chickpeas
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon za'atar
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
a few grinds of pepper

Toasted bread crumbs
4-5 slices of day old bread
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tsp salt
fresh ground pepper-about 4 turns of the grinder
2 teaspoons za'atar

Fried Onions
1 medium onion sliced thinly
2 teaspoons flour
2/3 cup vegetable oil

2 cups cooked rice

1 tablespoons chopped flat leaf Italian parsley

Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees.

Tear up the bread and pulse in the food processor 4-5 times until the largest crumbs are about the size of a large crouton. Transfer to a medium sized bowl and drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat, sprinkle the salt all over, grind the pepper all over and sprinkle the za'atar all over and toss. spread the crumbs onto a large baking sheet and bake for 5 minutes, toss and redistribute the crumbs on the baking sheet and bake for another 3 minutes. Remove from the oven and let the crumbs cool on the sheet pan. Transfer the crumbs into a bowl and set aside.

In a large bowl, toss the cooked chickpeas with olive oil, salt, za'atar, cumin, paprika and pepper then spread them out on a large sheet pan, being careful not to crowd them or else they'll steam and not crisp well. Bake for 10 minutes, shake the baking sheet to move the chickpeas around a bit and bake for 10 more minutes, until they're slightly crispy. Remove from the oven and let them cool on the baking sheet.

In a medium bowl, toss in your sliced onions and sprinkle flour over top and toss lightly. Heat up the oil in a medium sauce pan over high heat. Drop a piece of the onion in. It should sizzle and bubble vigorously. Working in batches cook the onion until it browns, 3-4 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate and sprinkle with salt.
In a large bowl, add the warm rice, chickpeas, caramelized onions and fried onions. Sprinkle 2 teaspoons of za'atar over the surface and mix in. The za'atar can also be added after the rice is served.
Top with toasted breadcrumbs.

Sunday, February 3, 2013


Hummus, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
All I can say is "Wow!"

This "ethereally smooth hummus"came my way via Smitten Kitchen who got it from Ottolenghi's new cookbook Jerusalem, which I just happen to have in my possession for the next couple of weeks thanks to my local library. Double Wow! This hummus is so amazingly smooth and flavorful and could not be more simple. Well, I lie. It could be more simple. Smittens key to it's ethereal smoothness is to peel the cooked chickpeas. Crazy? perhaps. Obsessive? no doubt, but it's seriously worth the added effort and it's a fine task to occupy my hands whilst watching Downton Abbey. I pack it in my lunch and make my co-workers dizzy with envy. Sometimes I share. They like that.

My only adaption is how I prepare the dry beans. I cooked the beans the way I always cook dry beans: in a low, slow-cooker overnight in 4 times their volume of water seasoned with vegetarian fake chicken seasoning and a couple of sprigs of fresh thyme. I pick over and rinse the dried beans but I don't soak them. I've never had a problem with that.

I had a massive stack of whole grain tortillas, flecked with all sorts of healthy bits, in the freezer from the time I tagged along with Sheena to Costco months back. Those tortillas-as it turned out-didn't really gel with my breakfast burrito plan. They were like cardboard, but with all due kitchen diligence, they turned out the perfect cracker. I brushed them with a little olive oil and sprinkled on some salt and za'atar (a middle eastern herb blend of marjoram, oregano, thyme, sesame seeds, salt and sometimes dried sumac), and baked them on a baking sheet for 15 minutes in a 400 degree oven.

This goes in the keeper file.