When it comes time to cook up a pot of those nutty brown grains, I get a feeling that’s like the opposite of procrastination — an almost “let’s boogie” enthusiasm comes over me. Maybe ’cause it’s such a pleasure to prepare this important staple. So easy and let-it-be-esque.
First make sure that the pot is clean and dry. Cast-iron pots are the best, particularly those enameled, covered French models made by Le Creuset, each of which (I discovered only recently) has a lifetime guarantee. So if you manage to somehow screw yours up, wreck it like a total oaf (duh, I did once), the company will replace it free of charge! Hard to believe these days, but it makes the price tag of more than $100 much easier to bear.
Anyway, put the empty pot on the stove, start heating it gently and pour in some extra virgin olive oil, just enough to barely cover the bottom. As soon as the oil starts to warm up, put in two cups of short-grain organic rice (serves four or five easily) and stir it around with a wooden spoon. A warm scent, almost like almond-sesame, rises from the pot at this point, giving off one of the tiny rewards that only a cook gets to savor. This is when you could add a few spices, such as a bay leaf or two, a cinnamon stick, some cloves. They’ll give a subtle, aromatic flavor to the grains that everybody will enjoy.
If you’re careful with the height of your flame and keep stirring with the spoon, the rice should start to crackle a little as it toasts. But before this snap-crackle-pop gets too far along, pour in three cups of cold water (i.e. one and a half cups of water for each cup of rice) and stir it all together well.
Now turn up the heat until the water barely starts to boil, cover the pot and then turn the flame down really low (to simmer). Theoretically speaking, you’re done. All that’s left is to leave it alone for 45 minutes to an hour (longer is better, since each grain tends to puff up more as the final moisture is cooked away). You can’t burn it unless you forget and leave it for 80 or 90 minutes, or unless your flame is too high.
As you lift the cover, you’ll see nothing but a field of rice, with maybe a clove peaking out here and there. It’s best to pick out the spice pieces so somebody doesn’t bite into one of them. Or you could make it without the spices — or with finely chopped onions. Try it all different ways.
A simple, spare meal of grilled salmon, broccoli and brown rice is delicious perfection. At the table, I always make sure to have some tamari sauce on hand, or especially gomasio (sea salt mixed with toasted sesame seeds), a Japanese condiment. Gomasio on brown rice is heaven.
Seafood and suds lovers, get to Ann Arbor’s Real Seafood Company (341 S. Main) this Tuesday, Oct. 3, to indulge in an all-inclusive, $49.95-per-person oyster and beer feast. Reserve early by calling 888-456-DINE. … Yad Ezra, an organization devoted to feeding the Jewish hungry, is collecting food and financial support during a Yom Kippur food drive. Donations can be sent to Yad Ezra, 26641 Harding, Oak Park, MI 48237, or call 248-548-FOOD. Got a food tip? Write Eaters Digest care of the MT, or e-mail [email protected]