Law, Leaves and Baklava

Every semester I promise myself that this is the semester I’m going to take it easy and every semester I don’t do that even a little. This semester, for example, I was supposed to accomodate 35 work hours a week by taking easy classes, but that was before I showed up to day 1 of the most amazing and demanding classes I’ve ever taken in my life. The unexpected final addition to the schedule was a positively life changing class on Shari’a, Islamic law. I decided to indulge my inner nerd, and last night I ended up making baklava at 1:30 in the morning.

 

 

Walnut-Honey Baklava | The Road Home

 

 

While it might be ever so totally true that this wasn’t even kind of a class assignment, we WERE assigned a mock divorce court last week (complete with costumes and props) as an in-class exercise and – what do you know? –the mock plaintiff just so happened to own a baklava company! Unfortunately we were representing her mock husband and bringing in baklava for the other side was too time consuming to be justified. But I didn’t have homework last night and so for class tomorrow I will be setting the mood in style.

 

 

Walnut-Honey Baklava | The Road Home

 

 

Besides, baklava is secretly a perfect fall food. With walnuts, honey, cinnamon and thin sheets of phyllo that could easily represent falling leaves, you could not possibly get more seasonally appropriate. I can’t lie, phyllo is a pain in everyone’s butt to work with, but I can promise the results will be well worth it. I may or may have nibbled on a store bought substitute while I waited for this to be ready and I can assure you, there’s truly nothing like homemade.

 

 

Walnut-Honey Baklava | The Road Home

 

 

Do you have any unexpected fall recipes? Or stories of classwork-turned-recipe? Let me know in the comments below!

Smoked Basmati – No Ordinary Grain

I don’t know about you, but I often become obsessed with one food. I’ll suddenly make carrot soup every week or try salmon 10 different ways in a single month. Right now, I’m on a rice kick, which is surprising since I didn’t love rice growing up – we ate mostly meat and potatoes.  When we had rice, it was always plain without much seasoning, so it was kind of boring. For years, I avoided making rice, and when I was forced to, it was almost never fluffy and flavorful.

 

Smoked Basmati – a perfect way to add flavor (but not calories!) to any rice-based dish | The Road Home

 

I forced myself to learn how to make perfect rice now that I cook so many Indian, Middle Eastern and Asian dishes. Many cultures prepare rice in many different ways – one day soon I’ll show you how to make Persian jeweled rice (if you beg me enough and maybe make me cookies) – but there is very simple fool-proof way of making any long-grain rice that is perfect every time. The key is that every grain must be coated in some sort of oil or fat.

 

Smoked Basmati – a perfect way to add flavor (but not calories!) to any rice-based dish | The Road Home

 

We are lucky enough to live near Sayad (http://www.sayadmarket.com), a great Middle Eastern grocer and a great place to buy ingredients, including many types of basmati rice. I came across this smoked rice – which apparently Persians love – called Scheherazade Black Label (I know, right?  You’d think we were talking Scotch!). The rice is grown in India, but smoked in Germany with a special blend of woods. It smells like the best bonfire ever. It almost looks like pasta and the aroma of burning timbers hits you immediately when you open the bag. Fortunately, I you can also get this extraordinary rice online at Kalamala (http://www.kalamala.com/products/basmati-rice-black-label), a great resource for Middle Eastern products, and it is also available at Amazon in smaller quantities. This amazing rice is also the longest in the world with the grain averaging nearly 20 mm (almost ¾ inch) long. And on top of everything else, it is incredibly fluffy. The grains curl but they don’t break. It isn’t everyday I would describe rice as beautiful, but it really is.

 

Smoked Basmati – a perfect way to add flavor (but not calories!) to any rice-based dish | The Road Home

 

So go buy this rice online or visit a Middle Eastern store, and use this fool-proof recipe to make this any basmati rice you like. And then make Khoresh-e Fesenjan Ba Jujeh, Persian Chicken Pomegranate stew we told you about earlier this week (if you do, please let us know!)

 

Smoked Basmati – a perfect way to add flavor (but not calories!) to any rice-based dish | The Road Home

 

Do you know of any other unusual rices or do you have an unique preparation? Let us know so we can share the joy of rice with others!

Cardamom Scented Basmati Rice

From: Heide Lang

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups basmati rice*
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 ¼ -1/3 cups water (depending on the brand)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ – 2 teaspoons cardamom**

Directions:

  1. Rinse the rice in a fine mesh colander 4-5 times until the water is no longer cloudy. Drain well.
  2. Melt the butter in a 4-6 quart heavy bottom pot over medium heat.
  3. Add the rice and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly for about 2 minutes until all the grains are coated with butter.
  4. Stir in the water and salt and bring the rice mixture to a boil.
  5. Mix one more time, and then reduce heat to low.  Place a sheet of parchment paper between the lid and the pot and cover.
  6. Let rice cook for 18-20 minutes (depending on the brand of rice) until the liquid is absorbed.
  7. Take it off the burner and let the rice stand covered for 10 minutes (Do not lift the lid or stir!).
  8. Uncover rice and add cardamom. Fluff rice and serve.

*This recipe works for jasmine scented rice as well.

    **You may also leave out the cardamom if the dish you are serving is complex and does not need a boos of additional flavor.

      Thai Scented Asparagus Soup

      Cooking for a living has begun to take over all of my thoughts. Isabella’s newly sewn pink dress isn’t an article of clothing, but a piece of watermelon. Everywhere I go I think about new dishes and ingredients, and there is no off button to press. Just dials on the stove to let me make more food. I feel like a composer sometimes, only instead of notes, I hear shallots, pancetta and fried chicken. It’s driving me crazy, really it is. I love love love teaching people to cook… but seriously. Enough is enough.

       

      Thai Scented Asparagus Soup, with coconut, ginger, lemongrass and love | The Road Home

       

       

      This recipe was born out of one of these fits of inspiration. We often teach a cream of asparagus soup in our spring classes, but I was making a Thai dish one day and the idea to infuse it with coconut, lemongrass and ginger just jumped into my head.  It has quickly become a family favorite and it worked out so well that I used it for my latest appearance on Connecticut Style. Although a video exists on WTNH, it was very fast, and we thought you’d appreciate seeing how to make this lively Asian inspired soup step-by-step, so here it is:

       

       Thai Scented Asparagus Soup, with coconut, ginger, lemongrass and love | The Road Home

       

      We start with the freshest ingredients, which includes, lemon juice, lemongrass, ginger, asparagus and coconut milk,  but there are others as well, including yellow onions and chicken or vegetable broth.

       

      Thai Scented Asparagus Soup, with coconut, ginger, lemongrass and love | The Road Home

       

      First, we need to peel the lemongrass, an ingredient commonly found in Asian food stores and in some supermarkets, especially Whole Foods.

       

      Thai Scented Asparagus Soup, with coconut, ginger, lemongrass and love | The Road Home

       

      Then you have to cut most of the stalk away. We only want the part of the lemongrass that has purple rings.

       

      Thai Scented Asparagus Soup, with coconut, ginger, lemongrass and love | The Road Home

       

      Then – and really pay attention to this or the lemongrass with be tough and stringy – you have to smash it hard several times with a knife. Until it looks like this

       

      Thai Scented Asparagus Soup, with coconut, ginger, lemongrass and love | The Road Home

       

       

      Then put the lemongrass in a mini food processor with a teaspoon or two of oil until finely minced and looks like this:

       

       

      Thai Scented Asparagus Soup, with coconut, ginger, lemongrass and love | The Road Home

       

       

      Then you need to peel the ginger. You can peel it in many different ways by using a melon baller, sturdy spoon or vegetable peeler. Afterwards, finely  mince the ginger in a mini chopper as well. You can, obviously, do that by hand, it will just take much longer.

       

       

      Thai Scented Asparagus Soup, with coconut, ginger and love | The Road Home

       

       

      After sautéeing the onions until they are glassy, add the lemongrass and ginger and continue sautéeing until the ginger and lemongrass start to soften, about 2-3 minutes.  Add the asparagus, salt and pepper and cook for another five minutes.

       

      Thai Scented Asparagus Soup, with coconut, ginger and love | The Road Home

       

       

      Add the broth (chicken or vegetable – we like to use vegetable when we’re cooking for a crowd, since then we can make this vegan and everyone can eat it!) and give the mixture a good stir in a large pot, such as a Dutch oven. Cook for 15 minutes and then puree the soup either in a blender (after letting the mixture cool) or an immersion blender right inside the pot, our preferred choice.

       

       Thai Scented Asparagus Soup, with coconut, ginger and love | The Road Home

       

      Add a bit of lemon, give it a good stir, and serve. The great thing about this soup, next to the amazing flavor, is that it tastes great for several days and can certainly be made the day before company. And there you have it! Serve with a garnish of mint, or chives.

       

      Thai Scented Asparagus Soup, with coconut, ginger and love | The Road Home

       

      Click here to get the complete recipe written up on Food52!