Easy Baked Rice Casserole

This is inspired by a recipe I learned in college, though it’s run far afield since then. I was an international studies student then, was learning Arabic and Spanish, and had a lot of friends from around the world. Fairly often the International House, the center of international student and International Studies student social life, would have a potluck. They also had a big dinner fundraiser for which I helped make 1500 gyoza and 1200 krumkake in two of the most mind-numbing days of my life. But that’s another story for another day. One of the things at least or or two or three Arab students would bring was kabsa. And every kabsa was different. I learned how to make it and decided it was perhaps the easiest thing in the world to make. Now this is not going to be a traditional recipe because that’s the thing with kabsa, you make it what you want it to be.

The first thing is you heat your oven to 350° F. While it’s heating up, you put a baking dish on a medium high burner with a tbsp of olive oil. In the olive oil, you put about 1/4 tsp or so of an aromatic spice like nutmeg, cardamom, anise, allspice, cinnamon. The heat releases the oils and flavors the oil which is going to make everything wonderful. For today’s dish, I used 1/4 tsp of anise and a few shakes of red pepper flakes.

Then toss in a piece of meat – a chicken breast, 1/2 pound of ground beef, or some stew meat cut into good sized pieces, at least 1 inch square. I went far astray and used carnitas–which means I can’t really call this kabsa, because no Muslim would be using pork. You want to brown the meat.

While the meat is browning, cut up some vegetables into big chunks. No need to be dainty. For this one, I cut an onion into 8 wedges, crushed a couple cloves of garlic, cut some asparagus stalks into thirds, and chopped up two inch long pieces of red chard stalks and fennel stalks.

After the meat was browned, I tossed in all the veggies. I tossed salad tomatoes in whole and cut a lemon into quarters. The lemon is not required, but it sure makes it delightful. I just dump everything in, then I made a dip in the center, put one cup of rice there, added two cups of water. Now, if I were using chicken, I might add some turmeric here, but not for pork.

The raw rice, veggies, meat, and lemon – ready to get baked.

Okay, so to recap, aromatic spiece, browned bits of meat, big chunks of veggies, 1 cup rice, two cups water. That’s all you need, takes less than 10 minutes. Now you stick in the 350° and come back in 30 minutes and it’s done. No stirring, no messing with it, all in one pot. What could be easier?

The rice will be perfectly cooked. The large cuts of veggies keeps them from overcooking. Brownign the meat keeps the meat juicy and tender. It will taste not tasted boiled! The aromatic spice adds depth and the lemon wedges infuse the entire dish with a subtle, light lemony flavor. This makes four servings, that get better with every meal.

Roast Pork & Asparagus Sandwich

This was a delicious sandwich that took just minutes to make. Of course, I already had some pork roast in the fridge from supper the other night. I made Earl Grey roasted pork, but this would work with any good roast pork.

For Earl Grey Roast Pork, preheat oven to 450° degrees. Pour 4 or 5 packets of Earl Grey tea ground for steeping and roll the pork roast in the tea, coating all sides lightly. Roast until 140° (about 30 minutes for a 1.5 pound roast) and let rest for 10 minutes before slicing. The roast for this sandwich, though, was cold, but it need not be.

Turn the oven to broil

I took one hot dog bun. You could use a ciabatta or sourdough, too, but I used what came from Harvest Share. Spread some butter and sprinkle with garlic salt (or crush one clove of garlic and mix with the butter), slice parmesan cheese thinly and lay down on layer of parmesan, Put four stalks of fresh, young asparagus on each side and broil. Keep a close eye, you do not want it to burn. It took about 4 minutes to broil with the rack at the middle.

While the sandwich was broiling, I cut two slices of roast pork and mixed up a quick spread with chopped parsley, chopped red onion, and mayo in equal portions (about 1.5 TBSP of each) and seasoned with a bit of garlic salt and pepper. I spread it on one side, laid the pork on the other, put them together and had a delicious, fresh tasting sandwich.

The mayo helped bind all the flavors together. I like the aromatic flavor of the Earl Grey pork, the bite of the onions, the fresh and tender asparagus and the earth grace notes from the parmesan and parsley.

Bolillos with Soft-Scrambled Eggs & Dill, Asparagus & Tomatoes

DSCN6407

Heat a cast iron pan to medium-high, rise 4 asparagus and cut into thirds. Lay on the bottom of the pan and cook without oil or water until tender, turning so it browns evenly. Slice 8 cherry tomatoes in half and toss in and cook for 2-3 minutes with the asparagus. Remove from the pan, and wipe the pan clean with a paper towel.

Cut two boltllos in half and lay them on the cast iron pan, turning the heat down low. Put a lid on and let them toast. The lid will help them heat all the way through, not just on the toasted side.

In another pan, on medium-low heat, melt 1 tbsp of butter. Meanwhile, beat 3 eggs with 1 tsp of dry dill weed. Do not add salt and pepper. Pour into the melted butter and scramble. This is a soft scramble, which makes a creamy, tender scrambled egg. It’s imperative you add no salt until the eggs are done or they won’t get the creaminess you want. Stir constantly until the eggs are cooked to a creamy consistency. Then add some salt and pepper.

Remove the now toasted bolillos, spread the eggs on the pieces, then place some asparagus and tomatoes on top.

These are a delicious blend of flavors, the creamy soft-scrambled eggs are wonderful foils for the asparagus and tomatoes. The crunchy bolillos are a good contrast in texture to the creamy eggs, juicy tomatoes and the semi-crisp asparagus. These make a nice light meal or great snack.

 

Asparagus Pear Couscous Salad

DSCN6395.png

I made the couscous using the leftover broth from cooking farro just to add the richness of the vegetable broth to give it a deeper flavor. I made the farro and couscous at the same time and after the couscous was done, I stuck it in the fridge overnight to make a salad for lunch the next day.

  • 1/2 cup couscous
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 Bosc pear
  • 1/4 yellow onion
  • 4 stalks asparagus
  • 2 TBSP chopped parsley
  • Seasoned rice vinegar

To make the couscous, I poured 1/2 cup of hot broth on top of 1/2 cup of couscous in a plastic container and put the lid on it for 5 minutes. Then I stirred it so it did not stick together. I put the lid back on and left it in the fridge overnight.

To make the salad, I took four thin early asparagus and cooked them in simmering water just long enough to be tender. I cut into chunks. While the asparagus was cooking, I chopped up about 1/4 of an onion, chopped up a 2 tbsp of parsley and cored and cut up a Bosc pear. I added a bit of salt and pepper. I added 1 tbsp of seasoned rice vinegar. I shook it on so that is a guess. I added enough to add dress the salad lightly.

This is was light, fresh and delicious. The pears and asparagus are amazing together with the seasoned rice vinegar. The onion adds a bit of bite, the parsley a bit of freshness and then the couscous is a great foundation.

 

 

 

 

Asparagus, Fennel & Grapefruit Salad

DSCN6378.png

I made this delicious salad, riffing off a delicious sounding salad in the Italian Diabetes Cookbook by Amy Riolo. Her recipe served six and include oranges to which I am allergic. I miss oranges terribly as they were one of my favorite fruits and I loved citrus-based cleansers. I guess I must have already eaten my lifetime allotment of oranges because all of sudden about 10 years ago, I became terribly allergic to them. So for me, I often substitute grapefruit which oddly enough I can still eat. It’s not the same, it is not nearly so sweet, but it’s in the ballpark. And sometimes, I think it is probably even more delicious precisely because it is less sweet.

The thing to remember about cooking is that it’s like jazz while baking is like classical music. When you cook, you can extemporize. Don’t have an ingredient, use something else. Use your instincts and your taste buds. Her recipe also called for fresh parsley and I did not have any. I used the fennel fronds instead just for the color. Parsley would have been a good addition and I will make this again with parsley, but it still made a delicious salad. In fact, that I can mess around with the original recipe here and there is proof, in my opinion, of the soundness of the foundation recipe. Good recipes can tolerate a lot of fiddling.

  • 3 asparagus spears, lightly boiled or heated on low for a few minutes in microwave, until tender
  • 1/4 cup of thinly sliced and chopped fennel
  • 1/2 grapefruit supremed (cut segments out)
  • 4 black olives, cut in half
  • 1 tbsp of fennel fronds

Mix together in a bowl, squeeze the juice out of the leftover grapefruit, add 2 tsps of olive oil, a splash of rice vinegar, salt and pepper to taste.

This was light, flavorful and satisfying. The olives were a surprisingly good addition, adding a satisfying bit of fattiness to the very light meal. I have loved green olives and grapefruit in salads. I thought black olives would be too mild, but they are a surprisingly good match. Asparagus is mild, which makes it a great foundation for strong flavors like fennel and grapefruit. Crunchy, light, flavorful, what more can I ask?

 

Fennel, Asparagus, Strawberry & Feta Salad with Grape Vinaigrette

DSCN6347

After making the Roasted Grape Vinaigrette, I was hungry for a salad. I tore up some Romaine lettuce leaves to form the base, shaved off a couple slices from a fennel bulb and chopped them up, shaved three asparagus spars with a peeler, sliced three strawberries (they were twice the length of regular strawberry) and layered it all on the lettuce. I added the Roasted Grape Vinaigrette, assed some salt and pepper and sprinkled with feta cheese (a bit more than usual because the package was so close to empty) and that was it.

The flavors are a good blend. The sweet strawberries are a delicious counter to the tangy feta, the fennel and asparagus complement each other and Romaine is always a good foundation. The vinaigrette is a perfect, sweet and tangy dressing.

Asparagus Breakfast Tostadas

DSCN6344.png

  • 4 breakfast sausage links
  • a dozen young asparagus spears
  • 1/4 yellow onions
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 corn tostadas

This delicious breakfast was easy to make and so tasty. Preheat the oven to 450°.

Clean the asparagus and slice the onion into thins strips. Sprinkle with olive oil and kosher salt. Roast in the oven until they begin to caramelize.

Meanwhile cook the sausage links in a pan on medium high heat. Use a fork to smash up the sausage into small bits. You can use ground sausage, too, but I didn’t have any.

In a small egg pan, cook two eggs, over easy (or however you prefer) and season with salt and pepper.

Put the tostadas on a plate, add the sausage, then the egg and the asparagus and onions on top. Before you eat, use a knife or fork to poke the yolk so it begins to seep out over the sausage, etc. Definitely poke the yolk before lifting up the tostada and taking a bit so it does not burst when you bite and send egg yolk all over your face. This is the voice of experience.

This was delicious. The tostada gave it a great crunch and added a foundational flavor that the sausage and eggs combined with for this wonderfully satisfying umami flavor. The onions and asparagus brought some brightness and freshness, a great flavor combination. This makes one giant breakfast for this hungry person who skipped supper last night.

DSCN6342

Grapefruit & Asparagus Salad

Grapefruit & Asparagus Salad

This was a delicious and easy salad for lunch. I started by making my dressing first, a grapefruit zest- infused balsamic vinegar and oil. I made it first because I wanted the zest to soak into the balsamic vinegar and enhance its flavor.

  • 1 grapefruit (and its zest)
  • 1/4 small yellow onion
  • 12 asparagus spears (thin)
  • 12 almonds (toasted)
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1/4 cupbalsamic vinegar
  • 3 TBSP olive oil

First, zest the grapefruit until you have 2 TBSP of grapefruit zest. Add it in a small container that seals to 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar. Let rest for 10 minutes or until you are done making your salad. Add 3 TBSP of olive oil, salt, and pepper. It makes enough for 3 salads, so you will want the container to seal so it can be saved.

Put a dozen almonds in  a dry pan on medium high heat so they toast. Keep an eye on them so they don’t turn too dark. You don’t want them to turn bitter.

Using a vegetable peeler, slice thin strips off the asparagus so you have a nice deep bed of asparagus strips for the base of your salad.

Cut the ends, the peel and the pith off the grapefruit and carefully remove the segments from the skin. Cut them in half, and toss on the asparagus.

Cut your onion in half lengthwise. Take half and cut it in half again. Cut off both ends and slice thinly, separating the slices into thin strips.  Toss into the salad.

Chop the almonds and toss them on top. Shake the dressing to mix the file and vinegar and toss on the salad. Mix lightly and serve.

If you want to add cheese, you could add thin strips of parmesan, but it really did not need it.

 

Broiled Asparagus Salad

DSCN6315

  • 5-6 stalks of young asparagus
  • 3 thin slices of onion
  • 10 grapes cut in half
  • 2 tbsp of feta
  • 1/2 tsp of mustard
  • 1 tbsp of seasoned vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste

Set oven to broil and prepare the asparagus and onion.

This flavorful and zesty salad takes about 15 minutes from start to finish. The first thing for a single serving is to cut 5 or 6 asparagus stalks in half lengthwise and then in thirds. This is with young, fresh asparagus. Late season asparagus, you will want to cut in quarters lengthwise so you have nice thin stalks.

After I cut the asparagus, I cut three slices of onion crosswise, so I could separate the individual rings and drop them in a baking pan with the asparagus. I used my paella pan because I use it for everything practically. I did not add any oil or salt as I do when I roast vegetables. I wanted to broil just until they began to brown, not until they were cooked through.

When they are browned, put on a salad plate. Cut a few grapes in half and toss on top of the veggies with a couple tablespoons of feta cheese.

While the veggies were broiling, I mixed up a couple tablespoons of seasoned rice vinegar with a bit of mustard (1/2 tsp) and some salt and pepper. I added that on top of everything right before serving.

The blend of flavors are delicious. The asparagus is fresh and light with a bit of sweetness from the onions and grape. The feta adds a nice bit of fat and creaminess and the mustard vinaigrette blended the flavors perfectly.

Fresh Asparagus Salad 2.0

DSCN6309.png

I thought it might be interesting to remake my favorite salad with Tajín instead of salt and pepper. It was a brilliant move, making an old and frequentI w favorite new again.

I was set to make a fresh asparagus salad again when I recalled a friend’s recent Facebook post sharing 23 Things You’ll Definitely Find in Every Mexican Household.  I don’t have all that many of the items, but I do have Tajín, a delicious spice blend of dried limes, Mexican chiles and sea salt. It’s delicious on fresh jicama sticks, grapefruit and watermelon. I thought it might work on this and it did. Wonderfully.

How to make the salad.

  • 6 stalks of asparagus
  • 2 tbsp of chopped toasted almonds
  • Asiago cheese
  • 1/2 fresh lemon, squeezed
  • Tan

I used 6 slender stalks of asparagus. Using a vegetable peeler, just peel and peel and peel of thin strips of the asparagus. This salad is actually easier with older, later in the season asparagus that is bigger around and less tender because it’s easier to peel. I go from the head to the root because that makes it a little easier.

While I was slicing up the asparagus, I toasted a small handful of almonds. When they were toasted, I set them aside to cool, finishing the asparagus. I chopped up the almonds. Using the same vegetable peeler, I sliced off some asiago cheese and tossed on top of the salad. I then squeezed the juice of 1/2 a lemon on the salad and sprinkled the top of it with Tajín. I did not add salt and pepper like I usually do.

The salad was fresh and light with a tangy, spicy heat. Delicious! I never would have made this if not for you, Gloria! Thanks.