Saturday, February 26, 2011

How I Cook Long Grain Rice

Long grain rice was a principal staple of the south Louisiana diet when I was growing up, and was an accompaniment to almost every meal, much as potatoes are elsewhere in the United States. Mahatma Rice was the brand we always used at home, and until I was grown, I was not aware that there was any other kind of rice. At that time, Mahatma, which today offers a wide variety of rices, sold only the long grain variety that grew in the flat, moist farmland of Louisiana and east Texas. I still buy it occasionally, but the long grain rice that we have come to love is the Aromatic Carolina Plantation Rice that we stock up on each time we go to Charleston. It was first introduced to South Carolina in 1685 from Madagascar and was grown there until the Civil War. It was re-introduced in 1996 and a small quantity is produced every year. We buy ours from the shop of the Historic Charleston Foundation which sponsors the Charleston International Antiques Show we exhibit in each March, but it is also available from other sources.

Whatever long grain rice I have on hand, this is how I prepare it: (The bay leaves, a tip from Peter Patout, add a lovely touch of flavor.)

1 cup rice

2 cups water

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon of olive oil or butter

2 bay leaves

Put salt, bay leaves, olive oil or butter into two cups of water. Bring to a boil. Add rice.

Stir once, then cover and turn down the heat and let simmer for about twenty minutes.

When all the water has been absorbed, fluff the rice with a fork, then serve.

Serves 3 or 4

Saturday, February 12, 2011

My Favorite Quick Soup

This soup is one of my preferred comfort foods.


4 cups organic (if possible) chicken broth

4 tablespoons of de Cecco “Riso” or “Acini di pepe” pasta*

1 clove of garlic, thinly sliced

1 thin slice of lemon

1 handful of arugula

Dash of Tabasco

Pinch of salt (optional)

Put chicken broth in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the pasta,* sliced garlic and lemon slice. Bring back to a boil and let simmer vigorously for the amount of time recommended on the package of pasta (about 12 minutes). One minute before pasta is done, stir in the handful of arugula. Taste and add salt if needed. When the arugula is completely wilted, pour into bowls and serve.

* “Riso” pasta is so named because it is made to resemble grains of rice. The brand of dry pasta I prefer is de Cecco. De Cecco’s riso is found in many supermarkets, and also can be ordered online.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Jane Bonin’s Dark Chocolate Pots de Crème

We call our friend Jane Bonin La Veuve, even though, as of this writing, her ex-husband is still very much alive. We gave her the nickname because of her habit of always arriving with a bottle of champagne made by that most famous of French widows: La Veuve Cliquot. (Though once, when she showed up with a different brand, she told us “I’m so sorry. My wine shop was out of Veuve Cliquot, so I had to settle for something better.”)

Jane has a great sense of style and is always never less than chic. Sometimes when she comes for dinner, she stays the night and the next morning takes the commuter train back to Washington, where she lives. She always stands out from the throng of government employees and business people boarding the train as the only one among them who looks as if she might be going to Monte Carlo.

Jane is a wonderful cook and has prepared for us many memorable meals. Here is her favorite dessert. It is easy to make and goes very well, of course, with a glass or two of good champagne.

1 cup dark chocolate chips (Jane prefers Ghirardelli Bittersweet Chocolate)

1 ½ cups of light cream, scalded

2 egg yolks

3 tablespoons brandy or Grand Marnier

Blend all the ingredients in a food processor until the mixture is very smooth. Strain through a fine sieve and pour into 6 small cups or one medium serving dish. Cover and

chill for at least 3 hours.

Serve with vanilla flavored cream or whipped heavy cream with very little sugar.

Serves 6