The Secret Ingredient (Saffron) Part II: Saffron and Orange Rice Pilaf with Orzo and Pine Nuts

RECIPE: Saffron and Orange Rice Pilaf with Orzo and Pine Nuts
Saffron Rice Pilaf

Saffron Rice Pilaf

Get the whole story at Serious Eats.

I know that when someone calls you yellow, you’re a coward.  But as far as spices go, I think the yellowest, saffron, is very brave.  It is subtle, floral, aromatic, almost bitter–and extremely bold.  It makes its presence known, shouts it from the rooftops, dying everything it comes into contact with a bright marigold hue.  And something that tastes of saffron, well, it only tastes of saffron.  It’s a force to be reckoned with.

I first starting mixing orange and saffron in bouillabaisse.  It works so well together, the aromatic bitterness of saffron with the bright sweetness of orange.  This is a very simple rice, based on my favorite yellow rice that I get in Spanish and Mexican restaurants, that is glammed up with some ritzy ingredients.  I toast orzo and shallots and add white rice, and then cook it with saffron-infused stock for color and a deep, heady flavor.  Stud it with toasted pine nuts and orange zest at the last minute, and you have a very simple-to-make side that is very elegant and impressive.  I would serve this with roasted bone-in chicken, or jumbo shell-on prawns.
Saffron and Orange Rice Pilaf with Orzo and Pine Nuts
serves 4

Saffron Rice PilafINGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup low-sodium organic chicken stock
  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron
  • 2 teaspoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup orzo
  • 1 shallot, finely diced
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 cup parboiled rice
  • Zest of 1/4 orange
  • 3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
  • Freshly cracked black pepper

PROCEDURE

In a medium saucepot, heat the water and stock with the saffron over medium heat.

In a large saucepot, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the orzo, and toast until golden brown, about 90 seconds.  Add the shallot, and season with salt.  Sauté on low heat until the shallot is translucent, about 2 1/2 minutes.  Add the rice, and stir to coat in the butter.  Add the water, stock, and saffron, and raise the heat to high to bring the mixture to a boil.  Lower the heat to low, cover, and cook until the rice is tender, 16 to 18 minutes.  Fluff with a fork, and stir in orange zest, pine nuts, and pepper.  Serve hot or at room temperature, especially alongside a juicy roast chicken or jumbo roast shrimp.

 

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Categories: 30 Minutes, Eat, Recipes, Series, Sides, Starches, The Secret Ingredient, Vegetarian
 

Working Girl Dinners: The Easiest Thai Green Shrimp Curry

RECIPE: Thai Green Shrimp Curry
Thai Green Shrimp Curry

Thai Green Shrimp Curry

It was great to be back in London last week with all my friends, and Mr. English.  My best girlfriends took me to the best Thai restaurant I’ve ever been to: Patara, on Beauchamp Place.  The pad Thai was just shrimp, which is how I like it.  We had beef slow cooked in coconut milk.  Prawns seared with lemongrass and chili.  And a chicken curry.  And coconut ice cream.  And glutinous rice–seriously, that’s what it was called on the menu.  It was so good.

When I’m home, I order Thai delivery a lot.  Too often.  And frankly, my empty pad Thai tin always looks a little greasy.  And for one person, I can wind up spending $15.  No thank you!  We can Working Girl this issue.  This week, we are making Thai shrimp curry in 10 minutes, with 4 ingredients, and 1 pot.

It’s so simple.  I poach zucchini and shrimp in a broth made from coconut milk and Thai green curry paste.  You can get coconut milk and curry paste at regular grocery stores these days, and if you have leftover curry paste, lucky you.  It keeps for a good while in the fridge, and you will be making all kinds of varieties of this curry once you see how easy it is.  Broccoli and chicken, squash and salmon.  You name it.

The coconut milk is creamy and exotic.  The curry paste is spicy and fragrant and potent.  I pour the curry over rice or mai fun noodles to soak it all up.  It’s so easy, and so good, that you’ll make it again tomorrow.  Promise.

Thai Green Shrimp Curry
serves 2

Thai Green Shrimp CurryINGREDIENTS

  • 1 13.5-ounce can coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons Thai green curry paste
  • 2 small to medium zucchini or summer squash (or 1 of each), cut into chunks
  • 1 pound 11-15 count shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 lime, quartered

Optional Toppings

  • 1 handful cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1 long green chili, sliced into thin rings
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced

PROCEDURE

In a large saucepot, combine the coconut milk and curry paste over medium heat.  Bring the mixture to a bubble, and add the zucchini and squash.  Cook 7 minutes, then add the shrimp, and cook another 4 minutes, until the shrimp are pink, opaque, and curled.  The curry is done!

Put some rice or cellophane noodles in the bottom of a bowl, and top with the curry.  To gild the lily, add lime wedges, chopped fresh cilantro, and sliced chili on top of the curry.

On the Side

Cook ½ cup parboiled rice in ¾ cup boiling water with a pinch of salt and a drizzle of canola or vegetable oil.  Bring to a boil on high heat, stir once, then cover, and cook on the lowest heat for 16 to 18 minutes.  Fluff the rice with a fork.

Or, pour boiling water to cover 3 ounces Maifun (rice sticks or thin rice noodles) in a large metal bowl, and let sit for 10 minutes.  Drain.

Tips

I always keep raw, peeled, and deveined shrimp in my freezer.  I buy them at Costco.  I defrost them quickly in a bowl of room temperature water.

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Easy, Eat, Fish, Main Courses, Recipes, Series, Watch, Working Girl Dinners
 

HEALTHY WEEKEND BREAKFAST: Sweet Blueberry Greek Yogurt Sundaes

RECIPE: Sweet Blueberry Greek Yogurt Sundaes
Blueberry Greek Yogurt Sundae

Sweet Blueberry Greek Yogurt Sundaes

I am one of those girls who believes with all my heart that skipping breakfast and not eating until 4 in the afternoon will make me skinnier, even though I know with all my head that eating breakfast would definitely prevent that 4 o’clock meal’s being a slice of Starbuck’s coffee cake.  I just got back from Europe, and the combination of being with Mr. English (because being with a boy is about as fattening as the binge from breaking up with one), being in London, and being in Paris has made me feel like the world’s most irresponsible eater.  I’m lethargic, dehydrated, and my face looks mottled.  As much as I love eating nothing but cheese, sugar, and beef stew, I’m a mess.  It’s time to get my house in order.

So, because I’m not seeing Mr. English again until next week, I’m taking this week to refresh and replenish.  That starts with forcing myself to eat breakfast.  Normally, I’ll make an exception for cinnamon rolls or a bagel, but that’s not really what I’m going for right now.  I always keep a tub of Greek yogurt in the fridge for marinades and dips.  But even though its pro-digestive powers are supposed to be miraculous, and it’s filling and full of calcium, I have only rarely eaten it for breakfast.  Then I had this amazing idea.  I love the idea of fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt, but they’re expensive, and they kind of scare me.  Where has that fruit been?  How long has it been hiding out under all that yogurt?  And most importantly, what is it hiding from?

So, to go with my extra large tub of 2% Greek yogurt, I’m making an extra large batch of two-ingredient blueberry compote.  Fruit-on-the-top yogurt this time.  I start with a bag of frozen organic blueberries, and stew it for seven minutes with some agave, which is better for you than refined sugar.  Pour that oven plain, thick, tangy Greek yogurt, and you have this blueberry pie yogurt sundae parfait perfection, that I top with a sprinkling of puffed brown rice cereal (like brown Rice Krispies) for crunch.  It was good, and I’m full, and I’m proud of myself.  So proud that I can’t wait to open up that yogurt tub again tomorrow morning.

Sweet Blueberry Greek Yogurt Sundaes
makes about 6 (all at once, or over the week)

Blueberry Greek Yogurt SundaeINGREDIENTS

  • 1 1-pound bag frozen organic blueberries, thawed or frozen
  • 2 tablespoon agave nectar
  • 2% Greek yogurt
  • Puffed brown rice cereal (like brown Rice Krispies, optional)

PROCEDURE

Put the blueberries and agave in a saucepot over high heat.  Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and bubble for 7 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Chill completely, pour over a cup full of yogurt, and top with rice cereal.

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Breakfast & Brunch, Easy, Eat, Recipes, Vegetarian
 

French in a Flash: Salmon en Croûte with Rosemary Asparagus

RECIPE: Salmon en Croûte with Rosemary Asparagus
Salmon en Croûte with Rosemary Asparagus

Salmon en Croûte with Rosemary Asparagus

Get the whole story at Serious Eats.

I really appreciate anything that comes complete in a box, every part you will ever or could ever need already included.  Ikea furniture, Liberty needlepoint sets, and Itsu’s bento lunches in London.  Everything I need is already accounted for, included, and sealed in the packaging.  I have no fears or worries; everything I need to assemble, stitch, or eat is right in front of me.  It’s a vacation from thought and planning that I really appreciate.
The French culinary answer to the Ikea box, or Bento box, is the “en croûte.”  Consider puff pastry your packing material.  Then pack everything you need for your meal–your protein, your vegetable, your sauce–inside, with the package doubling as your carb.  Foolproof.  Genius, even.
In this version, I pair the traditional salmon en croûte with rosemary, whose hearty woodsiness pairs perfectly with strident salmon.  Asparagus also works beautifully with rosemary, so that became the veg.  Crème fraîche binds everything together in a light, lemony sauce, and it is all contained in the perfectly golden and puffed pastry.  You look extremely accomplished, and all you did was wrap some ingredients in puff pastry you picked up in the freezer section.  But shh, no one needs to know that a vacation from thought and planning can apply as much to the cooker as to the eater!
Salmon en Croûte with Rosemary Asparagus
serves 4

Salmon en Croûte with Rosemary AsparagusINGREDIENTS

  • 16 medium-stalked asparagus (about 3/4 pound), trimmed and peeled
  • 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 clove garlic, grated
  • 2 tablespoons crème fraîche
  • The zest of 1/4 lemon
  • 2 sheets (1 box) frozen puff pastry, thawed but very cold
  • 2 1/2-pound boneless, skinless salmon fillets

PROCEDURE

Preheat the oven to 400°F.  Bring a pot of water to boil, and salt the water.  Drop the asparagus in the boiling water and cook for 2 minutes.  Transfer the asparagus to an ice bath, and cool completely.  Dry on a paper towel, then slice into thin coins on a bias.  Mix the asparagus pieces with rosemary, garlic, crème fraîche, and lemon zest in a small bowl.

Unfold both sheets of puff pastry, and lay them separately on a counter or cutting board.  Place one piece of salmon on one side of each sheet of puff pastry.  Top each salmon fillet with half the asparagus mixture.  Then, fold the pastry over the salmon, and press the pastry together to form a seal.  Trim any pastry border in excess of 1 inch, and then crimp the edge of the pastry.  Cut 2 or 3 steam vents in the top of the pastry, and place the two parcels on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet.  Bake until puffed and golden, about 35 minutes.  Slice each parcel in half, and serve immediately.

 

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Categories: 60 Minutes, Easy, Eat, Fish, French in a Flash, Main Courses, Recipes, Series
 

London’s Calling: Ben’s Cookies

Ben's Cookies

Ben's Cookies

I’m a total cookie monster.  I survived my MBA on double chocolate chunk cookies every afternoon.  Especially during macroeconomics.  But when I want a real treat in England, I go to Ben’s Cookies.  Without question.  Like a child ranting after the Pied Piper.

Ben’s Cookies is to England what Crumbs is to New York–in that perfectly (we like to think) sane girls give up any hope of self-control and succumb in utterly every way to the intoxicating perfection that is a Ben’s cookie.  They are sold by the weight, and these are no skinny cookies.  They’re big, with crisp edges, and a collapsing, buttery, melting, oozing center, fresh from the oven.  The chocolate smears all over your face and your hands.  You try to stop because no one needs a cookie this big, but you can’t.  You are overwhelmed by Ben and all his sweetness and chocolaty charms.  But you give in, because you know you wanted to from the beginning.  You were always going to go through with it, from the moment you saw the red and white sign down the block.  You were a goner!

Ben's Cookie Stack

Image from Ben's Cookies. Click the picture to see all the cookies.

I am extremely partial to the chocolate orange, a combination of milk chocolate and marmalade, the triple chocolate, a chocolate cookie with chocolate and white chocolate chunks, and the dark chocolate, which is basically the ultimate version of a Chips Ahoy.  It should be noted that we are not talking chocolate chips, but chocolate slabs.  They also have lemon, coconut, chocolate-praline, chocolate-nut, double chocolate, white chocolate, peanut butter, ginger, oatmeal-raisin, fruit-and-nut, milk chocolate.  I actually just did all that from memory.  I literally can’t talk about it anymore, I’m going to go buy another one.

Ben’s Cookies

Stores all over the UK.  Click here for locations.


p.s. One of the best things about Ben’s is their overnight cookie delivery service.  It’s the cookie equivalent of Santa Claus.  I sent boxes of them to Mr. English for our anniversary and Mr. and Mrs. Miami for their engagement.  If you love someone in England, you may want to tell them in cookies.

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Categories: London, Restaurants, Voyages
 

Franglais: Ham and Cheese Palmiers

RECIPE: Ham and Cheese Palmiers
Ham and Cheese Palmiers

Ham and Cheese Palmiers

Get the whole story at The Huffington Post.

I am Kerry.  I am twenty-eight.  I am an only child.  And I think palmiers may be the height of manipulation.

I don’t know if it’s just a stereotype, but this only child was physically unable to share until I was twenty years old, when my best friends staged a sharing intervention on me.  But there was always one naughty, calculated, devious exception to the rule.  One thing I would share: palmiers.

Palmiers, or elephant ears as we know them, are my mother’s favorite pastry.  I am convinced that the reason we call them elephant ears is because the original palmiers were always so big.  Bigger than my face big.  So when my mom would take me to the pastry shop and ask me what I wanted, I would smile angelically up at her and ask, saccharine notes dripping from my lips, “Would you share a palmier with me?”  She would start back in gleeful surprise, eyes opened wide at the shock of it all, her selfish little girl offering to share her favorite pastry.  But let’s be honest: I wanted the sugary, buttery, crispy thing anyway, and it was probably the only thing in the shop that I couldn’t finish by my little self.  Eating good, and looking good, all in one sweet move.

I found from then on that palmiers are the secret to social success.  I would share them with my mom, with my friends, with anyone who would have me.  No one ever complained.  And I suddenly looked sweet as the palmier itself.

It’s not easy to make the giant palmiers at home, but it is easy to make an equally sharable batch of smaller ones.  One of my favorite things to do is turn the tables and make savory palmiers, stuffed with tapenade or pesto or, in this case, the flavors of a croque monsieur: ham and cheese.  Just roll ham and Gruyère in puff pastry, and bake until crisp.  They are salty and buttery and smoky from ham and crispy cheese.  I serve them with Dijon mustard, and a stack of cornichons, for the perfect party starter.  See, they’re still the secret to social success, only at this size, you can have one all to yourself.

Ham and Cheese Palmiers
makes about 15

Ham and Cheese PalmiersINGREDIENTS

  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed but cold, rolled out to 9½ by 9½ inches
  • 3 thin deli slices of Black Forest ham
  • 7 thin deli slices of Gruyère or aged Swiss cheese
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • Cornichons (optional)

Procedure

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Lay the cheese and then the ham in a single layer over the entire surface of the rolled-out pastry.  Starting at opposite ends of the pastry, roll both ends tightly so they meet in the center.  Trim off the ends of the log, then cut the log into ½-inch slices.  Lay the slices, the palmiers, flat in a single layer on a Silpat-lined baking sheet, leaving space between the palmiers for them to puff as they bake.  Bake until puffed and golden-brown, about 25 minutes.  Serve warm with Dijon mustard and cornichons on the side.

 

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Categories: 60 Minutes, Appetizers & Hors D’Oeuvres, Easy, Eat, For a Crowd, Franglais, Recipes, Series
 

London’s Calling: The Canton Arms

Canton Arms

Canton Arms

Mr. English and I spend a lot of time in Stockwell in London.  For those of you who don’t know it, and I wouldn’t if it weren’t for Mr. English, it’s not the place that I would have necessarily expected to find fantastic food.  You know what they say about English food.  But last night, we went down to the local pub, where we’ve ordinarily just gone for beers, and sat down to a proper meal.  When I tell you, it was one of the best meals I ever had in this country, and it was in the middle of gastro no man’s land!  What a tremendous find.  If you’re ever down south of the river, you have to try Canton Arms.

The ambiance is very dark wood, low key, British pub.  The front room is full of intellectuals ruminating over pints and reading books in high-backed chairs.  The wait staff is bright and young and cheerful, against the somber atmosphere, which makes me realize that I can’t remember if there was a fire going, or if it was them that made it feel so bright and cozy.  Around the back of the bar is this large, quaint, wooden room, filled with a hodgepodge of different sized, very comfortable tables and chairs.  Little votives in shot glasses winked and twinkled all over the dark room, giving it a starlight feel.  Very modern meets old world.  Very, I’ll say it again, cozy.  Mr. English and I appropriated a corner table by the window, and looked at the menu.  The beer and wine list is far more extensive than the dinner menu, but Mr. English tells me that the latter changes all the time, if not every day.

I was really surprised by the choices.  Probably because I was unfairly biased against a gastropub in Stockwell to begin with, which is evidence that one should not be a place-ist eater.  The starters included split pea and ham soup, braised cuttlefish with butter beans and olives, smoked salmon with what seemed to be house-pickled cucumbers, and a melange of beets with cow’s curd and rosemary and crisp bread crumbs resurrected from the excellent brown bread they served to start.  I had the beets, a combination of carpaccio-thin white beets that I’d never seen before, and wedges of small golden and red beets.  The beets, of course, were sweet, and lightly tossed in vinaigrette.  On top was a white cloud of tart, creamy cow’s curd.  And on top of that, extremely crisp and chunky wheat crumbs, and rosemary.  It was so simple, and so good.

The mains included black bass with crab risotto and monk’s beard, pork belly, cassoulet, and gnocchi.  When my gnocchi first arrived bubbling in a gratin dish, I had it inside out.  I thought the little chunks around the perimeter were the gnocchi, and I asked Mr. English, “what’s this thing in the middle?”  As it turns out, the thing in the middle was one giant, genius, rectangular, fluffy-as-air gnocchi, smothered in a cauldron of excellent tomato sauce studded with roasted squash and chard.  The top of the gnocchi slab was gratined with Parmesan cheese–sort of a gnocchi parmesan, instead of chicken or eggplant.  It was truly delicious.

To wash it all down, I had the cocktail of the day: rhubarb and prosecco.  And for dessert, a lemon cream pot, topped with a shot of crème de cassis, and an English shortbread cookie.

I loved it because it was this cold, windy, brutal English night, in a part of London that can, in all honesty, appear bleak.  There is a lot of grayness here.  But what I love about the English is that in the grayscape about them, they create points of color.  A whimsical hat perched at a bright angle like a tropical bird.  A planter full of pansies down the street.  Bright scarves and floral prints.  And a gastropub that twinkled with votives in the night, and that served fresh, colorful, English food that cheered up the eyes, and filled up the stomach in that hearty-meets-frivolous English way.  I love the pride they are taking in their cuisine right now, and especially in their ingredients.  I left feeling warm.

Canton Arms

177 South Lambeth Road

Stockwell, London SW8 1XP

0207 5828710


So sorry I don’t have pictures of the food from last night.  I tried, but the lighting made it impossible!

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Categories: London, Restaurants, Voyages