Brown Rice Salad

We’re always on the hunt for interesting new side dishes.  Of course, we’d usually rather have fries, roasted potatoes, mac-n-cheese or some other deliciously starchy carbs, but maybe an occasional, more healthy side can be delicious too.  We were intrigued by the article and recipes in the most recent issue of Cook’s Illustrated’s magazine discussing “Really Good Brown Rice Salads,” not only because of the versatility of the salads, but also with the suggested method of boiling the rice in an abundance of water, in order to get a more evenly cooked end result.  The first rice salad we tried was indeed “really good:”  brown rice with jalapenos, tomatoes, green onions, cilantro and avocado, lightly tossed in a dressing made with olive oil, honey, garlic, lime zest and juice, cumin and salt & pepper.   After trying (and loving) this Tex-Mex(ish) version of brown rice salad, we’ve successfully experimented with several other flavor combinations, including a Greek/Mediterranean style, and what we call an “Island” version that paired really well with grilled jerk chicken.  We look forward to trying the other recipes suggested by Cook’s Illustrated (one with asparagus, goat cheese and lemon, and the other with fennel, mushrooms and walnuts), as well as coming up with other flavor variations.  Plain old brown rice suddenly got a lot more interesting.

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Tomato Rice Pilaf

We love a good rice dish — from a simple rice side, to an herbed-up version, to a Louisiana staple.  It’s not always easy to find interesting ways to dress up plain rice, but Ina Garten came through for us yet again.  This recipe is in her book “Barefoot In Paris,” but as the Barefoot Contessa herself says, the dish is “probably as close to Italian cuisine in flavoring as it is to French…”  Rather than Italian or French food, this side dish actually reminded us of Spanish paella.  Regardless of its origins, this rice is flavor country, with richness from the saffron, chicken broth and Parmesan, as well as fresh notes from the tomatoes and parsley.

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Green Rice Pilaf

If you live somewhere that did NOT have record high temperatures all summer and, as a result, the herbs in your garden thrived instead of died, then this is a great use of your end-of-summer herb bounty.  The rest of us can get our herbs from the grocery store.  We saw Mark Bittman, New York Times columnist and cookbook author, prepare this dish on the Today Show, and we were intrigued enough to try it ourselves at home.  According to Bittman, there are a lot of herbs that you can use by the handful — similar to green, leafy vegetables.  The handfuls of herbs in this rice dish include parsley, cilantro, chives and mint, accompanied by ingredients including basmati rice, grapeseed oil, onion, garlic, chicken stock (or broth) and lemon zest.  This combination resulted in a unique, fresh and flavorful take on rice pilaf that we enjoyed very much. Continue reading “Green Rice Pilaf”

Pork Fried Rice (with leftover pork)

As promised, here is another of our favorite uses of leftover pork, Asian style.  We adapted the recipe from “The Best 30-Minute Recipe” cookbook (which we can’t recommend highly enough), but the dish is pretty flexible in terms of both ingredients and sauce.  This version is what we prefer, but you can always put your own spin on it, which is one of the many reasons we like this recipe.  We also appreciate that it’s a quick, easy and delicious use of leftovers.

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The Good Rice

A rice side dish can be a nice alternative to potatoes or pasta.  Early in our home and cooking life, we used to make a lot of boxed rice dishes.  Not that there is anything wrong with rice-from-the-box, but a couple of years ago we decided to cut preservatives out of our diet where possible and try to cook more dishes from scratch.  The boxed side dishes were among the first to go.  We thought we might miss the flavor from those little seasoning packets that come with boxed rice, but then we found this recipe, which tastes way better than the stuff from the box.  We found the recipe on this awesome site, which has tons of great (non-sponsored) product reviews, happy hour recommendations and lots of fun content to browse, especially when you’re working killing some free time.  Back to the rice — the ingredients are simple:  rice, chicken broth, olive oil, butter, onion, garlic and salt — but they turn plain old white rice into a rich and flavorful side dish.  For obvious reasons, we refer to this dish as “The Good Rice.” Continue reading “The Good Rice”

Red Beans and Rice

We’ve mentioned before that one of our favorite places we’ve ever visited is New Orleans.  When we were there last May, we wandered around looking for a good place to have our final meal of the trip, hoping to make up for a surprisingly mediocre plate of etouffee from lunch the previous day.  (The etouffee was so bad that a local guy dining next to us said it was the worst he’d ever had and he didn’t want to have to pay for his meal as a result.)  We found a great little place in the French Quarter that more than made up for the not-so-good lunch.  Dan ordered the meal featuring a trio of famous Cajun dishes — red beans and rice, etouffee and gumbo — and finally got to sample what authentic etouffee is really supposed to taste like.  The other two dishes were authentically delicious as well.  Ever since that meal, we’ve wanted to try making these dishes at home.  We’ve already tried Seafood Gumbo (with rather successful results, if we do say so ourselves – and we do), so we decided to give red beans and rice a shot.  Success Number Two!

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Chicken and Shrimp Jambalaya

New Orleans is one of our favorite places to visit — with its impressive architecture, hidden courtyards, quaint local shops and art galleries, abundance of live music and, of course, entertaining nightlife.  But one of the main reasons we love New Orleans is the food.  There are so many amazing restaurants, especially if you like shrimp and other seafood.  Jambalaya is just one of the many traditional dishes from The Big Easy.  Jambalaya is a Creole dish with Spanish and French influence.  There are two basic variations of the dish — “red” with tomatoes, or “brown” without tomatoes.  Other ingredients vary depending on the recipe, what you have on hand, and what kinds of proteins you like  — anything from chicken, sausage, ham, shrimp or fish.  For our first foray into homemade jambalaya, we decided to try this basic recipe for (red) Chicken and Shrimp Jambalaya from Cook’s Illustrated’s website.  It was delicious  — rich and comforting with just the right amount of spice. Continue reading “Chicken and Shrimp Jambalaya”

Rice with Roasted Poblano, Spinach and Cheese

As self-proclaimed foodies, we love the show Top Chef, including their “Top Chef Masters” series, in which they pit established chefs against each other.  On the first season, a chef named Rick Bayless won.  Chef Bayless is widely acclaimed as America’s biggest proponent of authentic Mexican cuisine.  He also has two reportedly amazing restaurants in Chicago — Frontera Grill and Topolobampo.  I personally wouldn’t be able to speak in detail about how amazing they are, since I have never been (someone forgot to make reservations far enough in advance of our most recent trip to Chicago.  His name rhymes with pan).  But, pan Dan was lucky enough to go to Topolobampo once with a couple of colleagues during a work trip and says it was exquisite.  I guess the rest of us will just have to settle for the  homemade version of Chef Bayless’ delicious recipe for “Rice with Roasted Poblano, Spinach and Fresh Cheese.” Continue reading “Rice with Roasted Poblano, Spinach and Cheese”

Spicy Turkey Paella (with leftover turkey)

With the holidays rapidly approaching, we’ve been looking for recipes incorporating leftover turkey.  We wanted to try something different than the usual leftover turkey dishes, like pot pie and turkey soup (although they are delicious!).  The Epicurious website came through for us yet again — with the recipe for Spicy Turkey Paella.  We made just a few small changes and the resulting dish was really good.  We look forward to making it again with our turkey from Thanksgiving.

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Pork Fried Rice

Pork fried rice is an excellent use of leftover pork.   In addition to rice, our recipe includes bean sprouts, green onion, mushrooms, red bell pepper, garlic, eggs, soy sauce, black bean sauce, and sriracha hot sauce.  But you can use whatever combination of ingredients you happen to like.  The key components here are the leftover pork (you could also use chicken or beef), rice and egg.  Continue reading “Pork Fried Rice”