Making Brown Rice Behave Like It's Not

I have worked at Chow for a couple of years now, and have learned many things. One of the first things I had to learn was how to do this "healthy" thing. I'd read through the recipes, and be terrified at how little fat there was in everything. How there was no fried food. No white bread. And how we'd only use white rice on a rare occasion. This meant that I, for whom rice is not a grain but a way of life, had to learn to use the rice we keep on hand at Chow.

Brown rice. Not even long grain brown rice, but medium grain. No, really. I was as horrified as you are. OK, so you're probably giving me an odd look. "What's the great difference," you may ask. For one thing, long grain rice is meant to be separate, and fluffy. Medium grain tends to be chewier and stickier. Mind you, this is merely a generalisation, but one that works ... generally.

[Sorry about that. It's been a long morning. The snow's been piling up, and I can't be fussed to reach into the recesses of my brain to find a more sumptuous word. Back to rice.]

In Tamil Nadu, we have this tradition கலந்த சாதம் (kalantha saadam, or "mixed rice"). It means that when you're wanting a quick snack, you reach for rice, mixed with _____. Lemon rice, coconut rice, tamarind rice, tomato rice, and so on. It's one of those dishes that never fails to please, regardless of how simple the ingredients. I have blogged about lemon rice before. At length. Why? Because it's such an integral part of our daily lives that the method is extremely important.

So what does the one have to do with the other?

For one thing, I like to reach back into my culinary history to make specials at Chow. There are times when you really do want to share a part of yourself, and the things that you ate growing up. The things that brought you comfort on rainy days, on train journeys, on early mornings when you're returning from somewhere and don't have the mental wherewithal to conjure up something more substantial.

That's what mixed rice is to me. It's a go-to method for when I need something tasty, filling, and simple. Because it's so easy to customise, be it by adding nuts, different spices, or various other ingredients, you don't have to depend on specific things being in stock. Rice, a couple of likely spices, and some flavouring agent, and you're golden (or red, or brown, depending on what you're adding).

However, at Chow, as mentioned previously, the rice is brown, and a shorter grain than I'm used to. What does this mean? No south indian rice dishes? Heavens no! It just means that I have to improvise in the techniques, and make it work for me.

How can I make medium grain, brown rice behave like I want it to?

There's a couple of options. For one, I could use the pilaf method, and sautee the rice in fat until it gets nutty smelling, and then add liquid. First problem with this is that risotto is done in this manner, and that's not exactly long and fluffy. It's sticky, creamy, and delicious in its own way. Also, Arborio rice is a medium grain rice. Mind you, you're stirring to create that texture of creamy and sticky, but the point remains. It isn't exactly long and fluffy.

Another option is to undercook the rice, as many Indian restaurants are wont to do. It's a terrible thing to do to rice, and often leaves one with a foul tummy ache. Not worth it. You should feel good after eating a meal, not like you want to crawl under something and die. I think that this is one of the many sins comitted against Indian food in restaurants and catering events, and should be stopped right now. No. Definitely not an option in my books.

Then it hit me.

Soak the rice. It's done for basmati rice when using it to make pilafs and the rest. Why can't it be done for brown rice? I soaked the rice for an hour or so in boiling hot water, and drained it well. What ended up happening is that the rice got parcooked, but not cooked, of course. It also meant that the surface starch went down the drain. Instead of being sticky and mushy, this would mean that the rice would have a chance to be separate. It also meant that the rice was wonderfully hydrated. I could add a little less water than usual [for brown rice], and add water as if it were white rice, and it wouldn't get undercooked.

Then, it all went into the rice cooker with cold water. When the rice cooked up, it was tender, but not sticky. Score. I went to make the spice blend. This is usually the last thing I do when making mixed rice, because it's such a fast step, and there's no sense in having it sit around for too long, and having the ginger getting overcooked. Ginger should be cooked for the least amount of time possible.

While making the spice mix, I cut back on the fat. Instead of adding it to the spice mix, which would mean that the fat is hot, I used some of it to toss the rice, so that it remains separate and neat. Awesome, isn't it? At the end of the day it ended up working out just fine.

I'm pleased.


Bring everyone. You'll love it, guaranteed.

Whether you're vegan, gluten-intolerant, kosher, organic or NOT, this place has pleased everyone I've taken. It took six months for me to convince my boyfriend to go, after he heard the words "Vegan" and "Organic", he was terrified. And he's a kosher vegetarian! If you have a preconceived notion that organic vegan food is flavorless and boring, this place will prove you wrong. Everything is perfectly spiced and seasoned. I try something new every-time, but the blackstrap barbecue, soy meatballs, and black olive seitan are favorites I recommend to even the most devout meat-eater. Here's the game plan: order the three-dish tapas to share, and if you're still hungry, try more, but be warned that the "protein" dishes may look small but they are deceptively filling and spicy. Once you have the tapas, make sure you have room for dessert, and order their famous and highly recommended brownie sundae - vegan, organic, and gluten-free, you won't believe it once you taste it. The soy ice "cream" is - how can I describe it? It surpasses the real deal in light, delicious, sweet, creaminess!!! Every bite is amazing. It can run a little pricey, but you won't be hungry if you share three tapas and the sundae between two people. The art on the walls changes all the time, the music ranges from modern alternative to Beatles and is always fun, and the lighting is eclectic and perfectly romantic. Bring your pickiest eater, your special someone, and that person who just went "organic". Bring everyone. You'll love it, guaranteed.

from yelp.com, 2/21/2010

let's eat & drink 2 our inner-queen esther!

found this piece below about purim that mentioned sacred chow. last year chow had its first purim party! we created lots of fun purim specials. it seems especially appropriate 2 unite this holiday w veganism: queen esther, the protagonist here, was a vegetarian crusader, and also one of the 1st civil rights heroines. as an interesting aside, purim is known as "jewish halloween," but the dress-up characters r solely about this one very powerful story. queen esther was stealth personified: @ 1st, her persian king-husband did not know his glorious queen was a jewish abolitionist; but when queen esther pleaded w the king 2 free her people, he obliged. allegedly queen esther was also one of the 1st gay rights advocates as well.

a civil/gay rights jewish vegetarian freedom fighter?
chow will definitely be creating purim specials 4 this amazing gal!

this sunday, 2/28/2010, chow celebrates purim: a celebration of endurance and triumph! let's eat & drink 2 our inner-queen esther! live 2 make life freer 4 all life. eat love: hallelujah!

A vegetarian Purim

Monday February 22, 2010
Admittedly not being Jewish myself, I know very little about Jewish traditions and meals. Thankfully, About.com's Guide to Kosher Food, Giora, is a wealth of information about Jewish traditions, food, and the upcoming Jewish festival of Purim. According to Giora, many people celebrate by having a vegetarian Purim feast to honor Esther, the heroine of Purim. Tradition also dictates eating poppy seeds and Ethiopian food, such as lentils. So, with a little help from Giora, here's a few recipes to try this year for your vegetarian Purim.

Or, if you're lucky enough to live in New York City, join Sacred Chow (a vegan kosher restaurant with a fantastic name) in their Purim feast, and let someone else do the cooking, while you tackle the eating!



the President of the Clean Plate Club.

whew! what a great day! i hate when i doubt myself. and some days i feel it profoundly. i woke early 2day 2 read the nytimes in the bath w an espresso roast coffee. walked out in2 a very quiet nyc sunday: not a peep but for church bells in the distance. an ethereal calm. bounced off 2 work early 2 make challah, crisp, hummus, scramble x 2, gravy, blueberry sauce, biscuits x 3, brownies x 2, truffle cake, tempeh hash, lb cakes, waffle batter along w cooking 4 a packed house. whew! it felt like a great big tidal wave. 4 a few moments i doubted my credentials, fortunately peace, grace and ease prevailed. aah! and then this beautiful gift-review sent 2 me 2day by yelp.com:

The 3 tapas plates for $15 is the best deal in town.
I am the President of the Clean Plate Club, but even I have trouble cleaning this plate. Not because the food isn't amazing, but because there's so much of it. The portions are generous and delicious. Also, I like a good veggie burger as much as the next person, but as a non-vegan, I think vegan food really shines when it's not trying to be a vegan version of something else, so I love all the awesome veggie tapas here that celebrate the vegetables. That said, you can get a great bbq seitan sandwich, so if you prefer to fake yourself out, you're covered. The space is small and could probably use more waitstaff, but I don't think there'd be any room for them, so what can ya do? Highly recommended for vegans and non-vegans alike!

delicious applause!

later in the day i am sent another gift-review from yelp.com that reads:

As a vegan New Yorker who enjoys her fair share of dining out, and only eats at veg restaurants, I've got to say that Sacred Chow tops the list. Everything on the menu is tasty -- I always want to order it all, and no matter what I end up with, I leave happy. The food is also nutritious and hearty, not oily and gut-busting. Favorites: BBQ seitan, tofu scramble sandwich (brunch), curried broccoli, cornmeal-crusted brussels sprouts. Only downside is the small, crowded space -- when the place is near-capacity, it can be almost impossible to move around -- and the service can be slow. They seem intent on only having one server on each shift, taking orders, making drinks AND running the food. Too much!

and wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles: we've come 2 the same conclusion! and we're talkin' out the remedies 2gether as a team. and knowin' that others r discussin' the same issue is simply amazin'! and yes: it is too much! which means change is in the air, and that feels great: yippee, woo-hoo!


earth bisque!

mating parsnips & cruciferous hearts.
& a skool of lg. potato fish.

all cooked up fresh. yum, yum, yum. delicious! no soy, no gluten, low oil. make peace, eat love!


Banana Bread French Toast!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Sacred Chow

Well I would normally not blog about this but today I had brunch at Sacred Chow in the city. It's a vegan, kosher restaurant and was absolutely amazing.

For me being lactose intolerant but loving breakfast style food this place was a great option. I had the Banana Bread French Toast and then for desert the Apple Pineapple Fruit Crumble a la mode with Chocolate Cherry Ice Cream.

I highly recommend this place to anyone in NYC whether you are vegan, kosher or not ... its a true experience and delicious. Service may be a tad slow but its worth the wait for the amazing quality of food and the great atmosphere.

Grilled Western Tofu Hero!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Sacred Chow

Mabel and I just got back from lunch at Sacred Chow.

Crystal told me about this place a long time ago, but I'd never been. Mabel was very resistant to the idea of going today, threatening to stay home and make ramen instead, but I made my health plea and she went along with it.

I got the Grilled Western Tofu Hero with dill soy mayonnaise.

This sandwich is extremely satisfying. I feel like I could eat it every day.

Mabel got the Shiitake Mushroom and Spinach Salad which was good, but I can only eat so many shiitake mushrooms at a time

I love that sandwich!


"So how much bread do we need for that order? How much protein?"

For the first time in a very long time, I gave Boss Man a blank look.

"Er. I don't rightly know."

"We should know, Dino."

He's right, come to think of it. If any of this is to work, be it in business or in personal life, it's kind of important to know what input gives you what output, and at what cost. Think about it. You have a group of ten friends coming over, and you haven't put anything together as of yet, and they're heading in about one hour after you step out of the shower. Is the best use of your resources at this time to go through and do fiddly little appetisers and ignore the bigger picture (food, drinks, etc). Do you know how many cups of rice to make? How many pounds of beans to set to boil? How many bottles of juice or wine you'll need? If not, this is really a bad time to find out the hard way, so you end up getting too much, and making too much. Before you know it, the kitchen's a wreck, and you're exhausted, and have made too much of one thing, but not enough of another.

I need to step back, and pledge to myself never to give Boss Man that vacant expression again. If I don't know, I need to go find out. Nothing less is acceptable for success. Go find out! It'll be worth your while.


so true: "a pretty girl is like a melody..."

What are some of your favorite restaurants (in NY and LA) and what do you usually order there? There are so many! New York is vegan’s paradise. I love Sacred Chow. I always order the vegan melted cheese and grilled western tofu sandwhich or the 3-dish tapas plate (Orange Blackstrap BBQ Seitan, Baby Root Vegetable Latkes, and Sautéed Shiitake Mushroom are my favorite combo).



tasty blogging continues!

Amazing Banana Bread French Toast at Sacred Chow!On Monday, I met Alyssa for a meal at Sacred Chow, which I almost walked right past, but luckily noticed before I got too far down Sullivan Street. I was thrilled to find out they were serving brunch on a weekday, so I went all out & ordered the Banana Bread French Toast. Oh. my. WORD. A giant slab of grilled banana pound cake, in a pool of blueberry sauce, topped in fresh fruit hit the table, & my jaw dropped! I ate every single morsel of this dish & loved every minute of it. Seriously, I think about it once in awhile & decided I HAVE to recreate the recipe! Alyssa opted for Mama's Soy Meatball Hero, which she also enjoyed! Sacred Chow, I will be back!






Ah, the progression of raw materials to the final product. Boss Man ordered a case of spinach, so that we could make this Chickpea & Spinach with Garlic soup that he’d been meaning to make for a while now. While baby spinach (pre-washed, etc.) is delicious, it’s not as hardy as the regular spinach. However, to eat the regular spinach, it’s important to thoroughly clean and inspect the leaves for bugs, dirt, and other foreign materials.

It may seem like a lot of work, but the work flies by when you’ve got a large sink and people to chat to while you’re going at it. First, he started chopping the bottom piece of the spinach, so that the leaves would separate out. While he chopped, he began to fill the sink with water, so that the spinach could be vigorously plunged into the water, and so that the dirt would sink to the bottom.

He washed the leaves thoroughly, being sure to get rid of any large clods of dirt lying in wait. This is why he was careful to separate out the bunches of spinach into individual leaves: when you eliminate hiding places, you remove the problems that come with having oddly shaped vegetables having places where they hide such things.

Finally, when all was said and done, the reason to use the entire sink became apparent. Instead of tipping the water out of a bowl (as you would usually), he lifted the spinach out, and transferred it to a clean sink. You can see how much dirt was left behind in the first washing.


Now imagine all that dirt running all over your freshly washed spinach. Not a good look. He then ran water into the new sink with the spinach, and let the spinach float up to the top. While they sat in the cold water, he thoroughly washed out the first sink. Again, with the vigorous plunging into the water, and rinsing off the leaves well. Again, with the transferring to the clean sink, and leaving behind the water to drain out, and the dirt to collect in the bottom.

After the second washing he did a third washing to ensure that every last bit of dirt was removed. This  time, he piled the spinach into a colander, to let the excess water drain off. During the final stage, before letting it into the colander, he made sure to inspect the leaves for any stray dirt, bugs, or other debris that could sneak in. It’s a tiny bit of an extra step, but one that’s vital, should you want a meal clear of stuff you hadn’t bargained for. Even one small amount of dirt in a bowl of soup can ruin the experience for everyone, so it’s good to be very careful, and err on the side of caution.

Finally, once the washing is done, the soup came together very quickly, since the chickpeas were boiling away while he was cleaning the spinach. And now there’s a large pot full of chickpea and spinach soup which is calling out to me for … quality control tasting.

Persian Red Lentil & Onion Soup

Red lentils are these little powerhouses of nutrition. Something to the tune of 25% of its calories are in the form of protein. That's a LOT of protein! They're also very high in fibre, packing a wallop at 31 grams of dietary fibre per 100 grams of raw product. 100 grams of lentils also carries 7.5 mg of iron (the US RDA for iron is 18 mg per day). Bottom line being that if you're looking for a legume that you haven't used as of yet, give the red lentil a shot, and see where it takes you.

They cook up relatively quickly. From the time the water reaches a boil, they're usually done through in about 20 minutes or so (give or take). This recipe is for a red lentil and onion soup that is comforting, and filling, while being very easy to make. In this particular recipe, however, you want the red lentils to be absolutely falling apart, so they cook a bit longer than they strictly need.

1 TB olive oil
3/4 lb (one large or two medium) onions, diced
1/4 tsp turmeric
3/4 cup red lentils
1 1/2 quarts (6 cups) boiling water
1 tsp sugar, sucanat, agave nectar, or sweetener of choice
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1 tsp mint, chopped fine
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Salt & Pepper to taste

Place oil into the bottom of your stock pot. Add onions and turmeric, and sauté gently until the onions are softened through, but not browned. Add the red lentils, water, and sugar, and let the water come up to the boil. When the water is boiling, drop the heat down to medium-low, and cover the lid. Let the soup cook for about 45 minutes.

When the lentils have turned from red to yellow, and are falling apart, add in the lemon zest, lemon juice, mint, cinnamon, and a bit of salt and pepper to taste. Turn off the heat, and let it sit for another five minutes or so.

You don't want to cook the cinnamon or the fresh mint very much, so you add them towards the end. If you prefer the red lentils to cook down a fair bit more, go ahead and do so, and it'll still be delicious.