Rice, Rice, Babette

This week there isn’t much snappy patter or witty bon mots. The room I would normally use has been taken up by a recipe from Julia Child.  It’s got a lot of steps but none of them are hard.

It’s perfect to use up some of that fresh zucchini, but more importantly, it’s delicious.

Bon Appétit! (To be read in your best Julia voice)Julia Child’s Tian de Courgettes Au Riz (Zucchini Tian)

j child zucchini

2 to 2 1/2 pounds zucchini

1/2 cup plain, raw, untreated white rice

1 cup minced onions

3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil

2 large cloves garlic, mashed or finely minced

2 tablespoons flour

About 2 1/2 cups warm liquid: zucchini juices plus milk, heated in a pan (watch this closely so that it doesn’t curdle)

About 2/3 cups grated Parmesan cheese (save 2 tablespoons for later)

Salt and pepper

A heavily buttered 6- to 8-cup, flameproof baking and serving dish about 1 1/2 inches deep

2 tablespoons olive oil

Shave the stem and the tip off each zucchini (or other summer squash), scrub the vegetable thoroughly but not harshly with a brush under cold running water to remove any clinging sand or dirt.

If vegetables are large, halve or quarter them. If seeds are large and at all tough, and surrounding flesh is coarse rather than moist and crisp, which is more often the case with yellow squashes and striped green cocozelles than with zucchini, cut out and discard the cores.Rub the squash against the coarse side of a grater, and place grated flesh in a colander set over a bowl.

For each 1 pound (2 cups) of grated squash, toss with 1 teaspoon of salt, mixing thoroughly. Let the squash drain 3 or 4 minutes, or until you are ready to proceed.

Just before cooking, squeeze a handful dry and taste. If by any chance the squash is too salty, rinse in a large bowl of cold water, taste again; rinse and drain again if necessary. Then squeeze gently by handfuls, letting juices run back into bowl. Dry on paper towels. Zucchini will not be fluffy; it is still dampish, but the excess liquid is out. The pale-green, slightly saline juice drained and squeezed out of the zucchini has a certain faint flavor that can find its uses in vegetable soups, canned soups, or vegetable sauces.While the shredded zucchini is draining (reserve the juices,) drop the rice into boiling salted water, bring rapidly back to the boil, and boil exactly 5 minutes; drain and set aside.

In a large (11-inch) frying pan, cook the onions slowly in the oil for 8 to 10 minutes until tender and translucent. Raise heat slightly and stir several minutes until very lightly browned.

Stir in grated and dried zucchini and garlic. Toss and turn for 5 to 6 minutes until zucchini is almost tender.

Sprinkle in the flour, stir over moderate heat for 2 minutes, and remove from heat.Gradually stir in 2 1/2 cups warm liquid (zucchini juices plus milk, heated gently in a pan — don’t let it get so hot that the milk curdles!). Make sure the flour is well blended and smooth.

Return over moderately high heat and bring to simmer, stirring. Remove from heat again, stir in blanched rice and all but 2 tablespoons of the cheese. Taste for seasoning. Turn into buttered baking dish, strew remaining cheese on top, and dribble olive oil over cheese.

Half an hour before serving, set in upper third of a preheated 425-degree F oven until tian is bubbling and top has browned nicely. The rice should absorb all the liquid.Thanks for your time.

This Little Piggy Came Home

piggy bank vidya suryBaking can be a little trickier, but most of the time when I try a new savory recipe, I’m pretty sure of the end result.

But, not always.

I got three pretty pork loin chops a few weeks ago.  They were thick, but not so thick that they’d be a pain to cook.    I got them on sale because they were slightly long in the tooth.  Not so much that they were furry, but soon would be.  So, they needed to be cooked or frozen right away.But the upshot was, I bought three pretty respectable chops for $3.  And, I had a recipe that I’d been wanting to try.  The only thing I needed to pick up was a small carton of half & half.

The recipe was for a garlicky spinach sauce.  Then put the meat in it and serve with egg noodles and a green salad.

Sounds like we had a nice dinner, doesn’t it?

Yeah, not so much.

Unfortunately, is wasn’t this type of funk…

Somewhere along the way, the sauce picked up some funk.  Not funk like food gone bad, but funk like a whole lot of cheese was in it.

But there was no cheese in anything.  I felt like I was in one of those babysitter horror movies, “It’s coming from inside the house!”, only “It’s coming from inside the sauce!”. I think the spinach and mushrooms just turned the earthy flavor of the sauce up to about a thousand and eleven.  It didn’t work.

So, I am not sharing that recipe.  Instead, I’m going to give you a dish that I have been making for as long as we’ve been married.  And because I’ve been making it since well before I could cook worth a fig, it’s easy.

Pork and Zucchini Cream

zucchini pork

1 pound boneless pork loin, cut into 2 X ½ inch strips

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 pound zucchini, washed, left unpeeled and sliced into ½ inch rounds

1 yellow onion chopped

4-6 cloves garlic

½ teaspoon dry thyme

2 cups heavy cream

¾ cup skim milk

Red pepper flakes (optional)

Big handful of fresh parsley

Salt & pepper

Place the sliced zucchini into colander and sprinkle with ½ teaspoon of salt and let sit for an hour.  After an hour, pat it dry with towel (paper or clean kitchen).

In a large heavy skillet, add half the oil and butter.  When butter’s melted, working in batches, place the zucchini down in one layer and cook at medium-high until there is deep caramelization, flip and cook other side.  Remove to towel-covered plate.  Repeat until all veg is cooked, adding a bit more butter and oil as needed.Add the rest of the fat, onions, and thyme into the same pan and cook until the onions get golden.  Add garlic, and when it just begins to toast, pour in dairy and add pepper flakes.  Lower to medium, bring to boil and let reduce. 

After ten minutes season pork strips and add to sauce.  Cook for ten more minutes or until it’s is of sauce consistency.  Stir in zucchini & parsley and serve over starch of your choice—something unexpected is fun; like Israeli couscous, griddled Texas toast, or grits.

Serves 6.So, there’s a true yin and yang this week.

On the dark side is the reminder that I’m not infallible discerning the flavor of the dish by reading the recipe.

But, on the happier end of the scale, even when I couldn’t cook, every once in a while, I and my diners would get lucky, and I’d turn out something that was actually tasty.Thanks for your time.