P is for Pilaf.

When I grew up, there were only two rice dishes in my house—steamed or Spanish/Mexican. Mom didn’t experiment much and I was a picky eater, so you can imagine a pretty limited menu. My knowledge of all of the amazing possibilities of rice could essentially be written on a single grain… So when I tried pilaf for the first time, it was life-changing.

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My neighborhood was kind of a hodge podge of ethnicities and across the street was my best friend, who is of Armenian descent but migrated from Ethiopia. There was some amazing cooking going on in her home. The flavors were so complex and exciting that even my picky eater curiosity was piqued! If you’re thinking what a fool I was, I agree—I could kick myself now for not appreciating all that delicious food.

The pilaf dish was a safe bet for me because I hated onion and garlic. I’m talking hate. I still remember the first bite of pilaf—it was subtle and buttery in flavor, yet didn’t overtake the whole dish. We were eating kebab and pilaf, and I was in heaven. Who knew a rice dish prepared so simply could have such flavor? This is where my love affair with Middle Eastern food began. I learned that pilaf is often cooked in many countries, but what’s most important is the simplicity of flavor that complements each dish.

Pilaf is literally butter, rice, vermicelli, and water or broth (I like chicken broth) and that’s all you need for a traditional pilaf. This dish really is the star of the show and can be paired with multiple cuisines, not just Middle Eastern.  The roasty nutty flavor frying gives the rice lends an extra layer of deliciousness. There are variations to pilaf, but I love it in its simplest form. However, adding toasted almonds slivers to give it an extra punch doesn’t hurt either.

pilaf

So, if you’re still buying boxes of rice mix at the grocery, you can stop now. You know the ones. Garlic rice mix, pilaf-like mixes, vegetable pilaf—too many to list. You don’t have to. I promise. Once I tell you how to make pilaf, you’ll never go back. It’s so easy. Plus, it takes two seconds to do. Well not two, but it’s fast and worth making. Throw those boxes out!

Recipe

Ingredients:
½ cup uncooked vermicelli or orzo pasta
1 tablespoon olive oi3 tablespoons butter
1 cup uncooked long grain white rice
3 ½ cups of water or chicken stock

4 tbl toasted almond slivers

Prep:

  1. Rice – Rinse until water runs clear. (optional)

Directions:

  1. In a sauce pan, add oil and butter and heat pan to medium.
  2. Add rice cook until a light golden color begins. Add vermicelli or orzo and cook until medium golden in color and the rice mixture begins smell nutty (reduce heat if rice and pasta begin to burn).
  3. Pour in water or chicken stock, bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to low simmer. Cook 12-14 minutes until liquid is absorbed.
  4. Remove from heat and place kitchen towel between lid and pan until ready to serve.
  5. Serve at room temperature.
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Have Nicks, We’ll Be There

The picturesque drive through Laguna Canyon is always the pre-game before landing in Laguna Beach.  While most of the time traffic sends me into a complete tizzy-fit somehow this congestion excites me. I know at the end of this road adventure awaits. The road winds just enough to showcase the homes on top of the hills, endless trails to walk, hike or bike, eye-catching wild flowers, and the day laborer who seeks work. It’s a plethora of contradictions.

The short 3.5-mile drive ends as the window of the sea appears. Parking is an issue in Laguna so I have my go-to structure. The Glenneyre parking lot is my spot. The underground parking at this location is a mess so I suggest using the top structure.

The pathway to Nick’s is like a stroll back in time just as you would imagine a small European town to look, charming and quaint. It’s so inviting as the energy builds. The path leads to PCH and Nick’s is just a couple shops to the right. IMG_6782

I know momentarily, the energy is going to change. Nick’s Bloody’s are somewhat ritualistic. A lot goes into preparing these spiked tomatoey drinks. Glasses are lined up at the bar. A spoonful of this and a spoonful of that, horseradish, seasoning, two types of juice: lemon and orange, and some tomato juice into a tall glass and voilà a red delicious drinks that will make your toes curl. The cherry on top is their deep-fried green olives stuffed with blue cheese and a lemon and lime wedge.  HEAVEN in a glass.

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Nick’s Bloody Mary with a fried green olive stuffed with  blue cheese

Three Bloody Mary’s later we looked at the menu and like usual we were in-sync. We both wanted to try the deviled eggs. The very thought of a fried deviled egg had me seeing stars.

Deep Fried Deviled Egg

Nick’s did not disappoint. The following weekend I had a delicious Sunday breakfast at Nick’s with yet another Bloody to kick start my day.

Tuna Salad on a Rainy Day

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Tuna Salad

It’s summer time, which means rain every day in New Orleans. A splash of rain to amp up the humidity always makes it a perfect day to stay in.  We had big plans to go out to lunch today but walking through muddy puddles nixed that idea.

So. What was in the pantry? Not a lot. It was just about grocery time, so the cupboards were essentially bare. But I spy a can of tuna! That’s all we really need, right?

You can really look for any spare things you have in the fridge to go into your tuna salad. Pickles are pretty standard for me. I also found some avocado and a piece of celery; also, peppers are a staple in my house, so check!

After I whipped up some tuna salad, put it on a bed of romaine, I sat by a window with my book, watched the rain, was real glad I wasn’t into it, and enjoyed my off the cuff lunch.

Here’s the recipe!

Tuna Salad Recipe

1-9 oz can of white albacore tuna packed in water

2-3 tbl olive oil mayo (Hellman’s or Best Foods)

1 small squirt of mustard (prepared, Dijon, or stone ground)

3  gherkin dill pickles, chopped

1 serrano pepper, destemmed, deveined, and finelychopped (substitute with jalapeno for less heat)

1/2 stalk of celery, chopped  (substitute with celery seed if you want only flavor)

1 hard-boiled egg, chopped

  1. Drain tuna of all liquid.
  2. Break tuna using back side of fork
  3. Add pickles, peppers, celery seed (my preference), egg, mustard and mayo.
  4. Mix until well incorporated.
  5. Serve on a bed of lettuce, in a sandwich, or  in a wrap. I love using romaine lettuce in place of bread when I’m off of bread.
  6. When sealed properly tuna will stay for up to 3 days.
  7. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have Blueberries, Will Eat

It’s almost time for blueberry season in New England. Lucky for me, I had a chance to start on some picking while visiting my cousins in Massachusetts. We all know blueberries grow wild and free in this part of the country and the high bush berry variety, is king. Although I’ve heard blueberries ripen first week in July, I arrived a little before harvest and some were ready to go. This was a treat because everyone knows, blueberries don’t grow down south in New Orleans.
IMG_7512My cousin David has quite a colorful garden growing in his backyard. It was like berry heaven.  The strawberries, were so beautiful with their crimson color skin which tempted my tastebuds. I began dreaming of making strawberry preserves no better yet a strawberry pie. The bushes of raspberries weren’t quite ready but you could imagine how excited I was to see those little clusters of love starting to ripen and beginning to take on a pale pink color. I spotted a sole red one and plucked it. Continue reading “Have Blueberries, Will Eat”

Breads on Oak

A charming little bakery on Oak Street, in the new Orleans River Bend area, this place was a sweet surprise. With a handful of tables and a courtyard—cat included—this bakery looked like it was straight out of the south of France.

Shelves of beautifully browned, crusty bread and a cabinet full of pastries—almond croissants, cinnamon walnut rolls, and organic chocolate chip cookies for starters—and you’ll want to settle in and stay for a while. And take some goodies to go. There are sandwiches and soups along with vegan and gluten-free options here.

When we went, we spoke to the baker who was gathering and cutting chunks of all kinds of breads for a bread pudding the next day. On Sunday mornings, he told us, they put out a platter of bread for tastings and mimosas are served, which is the perfect way to start the day. In a town like ours who loves its French bread, these artisans are creating some amazing treats that are not to be missed. Bon apetit!

Breads on Oak
8640 Oak St.
New Orleans, LA 70118
504.324.8271
http://www.breadsonoak.com

Restaurant Review: Compere Lapin

 

After suffering through a wet and wild Jazz Fest, we decided to treat ourselves to lunch and stopped in to New Orleans’ Compere Lapin. Our table was intimate and well-appointed; it was next to a window, which let the natural light in and set the tone for an amazing lunch. Because we went early, the restaurant wasn’t filled, and this was perfect for us. The décor was French country and rustic, with lots of wood, splashes of lapis blue color, signature rabbits scattered in surprising spots, and a great brick wall with lots of small mirrors, reflecting the chefs who were busy at work.

Carey was our server, and was great. He was friendly and graciously answered all of our questions, tolerated our picture-taking with a smile, explained the menu well, and was attentive throughout the meal. A server in the back helped us set up a picture of the house-made hot sauce for their oyster bar. We tasted the hot sauce, which was made with habanero, and it had heat and a kick, but it wasn’t overpowering or too hot–just the right compliment for the oysters.

Then came the food. First, there were biscuits. Ahh the biscuits. Chive-speckled buttermilk biscuits were served warm on a wooden plank with two types of butter, honey and bacon. The biscuits were dense and delicious, and when slathered with the bacon butter from heaven, we knew it was only the beginning of a beautiful thing. This day, we were in a verde mood and ordered two green dishes: the English Pea Ravioli with Ramps and Spring Mushrooms and the Spinach Cavatelli with Fontina Fondue. We loved everything about the English Pea Ravioli. It was beautiful to look at with yellow pockets of ravioli, brown morel mushrooms, bright green pea sauce, with ramps and microgreens to finish. It was almost too pretty to eat. However, eat it we did. The peas had the perfect amount bite and tasted fresh off the vine, the ravioli was perfectly cooked and had a delicate cheese mixture inside. Everything worked together beautifully. The Spinach Cavatelli was hearty and had a crusty Fontina cheese layer on top. This would be great to eat on a cold day.

We are looking forward to our next visit to have oysters and dessert, which we didn’t have room for on this visit. Compere Lapin, though only opened last year, is located in the Central Business District and is a must stop and a welcome addition to the restaurants in our city.

Compere Lapin                                                                                                                                                  535 Tchoupitoulas
New Orleans, LA
504.599.2119
comperelapin.com