Monday, May 21, 2012

Savory Oatmeal

This is my new favorite breakfast: savory oatmeal, with the fried egg on top as bonus. Usually, in America at least, we make oatmeal sweet, adding brown sugar, maple syrup, honey, and/or fresh and dried fruits. But for some reason, I really have to add a fair amount of sugar before it feels like oatmeal is sweet enough to me. However, the same is not the case with savory oatmeal; a relatively little amount of seasoning turns out just right for me.

Don't freak out! We have both sweet and savory rice dishes and breads already, so why not oats? I'm certainly not the first to do it. Try it out some time!

Here's my simple recipe:

Savory Oatmeal with Scallions and Fried Egg

.75 cups old fashioned oats
1.25 cups water
dash of salt
.25 cups soy milk

1 scallion, chopped
1.5 tsp soy sauce

1 fried egg

  1. Bring water to boil with dash of salt. Add oats and reduce to medium heat. Simmer 3 minutes.
  2. Reduce heat to medium-low and add soy milk, stirring for another 1 minute.
  3. Add soy sauce and most of chopped scallions, reserving some for garnishing on top. Stir another 30 seconds.
  4. Pour oatmeal into a bowl, add fried egg* and remaining scallions on top. Enjoy!

*You can fry your egg while cooking the oatmeal.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Black Rice!

And green lentils!

But first just the black rice. I'm a fan! Some Korean restaurants will serve you purple rice when you order steamed rice. The rice is actually a mix of mostly white (possibly with some brown and other) rice with a little black rice. As black rice soaks and cooks, its color leeches out and stains the other grains a beautiful purple hue. Black rice also imparts a bit of a nutty flavor to the rice, as it is a whole grain rice. This also means it needs to soak for 1-2 hours before cooking for optimal texture.

Purple Rice

1.5 cups white rice (generally doesn't need washing; you'll lose vital nutrients)
2-4 TBS black rice (wash first and then soak with the white rice for 1+ hours)
optional: replace half of white rice with brown rice, which should be washed along with the black rice before soaking
  • Add less black rice for a lighter color. I use 4 TBS (1/4 cup) to about 1.5 cups other rice.
  • After soaking, just proceed to cook rice as you normally would. I just use the normal white rice setting on the rice cooker, but I like some bite in my rice. The brown rice setting will cook longer and make the rice softer (a bit mushy in my opinion).

Anyway, try adding black rice to your white! It's delicious. Oh, on another note, though, stay away from American rice...I picked up a "wild rice" mixture a couple weeks ago that included wild rice, brown, red, and "American white" rices. It has no body at all! As noted above, I like a bit of tooth in my rice. The American rice just...feels like a bunch of fluff. Feels like it lacks substance.

As for the green lentils, called French lentils du Puy, I'm also a fan. Lentils in general are fantastic; they pack protein and fiber in a natural, whole grain, but don't require the soaking and cooking time that other legumes do. Awesome. Green lentils are also great in that they hold their structure better over the simmering time, resulting in a nice, toothy texture in the cooked legumes. Don't get me wrong, though--I love red lentils, too, and the way they break down after cooking into a thick stew.

Lentil Salad with Scallions

1 cup lentils du Puy, picked over and rinsed
1 medium onion, halved
-cut one half in half again (2 quarters)
-dice the other half
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp salt
4 cups water

1 TBS vinegar
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
6 TBS extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp salt

2 scallions, sliced thin
  1. Bring water, lentils, the two onion quarters, bay leaves, thyme, and 1/2 tsp salt to boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and simmer 25-30 minutes, until the lentils are tender but still hold their shape. In the last 5 minutes, pick out the onion quarters and replace with the diced onion.
  2. While the lentils are simmering, whisk vinegar, mustard, 1/4 tsp salt, pepper, and oil together in a small boll and set aside.
  3. Drain the lentils and discard the bay leaves and thyme (onion quarters already removed). Transfer the lentils to a large bowl and toss with the vinaigrette. Allow to cool to room temperature, about 15 minutes, before stirring in scallions.
Man, I've become so healthy it's..."sickening". I'm kidding, I like being healthy. However, my diet looks more and more like someone who is just a little too health conscious, and maybe even fad following. But because of my food sensitivities! I've dropped lunch meats after the latest round of warnings about lunch meats and meats in general. As noted previously, I recently figured out that wheat causes me problems and I can only have a tiny bit (soy sauce--I refuse not to use it, and fortunately at this low level it's not a problem) in a day, or a little bit occasionally. I'd totally keep eating wheat-based noodles and breads otherwise. So now my lunches are all rice, legume, and vegetable based (or other leftovers). My breakfasts are all oatmeal or homemade granola (or other leftovers). I'll still eat meat at dinner, but I'm reducing the amount I eat in general. I hope I don't lose any weight...I'm already thin. But as long as I'm still healthy, then I'm fine with it.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Meatballs: Binder Not Necessary!

It turns out you don't actually need a binding agent for your meatballs not to be too dense!

I'd previously talked about meatballs without a binder of some sort being rather dense and hard. However,  after that post, I came across a recipe for shi zi tou (lion heads--large pork meatballs) that I adapted and wrote about, that didn't use a binder, but also braised the meatballs for a long time to tenderize the meat. In John Sinclair's recipe, linked in that post, he used water to somewhat thin out and cohere the ground pork. I noticed that the meat became more moist and less "crumbly" as a result.

Well, this was intriguing, so with my most recent couple of experiments with my pork meatballs, I tried just mixing in water but no binding agent. The result: the meatballs are less dense and hard without having to cook for a long time! Of course, they aren't as tender as they would be if braised or with a binder. But, they are better, and don't take so long to prepare (yay) and don't require flour or starch in the recipe.

The watered pork also reminded me of these bamboo half-pipes with uncooked pork meatball mixture ready to cook that you can order at shabu-shabu restaurants. You just push off a portion into the boiling soup and you have a meatball cooking in the pot. I think there's probably some egg in the mixture, and not just water, to get it to be more tender.

Unfortunately, I don't think there's really a set proportion of water to pork, though; you have to go by feel. To put you in the ballpark, though, I'd say start with about 1 TBS water : 1/4 lb. ground pork (or a little less, especially if you're adding egg or other binder) and add more if necessary.