A Little Rice, A Lot of Herbs

herbs leftover rice

I’ve had 1/2 cup of leftover rice in the fridge since last Saturday. I had 1/3 bunch of dill beginning to yellow at the tips and same with cilantro. I added a handful of parsley and I had 1 1/2 cups chopped herbs. I put some oil in a skillet, heated the rice, scooted it to one side, cracked an egg in. Then I took out the egg, turned off the burner and stirred the herbs and a few pinches of salt into the warm rice. The whole thing went into a bowl, topped with egg and Sriracha. Perfect lunch on a hot day!

That ratio of herbs to rice was inspired by Sabzi polo the Iranian dish with loads of herbs and rice. This is my 5-minute, totally oversimplified version.  You could easily scale this up for more people. Leftover rice, like for any fried rice, will work much better than fresh. Freshly cooked rice will be too sticky.  I always cook twice as much rice as I need and freeze the rest to use for dishes such as these.

herbs leftover rice egg

And now two containers of things needing to be used are no more. Waste not, want not!

New Favorite One-pot Meal (+ an Egg)

Lots of chopped greens, onions, garlic, harissa and a bit of bulgur turn into a heavenly pot of goodness after an hour of gentle steaming. 

A friend of mine raved about this dish at a dinner party the other night. It took me a week to finally make it and then I made it twice in a row–the second time to take to another dinner party where it was happily devoured. It’s a humble, somewhat subtle dish that is perfectly suited to any climate that has an abundance of hearty greens (chard, kale, mustards, etc. ). And I can’t wait to play around with other spices and toppings. But for now here is more or less the way it was conveyed to me and I believe it originated with Paula Wolfert, so no wonder it’s a keeper. Please report back and tell me how it works for you and if you adapt it.

After its hour-long steam it’s ready for lemon, a fried (or poached) egg, more harissa and Greek yogurt.

Moroccan Bulgur with Greens
–inspired by Paula Wolfert 

This takes time to cook but putting it together is quick and just involves a bunch of chopping. It is delicious with a fried or poached egg and extra harissa and some Greek yogurt. And if you like lamb, it’s a perfect accompaniment to lamb in any form. Harissa is a Tunisia hot chili sauce whose main ingredients are piri piri (type of chili pepper), Serrano peppers and other hot chili peppers and garlic, coriander, red chili powder, and caraway as well as some vegetable or olive oil. It is most closely associated with Tunisia, Libya and Algeria but recently also making inroads into Morocco according to Moroccan food expert Paula Wolfert. I particularly like the brand Mustafa’s Moroccan Harissa which is very flavorful and not too crazy spicy.

1 large onion, finely diced
1 leek, carefully washes, sliced in half lengthwise and then finely chopped (or more onion if you don’t have any leeks)
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch de-stemmed and chopped chard
1 cup bulgur
3 tablespoons. olive oil
2-3 teaspoons (or more to taste) harissa (see headnote) I used 4-5 teaspoons but with other brands that might be too much.
Black pepper, freshly ground
Sea or kosher salt (at least 1 teaspoon)
Lemon juice
More harissa and Greek yogurt for serving

Add everything but the lemon juice to a deep heavy, lidded pot. (Le Creuset is great). Mix it all together with a spoon or your hands. Add 1/2 cup water and mix thoroughly again.

Take several paper towels and lay them over the bulgur mixture, tucking them gently into the sides. Cover the pot and cook over very low heat for about an hour or so. Resist the urge to remove the lid since the steam generated is a critical factor. I typically start with high heat to get things going, then, when I sense the presence of steam and can start to smell the dish, reduce it significantly.

When it is finished, remove the paper towels, taste and, if necessary, continue to cook with the paper towels intact again.

Squeeze a lemon over the finished bulgur and top with more harissa and Greek yogurt or a poached or fried egg.

It makes me hungry just writing this caption. The lemon juice is important to brighten everything up a bit but if you don’t have a lemon extra harissa will probably do.

Simplicity

Polenta with Greens and Beans

We’ve been to lots of holiday parties over the past two weeks. I’ve baked a lot, made some candy, and generally have been a bit out of my routine. I love the parties and this time of year in general but tonight, I just cooked a regular old dinner and it was just the three of us and Ellis went to bed on time.

It’s during times like these where the cook-with-what-you-have philosophy and capacity is especially useful. When your grocery lists focus on sweets or what you’re going to bring to Christmas dinner, being able to make a frittata with a handful of herbs and a few diced potatoes, or a bowl of polenta with greens or beans or both, is a blessing.  So instead of sending out a final cookie recipe or some glamorous holiday dinner center piece, here are a few photos and ideas of what to make when you just need a regular old meal to keep you going, happy, and healthy.

Herb and Potato Frittata

If you don’t have time for the polenta and have some cooked or canned beans on hand, just braise whatever greens you have (kale, chard, collard greens. . .) with a little crushed garlic and some salt and mix with the warmed beans. Drizzle generously with olive oil and enjoy with our without a piece of bread.

Or, dice some winter squash and/or carrots, sweet potatoes, parsnips, etc. and toss with olive oil, maybe some cumin and chili flakes and roast at high heat until tender. Fry an egg and pop it on top of those veggies and dig in.

Another favorite is to cook a few, chopped leeks in a little butter or oil. Toast big slices of bread and spread on some goat cheese or a few slices of any kind of cheese you have on hand, top with the hot leeks, drizzle with a little balsamic vinegar, add a few grinds of pepper and salt and olive oil and enjoy!

More ideas of course on the recipe page and please share your favorite quick winter meals in the comments if you’d like.

I wish you all a peaceful, delicious and convivial holiday. Thank you for reading and cooking.

Gratefully  yours,

Katherine

My mother and me with some of the Thanksgiving pies in the background