Monday, January 20, 2014

Lemon Cashew Rice

Doc and I are about as different as two people could be.  It's something we're constantly made aware of, both in terms of culture/upbringing as well as personality.  He likes sports.  I like Doctor Who.  I read about one book a week.  He reads about one a year.  He's competitive at most things but easygoing about chores.  I'm cooperative in most situations but exacting when it comes to cleanliness.  His intelligence is based on rote memorization, mine on problem-solving.  He likes chips, I like crudités.

And, to get to the point at last, he prefers bread whereas I could eat rice forever.  I can, and have, eaten it for every meal for years at a time.

We try to share with each other what we can and politely (sometimes tersely) overlook the rest.  We could teach the world a lot about peace.

If you're wondering why I haven't delivered on my promise of scones and white chocolate popcorn, over the weekend I had grand plans to make them but in the end just didn't feel like having more junk food in the house.  Perhaps next weekend.  I hadn't posted in a while and I wanted to give you something new before then, so I started brainstorming.  We've been eating a lot of freezer meals lately (lentils, for example) and I haven't had anything new to post.  Then I figured, why not post one of the side dishes I make to go with the freezer meals?  So here's some rice for you.

In the interest of fairness I'll post a flatbread recipe one of these days, too.  Just not today.

[Concise recipe at the bottom, as always.]

Lemon Cashew Rice

Total Real Time:  30-60 min for rice presoak, 20 minutes for mix-ins (while rice soaks), 60 minutes in the rice cooker.
Weirdest spice: curry leaves.

A few days ago Doc and I tried a new Indian place.  The food tasted excellent but ended up making me rather sick before we'd even left the place.  (Tip: always read the online reviews first, question your choice of establishment if half of them mention food poisoning.  Lesson learned.)

Anyway, one of the things they had on their menu was lemon rice.  That caught my interest.  Lemon?  In the rice?  Since you now know my love for all things rice, you can guess why I had to give it a go within the week.  I'm pleased with how this came out.

Step one was to put the rice in to soak in warm water for at least half an hour.  We've already talked about why that's a good idea, right?  Right.

While the rice soaked I started with the skillet on medium-high heat.  When the pan was hot I added a splash of oil (about 1-2 tsp).  When the oil started to shimmer I added 1 tsp of mustard seeds.

Remember our discussion about how mustard seeds and mustard powder are different?  If you don't have mustard seeds, just leave them out.  Don't substitute mustard powder or you're going to get some weird rice.

Like cumin seeds, mustard seeds only take about 30-60 seconds or so until they start to make a sizzling, crackling noise.  When that happens add in 1 to 1.5 cups of diced onions.  I used frozen but you can use fresh if you've got them.

Stir it up with the oil and mustard seeds, add a tiny dash of salt (helps them to cook faster -- don't use your total final amount of salt just yet), and stir occasionally over the next 10ish minutes.  Frozen takes a little longer, as you might imagine.  I probably sauteed mine for about 15 minutes or so.

Next up is flavorings.  I added a handful of cashews:

Followed by the zest of half a lemon (dried lemon zest would also work -- try starting maybe around 1/4 tsp, taste it, and add a little more if that's not lemony enough for you):

Followed by 1.5 tsp chili powder (optional, adjust to taste), 1/2 tsp turmeric powder, 1/2 tsp coriander powder, and 2 tsp garlic paste or minced garlic.  

I wanted a very light amount of spices compared to the lemon flavor.  If you want things with more spice heft you could as much as double the turmeric and coriander.

I stirred all this up and let it cook for another 5 minutes.

Don't worry about getting thing too browned up since we're about to toss it in to cook alongside the rice.  Speaking of which, now's a good time to rinse it and toss it into your pot.  I prefer my rice cooker to using the stovetop.  You may need to make some adjustments for amount of liquid and cooking time depending on your equipment.  When it comes to deciding the rice:liquid ration, always default to the cooking instructions on:  (a) your own rice cooker; or, if using the stovetop, (b) the container the rice came in.  For example, my bag of rice says 1.75 cups of liquid for 1 cup of basmati rice, but my rice cooker says 2 cups of liquid for 1.25 cups of white rice.  I default to the cooker's instructions.  If I were cooking the rice in a pan on the stove, I'd use the rice bag's instructions.  Either way, here's what you do:
  1. Squeeze out one lemon into a measuring cup; then,
  2. Add the remainder of the liquid on top of that.
For example, I needed 2 total cups of liquid for my 1.25 cups of basmati rice.  First I squeezed out the lemon into my measuring cup:

And since it was an enormous lemon I got about 1/4 cup of lemon juice.  I then measured out the rest of the cup by topping it off with water:

See what I mean?  In other words, I counted the lemon juice as part of the total liquid I was adding to the rice, rather than measuring out two cups of water and then adding the lemon juice on top.  A quarter cup was just about perfect for a mild lemony flavor.  As for the rest of the liquid you could use water, vegetable stock, or chicken stock.  If using canned broth or stock, just keep in mind that they're usually pretty salty and you'll want to taste everything at the end before adding extra salt.

Okay, so into the cooker went the rice, the liquid (water + lemon juice, in my case), followed by the onion & cashew mix, a cup of green peas just for color, and 2 teaspoons of curry leaves (you can omit these if you don't have them, or substitute a bay leaf).

I closed it up, switched it to the setting for "mixed rice" (I have a fancy cooker and have found this is the best way to handle any rice-with-bits-of-stuff that I make), and let it do its thing.  If you're using a stovetop method, again, just add in the onion mix, peas, and curry leaves and then follow the directions that came with the rice.

Sixty minutes later the timer went off.  I prefer to let it sit for another 5-10 minutes after it goes off.  For some reason that seems to keep the rice from getting gummy, but that might just be a quirk of my cooker.  After the waiting period I fluffed the rice with a fork and dished it out.  Keep in mind that turmeric can and will stain absolutely any wood, fabric, people, or plastic it touches so I'd recommend serving this with a metal spoon rather than a rice paddle.

As I mentioned above, this has got a really mild lemon flavor and goes light on the spices.  That makes it an unobtrusive side to something with more kick or personality.  If you wanted to give it more of a center stage you might swap out the peas for edamame (yay, extra protein!), add some green chillies, and crank up the lemon and spices.  Or not.  Whatever makes ya happy!

Lemon Cashew Rice
  • 1.25 cups of basmati rice + 2 cups of liquid (includes juice of one lemon)
    • NOTE: Follow the directions on your rice cooker or rice bag to get appropriate rice : liquid ratio.  1.25 : 2 is specific to my cooker and may not produce ideal results for yours.
    • Be sure to count lemon juice (roughly 1/4 cup) as part of the cooking liquid.  Water or stock/broth can be used for the remaining liquid.
  • splash of oil
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 - 1.5 cups diced onion
  • handful of cashews
  • zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 2 tsp garlic paste or minced garlic
  • 1.5 tsp chili powder (optional, to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 cup green peas (optional, can sub edamame)
  • 2 tsp curry leaves (optional, can sub 1 bay leaf)
  • salt to taste

  1. Cover rice with warm water and set aside to soak.
  2. Heat skillet on medium-high.  Add oil, and then add mustard seeds when oil is hot enough to start shimmering.  Cook mustard seeds 30-60 seconds or until sizzling.
  3. Add onions and a dash of salt.  Saute, stirring occasionally, for roughly 10 minutes or until onions are softened and translucent.
  4. Add cashews, lemon zest, garlic, chili powder, and turmeric.  (If using green chillies, add them at this time.)  Saute for another 2-3 minutes.
  5. Drain rice and rinse until water runs clear.  Add to rice cooker with liquid.
  6. Place onion mix, peas, and curry leaves on top.  Do not stir.
  7. Set rice to cook for one cycle.  (NOTE: if using stovetop to cook the rice, mix in onions, peas, and curry leaves, then follow directions on the rice package.)
  8. Once cooker cycle is done, allow to sit 10 minutes without opening the lid.  
  9. Fluff with fork and serve.

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