I never thought I'd hear myself say that I just want to feel "normal" - whatever that means - but I said it. Normal feels like cooking again, going to market again, returning to the things that downright make me happy: the outdoors; dirty, busy hands; clean laundry; listening to gorgeous thunderstorms in bed without looming worries. After a stressful spring, I'm finding more room for these things I really like.
I received a suggestion to make something with Himalayan red rice. This is a short-grain, brick-colored rice with a higher fiber content and nuttier flavor than white rice but a shorter cooking time than brown rice. That's how I started formulating my Himalayan red rice pilaf. It's really one of the first meals I cooked for myself after a spring that was full of the types of meals I opened out of packages (or ordered) because I didn't have much juice to do a whole lot more.
Summer, though, feels alive. Or rather, I do, and I made sure I took myself to the farmers' market, where asparagus nearly poked me left and right. You could say it chose me.
Something that often strikes me at the market is that people are in such a hurry. I've been there. But something I've been trying to do is just stop and pay attention. Feel the sun, see the colors, stop and smell the bearded irises or what have you. That's step one. Next, see what grabs you. Not feeling asparagus? Try Swiss chard stems. Or summer squash. Or that vegetable you've never tried. Eat the food that your body wants right now. Many cooks and chefs have admitted to cooking intuitively, not so much from recipes.
Pay attention to what's happening with your food. It will tell you when it's unhappy. Look at it, smell it, taste it. Get in there. You might be surprised at how much you actually do know. If you're attentive, you'll start to see, say, your onions go from tearful and crunchy to tame and pearlescent to golden and candy sweet. In one onion you could have several, really, that all taste and look different. So you decide. What do you like?
I like bitter. So I chose radicchio. I like the unmistakable pine-iness of pine nuts. I like lemon, but I'm a sucker for novelty and threw in zest from a Meyer lemon, which is prized for its decidedly lemony attributes without the zing and tartness. It smells like a smile looks. I like to hear the cut of my teeth through the delightfully chewy rice grains. I like the pretty colors of the vegetables against the auburn-colored pilaf.
I ate it hot, I ate it cold. It tasted better than normal and I felt better than full.
Himalayan Red Rice Pilaf
- 1 cup Himalayan red rice, rinsed (available in the bulk bins at Willy Street Co-op)
- 1-1/2 cups stock (chicken or vegetable)
- 1 cup asparagus, chopped
- 1 cup yellow onion, chopped
- 2 cups radicchio, chopped into 1" squares
- 1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
Heat 1 tablespoon butter over medium high heat in a saucepan until browned and fragrant but not black. Season veggies as you go: "Blanch" asparagus in butter until bright green and par-cooked (should still be a little toothy). Remove. Next, wilt radicchio. Remove. Add remaining butter and turn down heat. Cook onions until soft, about 5 minutes.
Leave onions in pan and bring stock to boil. Add rice and lemon zest. Cover and turn down heat, keeping the water at a low simmer. Let steam for 20 minutes. Stir in pine nuts, asparagus and radicchio and cover and let sit for another 5 minutes. Uncover, fluff and adjust seasoning before serving.