domenica 29 novembre 2009

Back after a long weekend away: Savory Veggie Rice, a quick answer to “what do I make for dinner tonight?”


I am sure you know the feeling when you get to go away for a long well deserved weekend after a long, tiring week at work (week? sorry I meant MONTH!). So, this weekend I had my treat for I took the friday off and started enjoying freedom one day in advance.

Friday was spent doing all sorts of things I can’t get hold of during the week: I went to the dentist, walked to the city centre and bought a few cosmetics I really needed to replace in my beauty case and went to my new home to meet the funny team made by my architect+electrician+construction manager to decide where the lights+electric plugs are meant to be in the kitchen (VITAL!) and basically all over the place.

It took more than expected but when we finally drove back to where we still live now (Ioska and I met directly at the team’s rendez vous) we had a quick lunch consisting of a stir fry of Nuremberg’s sausages and cabbage served on grilled dark home-made bread. Not heavy, not light if you ask me: just perfect if completed with a little glass of white wine and a nice espresso.

After lunch we chilled out for half an hour, packed and headed to Trento, a beautiful town in Trentino 3 hours away from Milan: a land of fine mountains, amazing wines (whites my favorites, but reds - like Teroldego Rotaliano or Marzemino - as charming as my top-of-the-list Muller Thurgau), delicious salami (ah, Luganega!) and a lovely, little, energetic, skilled cook called Adriana, aka my boyfriend’s grandmother.

Adriana was waiting for us, her usual affectionate but brisk way and her great shape ( at 80 she mounts little stools like a young woman of 20, without any help from us nor from any handhold) only the frame to a characteristically trentino, clear-headed and straight-forward manner I have learnt to love during the years. Knowing me and Ioska as foodies, she cooked all sorts of amazing dishes: canederli (knodels), polenta with sour krauts and pork (in different cuts: smoked roast, sausage and cotechino), strudel, all served with a nice Marzemino wine, a red with great body but  “only” 12% alcool.

In order to bring back home some of these wonderful tastes, Saturday was devoted to buying typical products in Levico Terme, a nice village where they set up in the Hapsburgian Gardens, the most enchanting Christmas market I have seen lately(even if I heard that Bolzano’s is twice as big and twice as nice) .

Ioska was as taken as I am,we dragged ourselves from a stand to another until the cold became so unbearable we bought some biscotti in a nice patisserie in the main street, and went to our friend Tommy’s home where we had a wonderful tea waiting for the evening plans to unroll.

We spent the night to a concert, then to a party, then back to Tommy’s home where we had pasta at 3 in the morning while chatting about art, politics, expectations and (wonder) homes! When we finally went to bed we woke up at what felt like 5 minutes after bedtime,  just in time to go back to Trento, have lunch with Adriana and her daughter – Ioska’s aunt – Dorotea, and then drive back to Milan filled with the family’s attention, our friend Tommy’s company and Trentino’s delicacies.

So, tonight, we arrived home after this scrumptious weekend with a need for warmth (the air was chilly, my sore throat a mess and the rain not wanting to stop) and a simple meal: the fridge was almost devoid of fresh goods, only a couple of zucchini and a bunch of fresh carrots I randomly bought during the week when I decided to make stock.

To me, the best way to combine these two veggies is to stir fry them with onion to make a mixture that begs to be added to neutral ingredients like eggs or rice (or both). This dish, which is baptized under the name of “quick veggie rice” is easy to make, fulfilling, tasty and light, and it makes a perfect dinner after a long weekend of culinary indulgence.

To make it


100 grams rice, boiled in water added with dried vegetarian broth 

2 large zucchini, thinly sliced (1/2 cm) with a mandolin

2 carrots, cut into a large julienne with a potato peeler

1/2 big red onion or 1 whole small one, thinly sliced

a dash of white wine to deglaze the pan

4 tbsp extra vergin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon  garlic paste (or a garlic clove cut in two pieces so it’s easy to remove)

salt & pepper

some drops of soy sauce (optional)


1 I heated 2 tbsp of oil and the garlic paste in a large pan for 2 minutes, then settled the slices of zucchini in a large layer ( as large as possible so to cover the bottom evenly) and let them cook for 4 minutes before I stirred for the first time.

2 I “tumbled” the zucchini instead of turning them with a wooden spoon: this lets you check if the lower side touching the pan has browned already without scrambling the slices (being very thin they break very easily). Also, tumbling will allow the slices that don’t reach the bottom of the pan to soak gently in the oil once they have swapped places with the lower layer (and have their chance to brown). Let cook for 5 minutes turning the zucchini upside down twice to check if they have all browned and almost cooked through. Salt and set aside in a small bowl.   

3 In the same pan, I added the last 2 olive oil tablespoons with the thinly sliced onions and let them cook on high heat for two minutes until they have become translucent: I added the carrots’ julienne, salt, pepper and let it brown nicely on medium heat adding a dash of white wine to deglaze the pan when the carrots have started to stick slightly.

4 Once the wine has evaporated, I added the zucchini back in the pan and let the aromas blend, adjusting seasoning if needed. I turned the heat off and set aside (covered) until it was time to serve.

5  I boiled the rice in a pot using the infusion method: I put the thai rice (even if any long grain variety will do) in the pot covering it with cold water (1,5 cm above the rice level). I added a teaspoon of dried vegetarian broth and let cook covered for 10 minutes until the liquid has evaporated completely. You’d better start with very low heat so the “broth” has time to infuse in the rice.  Mind you, if the rice  is done before all the water has gone, uncover and let the rice go on a higher heat until the liquid has disappeared. Stir and let rest for 3 more minutes covered, or until the rice is soft enough to your taste.

6 Fill single serving cups with the rice and add a nice amount of veggies over it: I like my serving garnished with some drops of soy sauce and olive oil, but you can skip this step if you want.

Serves a couple of hungry two or 3 decent people keen on having dessert too. Enjoy!

quick savory veggie rice - photo by kitchn dahling - all rights reserved

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