Try infusing tea in Asian-style noodle soup

Spices may be the main attraction at The Spice & Tea Exchange in Ashland, featured in this week’s A la Carte. But the business’ secondary component — tea — has its culinary uses and can lend an unexpected note to familiar dishes.

That’s the case in this tea-infused noodle soup created for The Washington Post. Of course, purists maintain that an herbal blend isn’t truly tea. In this case, however, “tea” sounds more enticing than “lavender-lemon.”

I’d also try this with the ginger-turmeric tea available at The Spice & Tea Exchange. Those flavors are naturals with this recipe’s star anise and garlic.  

Photo for The Washington Post by Deb Lindsey

Tea-Infused Rice Noodle Soup

12 cups no-salt-added vegetable broth

1 whole star anise

4 tablespoons dried herbal lavender-lemon tea

Kosher salt, to taste

Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

7 ounces dried rice noodles (1/4-inch wide)

Sesame oil, as needed

1 medium shallot, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch slices

4 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and cut into quarters

1 small garlic clove, peeled and minced

4 large rainbow Swiss chard leaves, stemmed and chopped into 1-to-2-inch pieces

1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro leaves

1/2 lemon, cut into 4 wedges and seeded

Finely crushed, dried Thai chili peppers, stemmed and seeded (optional; may substitute crushed red-pepper flakes)

In a large pot over medium-high heat, heat the broth and star anise. Cook for about 1 hour, uncovered, until broth has reduced by half. Remove from heat; add the dried tea. Steep for 10 minutes, then strain through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl, discarding solids. Taste, and season lightly with the salt and pepper. Wipe out pot.

Return broth to pot; keep it warm over low heat. Add the rice noodles and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes or until they are cooked through.

Meanwhile, heat a few teaspoons of the oil in a medium saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the shallot and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds, then add the mushrooms, garlic and chard. Cook for about 1 minute, stirring, then add 1/4 cup warm broth. Cook until it has almost evaporated. Mushrooms will have turned pinkish. Remove from heat; season lightly with salt and pepper, then stir in the cilantro.

Using tongs, transfer rice noodles from broth to individual, deep bowls, twisting them to form “nests.” Top each portion with equal amounts of mushroom-chard mixture. Ladle about a cup of broth into each bowl. Garnish with the lemon wedges and a sprinkling of the dried peppers, if using.

Serve warm. Makes 4 servings.

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The spice of life should be fresh and flavorful

MCT photo

Even the most seasoned cooks have a skeleton in the spice cabinet: the jar of desiccated herbs or powdered, now tasteless, remains of some seed or bark or root.

I’ve fallen victim many times to the overzealous overpurchasing of such esoteric spices as juniper berries, reminiscent of potpourri or cleaning products, and poppy seeds, which seem purely ornamental. Even bulk shopping isn’t a safeguard against squirreling away a little-used seasoning before it loses potency.

But bulk inventories, such as the one at The Spice & Tea Exchange, is the ideal place to familiarize oneself with the spices most suited to everyday cooking, as well as with some practical, palatable uses for the exotic and unexpected. In-store cooking classes, featured in this week’s food section, will provide more food for thought.

Once you’ve selected and stowed away spices, smell them every so often to determine if they should be replaced.   

Generally speaking, herbs will last a year or two; spices twice that (even longer if purchased in whole form). Salts, of which there are numerous varieties at  The Spice & Tea Exchange, will last pretty much indefinitely, although herbs mingled with the mineral will fade.   

Toasting whole spices improves their flavor immediately before grinding and adding to a dish. But in some cases, that’s just not practical, as Los Angeles Times food editor Russ Parsons recently opined.

“When you need a half-teaspoon of ground cinnamon or a quarter-teaspoon of ground cumin, starting from the stick and seed is a pain,” he wrote.

So for spices used on a regular basis — cinnamon, cumin, cloves, etc. — he keeps both whole and ground on hand. The rest he buys whole and lives with the occasional inconvenience.

Of course, this approach encourages cooks to create their own spice blends. The Spice & Tea Exchange, however, has a roster of blends that many cooks may not have considered.

Or suggest your own blend at the store on Ashland’s North Main Street. The owners say they will gladly consider it.

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Experience sold-out food event via social media

“Progressive dining” is the term organizers use to plug a food-and-wine event that kicks off this weekend’s Pear Blossom Festival.

In my mind, “food crawl” better describes the Smudge Pot Stroll, a ramble around downtown to taste dishes “peared” (pun absolutely intended) with beverages. A previous post to this blog explains the Smudge Pot Stroll, a highlight of the two-day Pear a Fare, in more detail. Tickets already have sold out.

For the second time in Smudge Pot Stroll history, I’ll be serving as a judge. But for the first time, I’ll be posting photos and comments to Twitter and Facebook. Look for social-media updates starting shortly after 5 p.m. Friday. 

Among this year’s participating restaurants are 4 Daughters, Capers, Elements, Downtown Market Co., Habaneros, Havana Republic, Howiee’s, Misoya Bistro, Porters, The Rocky-Tonk, Spoons, Sunrise Cafe and, notably, the new Larks Restaurant at Inn at the Commons.

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A cook’s birthday wish: a knife of her own

Followers of my social-media posts likely saw photos from a family birthday this past weekend.

It was my son’s very first such celebration. And as to be expected, his milestone met with much more fanfare than my 35th birthday about a week prior.

My gifts, at least, are still waiting to be enjoyed, namely a chef’s knife I intend to purchase with a gift card to Sur la Table. It’ll be like my birthday all over again when I can get to Portlandand try out the store’s inventory of knives using the cutting surfaces and produce available for just that purpose.

A recent story by the Detroit Free Press stated that a chef’s knife at Sur la Table can cost as much as $140, according to resident chef Steven Delidow. I was surprised the figure was so low and anticipated purchasing a middle-of-the-road knife for that price. Generally speaking, a knife made with high-carbon stainless steel costs significantly more than one made of basic stainless steel because the carbon content helps keep it sharp.

Every kitchen should have a chef's knife. (MCT photo)

I already have a passable Henckels chef’s knife in my kitchen. But almost from the moment my husband and I received it as wedding gift nearly a decade ago, Will commandeered it for his use.

The cheap, fairly flimsy Santoku-style chef’s knife that I bought for myself has endured no small amount of manhandling over the years. It flew off the roof of Will’s car after a houseboating trip to Lake Shasta and most recently suffered another nick in the blade when my sister saw fit to carve a block of cheese directly onto my granite countertop (just because granite is a durable cutting surface doesn’t mean it’s a friend to knives). I guess it’s fitting she got me the gift card for my new knife.

Despite its inferior quality, the Santoku is lighter and more comfortable in my hand. Its rounded tip stays out of the way of my fingers, and the characteristic grooves along the edge discourage food from sticking to the blade.

Because I’m already something of a stickler about caring for knives, I have no doubt I can keep a new one in good shape (barring any more mishaps while loading the car). I always hand-wash mine, never put them in the dishwasher. And I don’t tumble good knives into the sink with other utensils, which also can damage the blades. My knives already inhabit an in-drawer knife block.  

A sharp knife, as many of us are aware, does make the task of cutting easier. If you’re unsure of how to properly use a chef’s knife, here’s an explanation from the Free Press: Place your thumb and forefinger on the blade at the heel end for greatest control. Use the tip for delicate work, the center for general slicing, and the heavier heel end for slicing foods that require more pressure such as the end of a stalk of celery.

And if you’re also unsure of the terminology that goes along with knifework, here’s a guide to terms, also from the Free Press.

Chop: To cut food into 1/4-inch, uneven pieces (or smaller for a fine chop). Coarse chop means to cut into larger, 1/2-inch irregular pieces.

Dice: To cut food into small (1/4-inch, 1/2-inch or 3/4-inch) squares or cubes. The easy way to do this is to cut ends off, square off the food and then cut into desired-size planks. Stack the planks and cut into desired-size strips. Turn the strips and cut to desired-size dice.

Mince: To cut food into pieces smaller than a chop. The pieces are so small that they can almost dissolve in the food.

Julienne: To cut the food in matchstick-size pieces. Cut the food in planks about 1/4-inch thick and 2 inches long. Stack the slices and then cut them into thin strips.

Chiffonade: To cut leafy vegetables (basil, lettuces, greens) into thin shreds. (In French, this translates to “made of rags.”) Stack the leaves, roll them up and slice through them, making a pile of shreds. Don’t chop down on them or you will bruise delicate herbs like basil.

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Kale keeps locavores in fresh, springtime greens

For all the panning in gourmet circles of kale as a passé ingredient, the coarse, leafy green has staying power in the locavore movement.

MCT photo

Among the few pieces of truly fresh, in-season, local produce in March, kale was featured for precisely that reason in Ashland and Central Point school cafeterias under a pilot project with Rogue Valley Farm to School.

Explained in this week’s A la Carte, more volunteers are needed to staff tables in the cafeterias, where students can taste locally grown fruits and vegetables, give their approval and take home recipes and nutrition information. Program volunteers also prepared locally grown carrots, pumpkins, beets and potatoes for kids to sample earlier this school year.

Here are the snack and salad recipes, courtesy of Farm to School, that students tried last month. Weigh in here on whether you “tried it,” “liked it” or “loved it.”

Baked Kale Chips

1 bunch kale

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teas1 teaspoon nutritional yeast (optional)

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Tear the kale leaves from thick stems and rip leaves into bite-sized pieces; discard stems. Wash and thoroughly dry kale leaves with a salad spinner. Drizzle kale with the olive oil and sprinkle with the salt and yeast, if desired.

Spread thinly and evenly on prepared baking sheet and bake in preheated oven until edges brown but are not burned, for 10 to 15 minutes.

Makes 6 servings.


Massaged Kale Salad

1 bunch kale

1 teaspoon sea salt

¼ cup diced red onion

⅓ cup currents

¾ cup diced apple

¼ cup olive oil

2 tablespoons apple-cider vinegar

Tear the kale leaves from thick stems; discard stems. Wash kale leaves and spin or pat dry.

Chop or tear kale leaves into small pieces and place in a mixing bowl. Add the salt and massage it with your hands into kale. No need to be gentle!

Stir in the onion, currents and apple; toss with the oil and vinegar. Enjoy!

Makes 6 servings.

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Orange-blossom water helps to improvise salad

The warm salad mentioned in this blog’s previous post did, in fact, materialize over the weekend. And true to form, it incorporated ingredients I had on hand instead of those dictated in a recipe.

The kale in my garden isn’t quite big enough to pick for salads, but the asparagus is popping up all over one raised garden bed. So in the rendered bacon fat, I sautéed asparagus spears, followed by sliced rhubarb. And because I was rounding out the colors and flavor profiles with tangelo segments, I played up the citrus element with a splash of orange-blossom water, along with balsamic vinegar, to deglaze the fat for the salad dressing.

When marrying ingredients for the first time on a single plate, I always strive for an unexpected flavor note, like the orange-blossom water, that harmonizes the entire dish and makes it seem intentional. My friend seemed appreciative, maybe more so because he could tell I was winging it. Yet the salad managed to sate my craving for something new since dining out the previous evening, when I was faced with such run-of-the-mill choices as roasted beet, arugula and blue cheese and frisee with bacon and egg.

Here’s a fresher spin on the roasted-vegetable salad that makes good use of citrus that’s still in season and echoes the earthiness of beets with walnuts. It’s from Washington Post Food editor Joe Yonan, author of “Eat Your Vegetables: Bold Recipes for the Single Cook.”

Photo for The Washington Post by Deb Lindsey

Leek, Beet and Orange Salad With Walnut Cream

1 pound beets, preferably baby beets, scrubbed and trimmed

1 pound leeks, preferably baby or thin leeks, white and light-green parts

2 medium oranges of favorite variety

1 cup walnut halves or pieces, toasted (see note) and divided

3/4 cup plain, nonfat, Greek-style yogurt (may substitute low-fat or regular yogurt)

Sea salt, to taste

1/4 cup sunflower sprouts or other microgreens, for garnish (optional) 

Preheat oven to 500 F.

Wrap the beets tightly in aluminum foil and place them on a rimmed baking sheet; roast in preheated oven until tender when pierced with a skewer through foil, for 30 to 40 minutes, depending on size of beets. Unwrap beets; when just cool enough to handle, hold them under a stream of running water and rub off/discard skins. Cut beets in half, then into thick slices or chunks. (If using baby beets, serve them whole or halved.)

Position an oven rack 4 to 6 inches from broiling element or flame; preheat to broil.

Arrange the leeks in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet; broil until deeply charred all over, turning a few times as necessary. Cool leeks slightly, then peel off/discard outer, charred skin and tops. (If using medium or large leeks rather than baby or thin ones, cut them in half lengthwise and again into large chunks, if desired. No need to cut baby leeks.) Roasted beets and charred leeks can be refrigerated for up to 1 week.

Using a rasp-style grater, finely grate 2 teaspoons of zest (no pith) from 1 of the oranges into bowl of a food processor. Use a knife to remove all peel and white pith from both oranges, then cut their flesh into thick rounds or chunks, discarding seeds if necessary.

Add 3/4 cup of the walnuts, all of the yogurt and a pinch of the salt to food processor; puree to form a thick walnut cream. Taste and add salt as needed. Walnut cream can be refrigerated for up to 5 days.

If ingredients have been prepared in advance, let them come to room temperature before assembling salads.

Place a large dollop of walnut cream at center of each plate. Arrange leeks, beets and oranges on and around it. Add dollops of cream here and there, if desired. Scatter 1/4 cup of walnuts over portions. If desired, scatter with the sunflower sprouts or other microgreens. Sprinkle beets and leeks lightly with sea salt and serve. Makes 4 servings.

NOTE: Toast nuts in a small, dry skillet over medium-low heat for a few minutes, until fragrant and lightly browned, shaking pan as needed to avoid scorching.

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Spring greens sustain warm dressings

Spring, with greenery sprouting across the landscape, is the time for salads. But the chill in the air calls for more warmth and sustenance than raw vegetables provide.

This time of year, I dress heavy-duty salads, containing meat and other proteins, with warm dressings often whisked up in a pan of bacon drippings. This technique always wins my husband over to salad for dinner. And the flavor variations from different vinegars and other forms of acid keeps the concept fresh until the mood for crisp, cool salads strikes.

Here is one such salad that uses grapefruit juice in the dressing for kale, sautéed wild mushrooms and bacon. I might substitute fresh, sliced rhubarb from my garden for the grapefruit segments to heighten the contrast of sweet, tart and sour in this salad. Tossed into a pan with sautéing bacon, rhubarb is surprisingly suited to savory fare.  

Food Network host Aarti Sequeira created this salad for The Florida Department of Citrus.

Kale and Grapefruit Salad With Warm Bacon And Wild Mushroom Dressing

1 to 2 bunches black kale (about 1 pound), washed, stalks removed, sliced into 1⁄4-inch ribbons

Kosher salt, to taste

1⁄4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus more for massaging kale

3 slices thick-cut bacon, roughly chopped

8 ounces wild mushrooms, thinly sliced (such as porcini and chanterelle)

1 medium shallot, peeled and minced (about 1⁄4 cup)

1⁄4 cup Champagne vinegar

1⁄4 cup grapefruit juice

1 tablespoon honey

1⁄3 cup shelled, toasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped

1 large ruby red grapefruit, cut into segments

Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Place the kale in a very large bowl. Sprinkle with a couple of pinches of the salt and a light drizzle of the olive oil. Begin massaging, squeezing fistfuls of kale and rubbing between your fingers. Once uniformly wilted, set aside and prepare dressing.

Place a medium saute pan or skillet over medium-low heat. Add the bacon and cook, stirring every now and then, until most fat has rendered and bacon bits are brown and just crispy. Using a slotted spoon, remove bacon to paper towel-lined plate. Pour bacon fat into a measuring cup. If necessary, add enough olive oil to make 1⁄4 cup. Pour back into pan.

Add the mushrooms, stir to coat in fat and spread in an even layer. Don’t touch them for 3 to 5 minutes. They will start to soften and sizzle. Now stir and cook, stirring often until they are golden- brown around edges. Stir in the shallots and cook until mixture is browned and aromatic.

Add the vinegar, scraping up any brown bits on bottom of pan. Turn off heat. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil, the grapefruit juice and honey. Mix, taste for seasoning and adjust according to your palate.

Toss the hazelnuts, grapefruit and cooked bacon in bowl with kale. Add contents of sauté pan and toss to coat salad with dressing. Season to taste with the black pepper. 

Makes 4 servings.

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State sanitation standards apply to home kitchen

For years, I hoped that I was helping people learn to cook by selecting recipes for publication in the newspaper’s weekly food section.

This week, I took a more hands-on approach by volunteering to give cooking demonstrations at ACCESS food pantries. The recipes chosen by ACCESS’ food education program coordinators are simple with basic ingredients stocked by the community’s food pantries. In fact, the most complicated part about putting on a demonstration, I learned, is adhering to the state’s food-handling guidelines. Before volunteering, we all had to pass the food handler-certification exam.

I felt silly staying up late cramming the night before the exam when I learned the next day that it’s open-book. And truth be told, a lot of the information really is commonsense stuff.

But I still caught myself brushing a strand of hair away from my face during my first demonstration. While that single act is unlikely to transmit foodborne illness, it’s an example of how the habits we harbor in our home kitchens can have health consequences for family, friends and anyone else eating there.

A reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel recently held herself up for an expert critique by hosting City of Milwaukee health inspectors for lunch. While she prepared pasta and salad, they observed eight missteps that would constitute “critical violations” in a restaurant. They ranged from the lack of paper towels for handwashing to handling lettuce with her bare hands, instead of tongs or while wearing gloves. In the end, she counted herself lucky that inspectors ate the lunch she prepared, and that neither of them got food poisoning later.

If you think you’re up on proper food handling, remember that scientific studies always are influencing the latest sanitation regulations. Here are the most important points to keep in mind for preventing foodborne illness:

Test the Fridge — Take your refrigerator’s temperature. It should be 41 F or lower. And make sure food in your freezer is frozen.

Thawing — Don’t thaw frozen food on the countertop. Thaw it in the refrigerator, under cold running water or in the microwave.

Raw “Potentially Hazardous” Foods — Don’t let raw meat, seafood or eggs come into contact with other food. That’s called cross-contamination — don’t do it!

Wash,Wash, Wash —Washhands and surfaces often. Wash your hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds, then dry with disposable towels in these situations, among others: before handling food, after using the bathroom, between tasks like handling raw meat and preparing other foods.

No Hands — Use tongs or other utensils to handle food whenever possible.

Sanitize — Clean and sanitize all surfaces, including the sink, before preparing food and between tasks that contaminate cutting boards, knives and other surfaces. Use bleach to sanitize, with a solution of one teaspoon of bleach per quart of water.

Cook to Proper Temperatures­— Poultry and stuffed meats to 165 F, ground meats to 155 F, pork and fish to 145 F and vegetables to 135 F. They should reach those temperatures for at least 15 seconds.

Keep Proper Temperatures — Keep hot food at 135 F or higher. Once leftovers fall below that temperature, they have six hours to cool to a safe 41 F, and they should cool to 71 F in the first two hours. Otherwise, throw them away.

Big Batches of Leftovers — Don’t put that huge pot of steaming chili in the refrigerator — it won’t cool fast enough, which means your dinner tomorrow will have been in the temperature “danger zone” where bacteria was fruitful and multiplied. Instead, fill your sink with ice, place the pot in there and stir until cooled. Or, divide the leftovers into smaller, shallower containers.

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Pasta recipe softens this cook toward broccoli

The spring garden yields little in the way of immediately edible rewards. In my family’s case, it’s usually rhubarb, spring onions and a few herbs plucky enough to weather winter.

For the first time in several years, however, my mother-in-law persisted against my indifference and planted broccoli, which is sprouting up from myriad stems to provide us with some tasty, if somewhat coarsely textured, florets.    

Broccoli is one of those vegetables that I get a bit fanatical about selecting and cooking. When purchasing it, I try to ferret out the tightest heads with florets as far from budding as possible. When cooking broccoli, I try to maintain its crispness and color, finding a very fine line between done and overdone. And alas, I usually discard the stems while always thinking twice about how I could use them.

Then I saw a piece from the Los Angeles Times that actually championed long cooking times for broccoli and cauliflower, which sweetens and mellows their flavor. The mushy texture is, in fact, a boon in some recipes.

By way of example, the Times moved the following recipe that essentially comes off as pasta with broccoli pesto. If any dish could be suited to transforming my garden’s coarse broccoli into an enjoyable eating experience, I figured this was it. Plus, it made use of anchovy fillets languishing in my refrigerator because their texture is, likewise, unpleasant in many regards.

I did find the anchovies’ flavor combined with capers and olives into almost a tapenade too briny for my palate, although the only salt I added was to the pasta water. So I added some oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes for a sweet counterpoint. And because I lacked pistachios and a whole, dried chili, I substituted pine nuts and ground, dried chilies, respectively.            

From Oretta Zanini de Vita’s and Maureen B. Fant’s new book “Pasta the Italian Way: Sauces & Shapes,” this recipe is ready in 35 minutes.

Los Angeles Times photo

Pasta With Broccoli, Olives and Pistachios

Salt, as needed

1 ½ pounds broccoli

2 garlic cloves, peeled

2 anchovy fillets, drained and blotted dry if oil-packed, rinsed and cleaned if salt-packed

2 tablespoons capers, preferably salt-packed, rinsed and drained

½ cup pitted black olives, preferablyGaeta, taggiasche or Kalamata (3 ounces)

1/3 cup shelled unsalted pistachios (1.5 ounces)

6 tablespoons very fruity, extra-virgin olive oil

1 small piece dried chili, about an inch long

1 pound pasta, preferably penne, orecchiette or rigatoni

6 rounded tablespoons grated pecorino Romano cheese

Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil.

Trim the broccoli: Remove florets and peel and dice stems, keeping them separate. You should have about 5 cups total.

Chop coarsely together by hand the garlic, anchovy fillets, capers, olives and pistachios.

Heat the oil gently in a skillet large enough to hold pasta later. Add the chili and discard when it begins to color. Add garlic mixture to pan and cook gently in oil until it just begins to turn gold, for about 2 minutes.

When water is boiling rapidly, add broccoli stems and cook for 2 minutes. Add florets and continue cooking until they are bright-green and tender, but still slightly crisp and not mushy, for 4 to 5 minutes.

With a slotted spoon or spider strainer, lift cooked broccoli out of pot right into skillet, leaving water boiling in pot. Stir broccoli and garlic mixture together, breaking up any large florets with spoon; broccoli pieces should be small enough to coat pasta. Taste broccoli mixture and add more salt if necessary (with anchovies, olives and capers, you will probably not need any), and let flavors blend for a couple of minutes over low heat.

Meanwhile, add the pasta to boiling water and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is al dente, generally 8 to 10 minutes.

When pasta is done, lift it out of water and transfer it, rather wet, to skillet. Mix well over low heat for about 30 seconds, sprinkle with cheese and mix again. Transfer to a warm serving dish or serve directly from skillet. Serve immediately.

Makes 6 servings.

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Heaven forbid cooks pass up this rice

Superfoods mentioned in this week’s A la Carte story are just a few examples in a veritable pharmacopeia of ingredients, according to naturopathic physician Lissa McNiel.

Highlighting just a few in an upcoming class for Ashland Food Co-op, McNiel noted several others while chatting about the menu. Black rice was among those mentioned for its antioxidant content — as high as blueberries — and protein.

With all the good fiber of brown rice, black rice is much more striking on the plate. And it takes about half the time of brown rice to cook.  

The nutritional benefits of black rice are so great that, centuries ago, only Chinese emperors were allowed to eat it, according to legend, which gave the grain its other name: forbidden rice. If not forbidden, it’s still not exactly easy to find. I buy it at Shop’n Kart in Ashland or the local food co-ops.      

Try it in this recipe from The Washington Post, adapted from “Cooking With an Asian Accent,” by Ying Chang Compestine. One serving has 350 calories, 14 grams of protein, 43 grams of carbohydrates, 16 grams of fat, 2 saturated and 5 grams of dietary fiber.

The Washington Post photo

Forbidden Rice With Eggs, Tofu and Mushrooms

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 1/2 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce, plus more to taste

2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil

3 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

4 ounces firm tofu, drained, pressed and cut into 1/4-inch cubes (may substitute cooked ham)

4 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and cut into 1/2-inch slices

1/4 cup fresh or frozen/defrosted green peas

2 cups cooked, cooled black rice (see NOTE a)

1/4 cup raw, unsalted almonds, toasted and crushed (see NOTE b)

1/4 cup dried cranberries

In a small bowl, beat the eggs, soy sauce and sesame oil. Stir in half of the scallions.

Pour the oil into a large, well-seasoned, cast-iron skillet or wok over medium heat. Pour in egg mixture and swirl pan so it’s coated with mixture. Cook without stirring until egg is softly set, for a few minutes. Break up egg mixture with a spatula. Add the tofu, shiitakes, peas and cooked rice. Stir-fry until rice is heated through and mushrooms have collapsed, for 5 minutes.

Taste and stir in a little more soy sauce as desired.

Sprinkle with the almonds, cranberries and remaining scallions; serve hot. Makes 4 servings.

NOTE (a): For 2 cups black rice, first rinse 1 cup uncooked rice 2 or 3 times in a strainer. Then combine it with 1 3/4 cups water and a pinch of salt in a small saucepan, and bring to a boil over high heat. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and let rice sit, covered, for a few minutes, then fluff. Cool completely before using in a stir-fry, or serve immediately if using as a side dish.

NOTE (b): Toast almonds in a small, dry skillet over medium-low heat for a few minutes, until lightly browned and fragrant, shaking pan to avoid scorching. Cool completely before using.

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    Sarah Lemon

    Sarah Lemon covers the Rogue Valley’s food scene with an enthusiasm that rivals her love of cooking. Her blog mixes culinary musings and milestones with tips and recipes you won’t find in the Mail Tribune’s weekly A la Carte section. When ... Read Full
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