Corinne Trang's Rice Porridge with Chicken and Lemon Grass (Chao xa ga)


I have been doing a lot of stock-cooking lately. Beef bones, chicken wings, bay leaves, peppercorns - these all have moved to the front of the burner lately as I adjust to a life without ready-made chicken or beef stock base in my fridge. Who would have thought that of all the goods stocked in an American grocery store, I'd come to miss Better Than Bouillon most of all? Not I.

First of all, I underestimated my reliance on it. Second of all, I had no idea that it would be so hard to come by anything other than granulated bouillon (ick) or very, very expensive jars of chicken stock (we're talking 2-cup servings for, oh, 5, 6, 7 euros a pop) in Germany. So I make a lot of stock these days. Combine that with the fact that I have the most adorably tiny freezer (if by adorable you understand that I mean infuriating) and my new normal is coming up with weekly reasons to eat soup.

Of course, as I'm sure many of you would love to yell at the screen right now, Better Than Bouillon, even if miles - many of them - better than granulated, does not hold a candle to homemade stock or broth. Still! I loved it so. It really was a cornerstone of my kitchen. Anyway.

S. Irene Virbila wrote the loveliest article the other day about congee, Chinese rice porridge, a simple meal of rice cooked in water that you then get to gussy up with all kinds of delectable things: chile paste, roasted peanuts, drizzles of soy sauce, fried ground pork. In all my years in New York and during my long love affair with Chinese food, I'd actually never eaten congee before. I tried to go for dinner at Congee Village once and was thwarted by the masses waiting ahead of me for a table. And let's be honest, rice gruel or rice porridge always sounded a little disappointing. A little too medicinal for dinnertime. Like something you had to grow up eating to love.

Silly, silly girl.

Because I'd had a big pot of chicken stock hanging out in my fridge for a few days, I decided to make the Vietnamese version of congee, chao xa ga, which has a slightly more flavorful base (chicken broth boiled together with lemongrass and chili) than regular congee. You cook rice in that fragrant broth until it's soft and (almost) falling apart - the recipe said to cook the rice for more than an hour, while I stopped after 45 minutes. Cooked, shredded chicken meat bolsters the porridge a bit, turning it into a proper meal, while fresh lemon juice and chopped cilantro or saw leaves brighten up the final plate. A plate gobbled up so fast I'd almost rather not admit it.

I initially meant to make this for dinner last night, for three men at our table. But I got a little spooked by the idea that rice porridge might be more of a lady's meal - after all, would I be able to sufficiently feed hungry dudes on something as delicate-sounding as lemon grass-scented rice gruel? After eating it for lunch, by myself, I decided I need to have those friends over again to make up for the error of my ways. Flavorful, filling, slightly spicy and - of course - delicious, I almost felt guilty enjoying chao xa ga all on my own.

Best of all, while I sat here in my Berlin kitchen, waiting for my Vietnamese soup to cook, planning to make Hunanese chopped salted chiles (did the water just spontaneously burst forth in your mouth?) for when I make a proper Chinese congee, I was struck yet again by how much fun cooking can be, how deeply satisfying a venture it is - you have directions in front of you from someone you must trust, who got those directions from someone else herself and so on, you follow those directions, you stand back and suddenly you're in the middle of eating a meal that people on the very opposite side of the universe might be having for lunch right now. Pardon me if that sounds rather obvious or silly, but it made me very happy indeed.

So next up, congee. And then my chicken broth/stock stockpile will be depleted once more, and it'll be back to the stove with chicken parts again. So, tell me, readers, what's your very favorite broth or stock recipe? What do you come back to again and again to stock your freezer with?

Chao xa ga (Rice Porridge with Chicken and Lemon Grass)
Servings: 4 to 6

9 cups chicken broth
2 stalks lemon grass, trimmed (outer leaves, tough green tops and root ends removed), cut into 1-inch pieces and lightly crushed
2 to 3 red bird's eye or Thai chiles, stemmed
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 cup jasmine rice (or similar rice)
2 cooked chicken legs, boned, skinned and shredded
Coarse sea salt
1/2 cup julienned saw (ngo gai) or cilantro leaves
Lemon wedges for serving

1. Pour the chicken broth into a pot and bring to a gentle boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low, add the lemon grass, chiles and fish sauce and simmer for 30 minutes. Add the rice and cook, uncovered, for 45 minutes to an 1 hour.

2. Stir in the shredded chicken and season to taste with salt. Continue to cook until the chicken is heated through, about 15 minutes, or if the chicken is freshly cooked and still warm, just until combined. Divide the congee among 4 to 6 large soup bowls, garnish with the herb leaves and 1 wedge of lemon for each serving.

Mark Bittman's Hainanese Chicken with Rice


Thank you all, you big sweethearts, for your congratulations and good wishes and love. I'm basking in it all - we are, I should say - and I don't want this feeling to ever end. I knew people liked romance, but I didn't know how much! It feels a little anti-climactic to write this next post about food again: "I just got engaged! Now let me tell you about this toast." But we keep eating and I keep writing and so it goes, just with a bigger grin these days.

* * *

I am, in a word, a sucker for Chinese food. It's become a full-blown obsession of mine, in fact. Perhaps it's fed by the fact that Ben dislikes it and we've moved to a neighborhood where there's no good Chinese food in walking distance (O, Manhattan, this is what I miss!), I don't know, but I do spend an inordinate amount of time thinking of ways I can eat more of it.

(A few times after the New York Times published this map, I'd get in the car and drive to Flushing, where I'd scurry into the subterranean warren of food stands where no one speaks any English and the food seems as cheap and authentic as I imagine it to be in China itself. Five minutes later, with hot, porky, chili-oil-slicked noodles packed into a plastic take-away box and wrapped in a plastic bag dangling from my wrist, I'd dash out, hop in the car and speed home to eat noodles in blissful, mouth-tingling silence. The fly-by-night nature of the operation almost made it seem like I was conducting an illicit affair. My darling had plans after work and I dallied with translucent-skinned dumplings and fragrant soups. My sweetheart had to go into the city on a Saturday and I schemed to eat hand-pulled noodles and let Sichuan peppercorns numb my lips. Hoo, I get sweaty just thinking about it.)

But for some reason, I'm still a little scared of making Chinese food at home. Yes, I'm daunted by the long ingredient lists. Also, I don't own a wok or have the pleasure of a dining companion willing to ingest copious amounts of ground pork at every meal. Is that enough reason to keep myself from making the food I currently love the most? Absolutely not. Do I jump with glee every time one of the newspapers publishes a Chinese recipe, just because then it feels like a challenge that I have to complete? Yes, indeed.


Mark Bittman's Hainanese chicken has quite a bit going for it. First of all, it makes A Lot of Food. Enough to feed a family of four or six, I'd say, or two with leftovers for lunch for at least a couple of days. Second of all, you'll get a few quarts of chicken stock - lovely, ginger-and-garlic scented chicken stock - out of it, perfect for freezing and drinking in times of sickness or for cooking rice. I'm trying my hardest right now to economize and find meals where I didn't before (but spending a few extra dollars on an organic, free-ranging chicken seems worth it, nevertheless). Third of all, in the annals of Chinese recipes, it is so easy you could almost do it with your eyes closed, which is what I find most appealing, of course.

You boil a chicken with ginger and garlic for 10 minutes, then turn off the flame and let the chicken sit in hot broth for almost an hour. Then you use the hot broth to cook the rice. It's a one-dish meal, with cucumbers and tomatoes and chopped scallions all arranged right on top of the chicken and rice and served at the table with a dipping sauce.

The dipping sauce is the one problem with this whole recipe. It's basically just oil mixed with ginger and chopped scallions and it feels a little odd, to be dipping chunks of chicken into oil (I halved the amount of oil called for, but still). The next time I make this, I'll simply toss the chicken with the ginger, scallions and sesame oil and then pile the whole lot on top of the rice.

For someone who professes to dislike Chinese food, Ben had an awful lot of this at dinner. It's not takeout from Flushing, no, and it's not nearly hot and funky enough for my tastes, but I'm counting it as a minor success. Besides, now I've got the goods for homemade fried rice - my first ever - and that's cause for celebration!

Hainanese Chicken with Rice
Serves 4 to 6

Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 whole (3- to 4-pound) chicken, trimmed of excess fat
Several cloves smashed garlic, plus 1 teaspoon minced garlic
Several slices fresh ginger, plus 1 tablespoon minced ginger
4 tablespoons peanut oil, or neutral oil, like corn or canola
3 shallots, roughly chopped, or a small onion
2 cups long-grain rice
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1/2 cup minced scallions
2 cucumbers, peeled and sliced
2 tomatoes, sliced
Chopped fresh cilantro leaves

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it. Add chicken to pot along with smashed garlic and sliced ginger. Bird should be completely submerged, but only just. Cover, reduce heat to medium, and cook for 10 minutes. Turn off heat and let bird remain in water for 45 minutes to an hour, covered, or until it is cooked through.

2. Remove chicken from pot, reserve stock, and let bird cool to room temperature. Put 4 tablespoons peanut oil in a skillet over medium heat; you may add trimmed chicken fat to this also. When oil is hot, add remaining garlic, along with shallots; cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add rice and cook, stirring, until glossy. Add 4 cups reserved chicken stock and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cover; cook for about 20 minutes, until rice has absorbed all liquid. Stir in salt and pepper to taste.

3. Combine the sesame oil, ginger, half the scallions and a large pinch of salt.

4. Shred or chop chicken, discarding skin. Toss the chicken with the sesame oil mixture. Put rice on a large platter and mound chicken on top of it; decorate platter with cucumbers, tomatoes and cilantro, and serve.

Regina Schrambling's Edamame and Rice Salad with Fines Herbes Vinaigrette


I was planning on writing a post about granola today - about how I didn't think I'd like it, how I prefer my un-sugared flakes, how I was converted by this recipe, how I'd seen the light and now you could tooooo, except that it was a total disaster. Over-salted, burnt, cringe-worthy even when doused in yogurt and studded with blueberries. And it left me with nothing to write about, to boot. Oh, I hate hate hate it when that happens.

I guess it's a lesson. Don't mess with breakfast? Just keep eating your plain old flakes with milk and leave granola to the others. Sigh. Do you think I should try again? Molly's chocolate granola sounds dreamy, though I fear for my energy levels if I start having chocolate for breakfast. (I used to eat this treacly German cereal called Crunchy Nut when I was in high school - sugary corn flakes bedazzled with little pieces of peanuts, man, that stuff was heaven in a bowl and furthermore, much like crack for the delicate bloodlines of this girl who would eat a bowl for breakfast and proceed to practically hum with zany energy until lunchtime. Unless that was just because I was fifteen. Fifteen! Oh, come back, would you?)

And maybe it's also a kick in the pants to tell you about this rice salad I've been sitting on (well, not the salad, but you know) for a few weeks now. Upon first impression, there's not all that much special about this salad at all. I mean, there's rice, and some tender edamame (or favas, as the original recipe calls for but which are far too difficult to track down in this city and, in any case, to deal with once they are tracked down) and a few crunchy bits of red pepper and fennel, some nice bright herbs and a sprightly dressing. But it's not exactly rocket science, right? In fact, it seems mostly like a kitchen-sink type of dish, you know, the kind that you cobble together out of all the odd bits and bobs lying around your pantry and your fridge.


So, you know, not all that special, though certainly delicious and filling and different - for God's sakes - from all the pots of plain boiled rice we seem to eat around these parts. And goodness, but suddenly that recipe seems a little scant for two people, let alone four, let's double it next time. And there was the strange fact that I kept making versions of this salad with whatever I could find lying around the house. Sauteed ramps and peas with mint and some lemon juice instead of the edamame and peppers and fines herbes. Or toasty Indian spices and canned lima beans. Suddenly room-temperature rice spruced up with all sorts of delicious things feels elemental, like we'll be eating it all summer long and with gusto.

It's hardly rocket science, no, but it's creeping its way into my permanent repertoire and that's chemistry, at least.

Edamame and Rice Salad with Fines Herbes Vinaigrette
Serves 2 to 3

1/3 cup sliced almonds
1 1/2 cups frozen edamame
1/2 cup long-grain rice, preferably basmati or jasmine
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon tarragon vinegar
3 tablespoons peanut or canola oil
2 teaspoons chopped chives
1 teaspoon finely chopped oregano (technically this is meant to be chervil, but oregano is what I've got on my balcony)
1 teaspoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon finely chopped tarragon
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup finely diced red pepper
1/4 cup finely diced fennel

1. Heat the oven to 300 degrees. Toast the almonds in the oven on a baking sheet until fragrant, about 10 minutes, and set aside.

2. Fill a medium saucepan with water and add about a teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil and cook the frozen edamame for 4 to 5 minutes, just until tender. Using a slotted spoon, transfer them to a shallow bowl to cool. Bring the pot of water back to a low boil.

3. Rinse the rice in a small strainer, then add the rice to the boiling water. Cook, stirring occasionally, just until tender, 8 to 10 minutes.

4. While the rice is cooking, whisk together the mustard and vinegar in a small bowl, then whisk in the oil until the dressing emulsifies. Whisk in the chives, oregano, parsley and tarragon. Season with one-fourth teaspoon salt and a pinch of pepper, or to taste.

5. Strain the cooked rice and add it to the edamame. Pour half the vinaigrette over the mixture. Add the red pepper and fennel and toss until coated. Add more vinaigrette, salt and pepper to taste.

6. If you are serving the salad right away, sprinkle the toasted almonds over the top. If you want to chill it, cover the salad and refrigerate until needed. Just before serving, stir the salad again and add more vinaigrette if needed, then sprinkle with the toasted almonds.

Chez Panisse's Butternut Squash Risotto


I've been reading Alan Weisman's The World Without Us over the past few weeks. Usually, I breeze through books in a few hours flat, but I can only take a little bit of this one at a time. I read part of a chapter each night before bed, then close the book feeling slightly wide-eyed and totally desperate. It's tough to read this book without feeling that life on earth really is rather futile and pointless, and I'm sure I don't need to tell anyone that this isn't exactly a helpful attitude to have if you're trying to be a normal, functioning human being with hopes and dreams and goals (who wants to end up like George Sibley, after all?).

We drove out to a nature preserve on Long Island yesterday, past empty strip malls and prefab homes, down winding lanes and old stone walls. We ended up in a tiny 6-car parking lot where the air was light and clean and almost entirely quiet except for the very gentle wind in the trees and the occasional bird calling out and the usual hustle and bustle of chipmunks skittering over the moist earth and softly rotting leaves. We sat in our car with the doors open and ate sandwiches Ben had made, chewing quietly in order not to disturb the aural peace, then made our way through the grassy paths - hot underfoot from the strange October sun - to the cooler, darker, sun-dappled forest. Fallen tree trunks, covered in moss and lichen, blocked our path now and then, and the crackling twigs and leaves that heralded our arrival made birds and smaller animals flit away in a small flurry of movement. The forest smelled fresh and piney.

Our winding path led us to a grassy bluff overlooking the Long Island Sound. We took our shoes off and walked up and down the beach, picking up opalescent rocks, creamy-white quahog shells, and weathered sticks of driftwood. We watched seagulls feast on their lunch, dashing mussels on the rocks, diving underwater and coming back up with their beaks smacking, picking at little and not-so-little crabs. Regular gourmands, those gulls. The Sound was a deep, dark blue - the color of my great-aunt Luisa's silk wedding dress - and lapped at the shore soothingly. We passed a lone couple splayed out on a blanket fast asleep and I could almost feel the cool, wet sand under my shoulder blades as I watched them out of the corner of my eyes.


On our drive back home again I tried hard to hold onto the sounds of the ocean and the forest. But it's harder than you think, once winding bridle paths give way to turnpikes and local highways. Plus, Led Zeppelin was on the radio, and I can't ever turn off Led Zeppelin - it reminds me of Berlin and the people I grew up with, 8th grade dances on a ski trip in Austria and the absolutely glorious awkwardness of youth. Those are memories I've always got time for. The nature preserve fell further and further behind us, and we daydreamed about the day when we'll live by the ocean full-time - writing, making music, sipping tea. It's mostly an illusion, but these conversations move life forward, I suspect, keeping our gears oiled and running.

Forgive me, readers, but at home I took one look at my newspaper recipe files and turned away. I've read them through one too many times lately, can't seem to find the enthusiasm right now to make my way through another one just yet. Instead, I went to the fridge and poked through the various bags of CSA produce sitting in the crisper drawers, finding half a butternut squash, some crusty-looking beets, limpish kale, a dusty-brown head of garlic (well, that wasn't in the fridge) and a bundle of soft sage. Ben wandered in and wondered out loud if we shouldn't just order. I shooed him out again.

With Chez Panisse Vegetables open on the counter, I started roasting the beets for salad (page 44), cubing the butternut squash for risotto (page 282) and gently frying rosemary and garlic for the beans and kale (page 40). The beets sweetened and mellowed in the oven. I slipped off their thickish skins and sliced them thinly, then dressed them with nothing but flaky salt, olive oil and vinegar. The cubed squash simmered gently in sage-scented broth, while rice toasted in oil and butter and the onions grew translucent from the heat. The risotto, green-flecked and squash-studded, was sweet and faintly chewy - the squash toothsome and yielding. The crispy, fried sage leaves broke with the tiniest of crackles under the tines of our forks. The beans, canned, because life is sometimes not ready for dried, grew melting and stewy in their rosemary oil bath, and the chopped kale cooked down silkily around them. Drizzled with a greenish thread of fresh olive oil, the greens and beans were pleasingly herbal and earthy.


It was a good dinner, after a good day, despite the pinprick of melancholy I couldn't shake. The routine of preparing a meal and feeding the people you love: it never really gets old. That's part of what keeps us going, I suppose, routines and love and stupid, foolish hope that we won't really destroy the very thing that enables our existence.

Butternut Squash Risotto
Serves 6 to 8

1 medium butternut squash (about 1 pound)
24 sage leaves
Salt and pepper
7 to 8 cups chicken stock
1 medium onion
5 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup Parmigiano Reggiano, grated

1. Peel and clean the squash, then dice it into very small cubes. Put the diced squash in a heavy-bottomed pan with a few whole sage leaves, salt and 1 cup of the chicken stock. Bring to a simmer and cook until tender, but not too soft, about 5 to 10 minutes. Meanwhile, chop 6 sage leaves fine and cut the onion into small dice.

2. Heat the rest of the stock and hold at a low simmer. In another heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat 3 tablespoons of butter, add the chopped sage and cook for a minute or so; add the onion and continue to cook over medium heat until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the rice and a pinch of salt and cook over low heat for about 3 minutes, stirring often, until the rice has turned slightly translucent. Turn up the heat and pour in the white wine. When the wine has been absorbed, add just enough hot stock to cover the rice, stir well and reduce the heat.

3. Keep the rice at a gently simmer and continue to add more stock, a ladle or two at a time, letting each addition be absorbed by the rice. While the rice is cooking, saute the remaining sage leaves in butter until crisp.

4. After 15 minutes, the rice will be nearly cooked. Stir in the cooked squash, the rest of the butter and the cheese. Continue cooking for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring often. Taste for texture and consistency, adding more stock if necessary. Adjust the seasoning. When done, serve in warm bowls and garnish with crisp sage leaves, and more cheese if desired.

Mark Bittman's Tomato Paella


Oh yes.

You know what this is.

Don't you?

I think you do.

Plump Bomba rice, ripe tomatoes, heavy with juice, spiky and fragrant saffron, smoky, powdery pimenton, a splash of wine and blistering oven heat - all of these things add up to a white flag, waved by yours truly.


The minute I laid eyes on it, I knew I was a goner. Who would be able to resist its allure? The rice, soft, chewy and crisp; the tomatoes, blistered at the edges and pulpy-sweet at their centers. To be honest, I'm a bit at a loss for words.


In the end, I'm not sure there's much else to say, other than to admit that I'm completely smitten. And, you know, I think I'll just leave it at that.

Tomato Paella
Serves 4 to 6

3 cups water
1/2 cup white wine
1 1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes, cored and cut into thick wedges
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, minced
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon tomato paste
Large pinch saffron threads
1-2 teaspoons Spanish pimentón (I just used 1 tsp and it was plenty)
2 cups Spanish or other short-grain rice
Minced parsley and basil for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Warm water in a saucepan. Put tomatoes in a medium bowl, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and drizzle them with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Toss to coat.

2. Put remaining oil in a 10- or 12-inch ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables soften, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in tomato paste, saffron if you are using it, and paprika and cook for a minute more. Add rice and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is shiny, another minute or two. Add wine and let simmer until it is mostly absorbed, then add the hot water and stir until just combined.

3. Put tomato wedges on top of rice and drizzle with juices that accumulated in bottom of bowl. Put pan in oven and roast, undisturbed, for 15 minutes. Check to see if rice is dry and just tender. If not, return pan to oven for another 5 to 10 minutes. If rice looks too dry but still is not quite done, add a small amount of stock or water (or wine). When rice is ready, turn off oven and let pan sit for 5 to 15 minutes.

4. Remove pan from oven and sprinkle with parsley and basil. If you like, put pan over high heat for a few minutes to develop a bit of a bottom crust before serving.

Marie Louise's Rice Pudding


I realize that a post about rice pudding might seem a bit pedestrian, but it was that kind of Sunday - gray, lazy, and quiet. I sat and read on the couch and heard barely a rumble from the outside world for hours. It was a day of simple foods - green tea and toast for breakfast, cold green beans and pasta for lunch. There could be, then, no better afternoon snack than a bowlful of barely warm, just-cooked rice pudding.

The last time I tried to make rice pudding, I ended up with rice soup (that's what happens when you try to make pudding with anything but whole milk). This time, I was determined that wouldn't happen to me. Armed with a gallon of whole milk, a sack of Carolina rice, half a vanilla bean (times are tough, people, and I'm cutting corners where I can), some sugar, and the dark horse of the day, a bay leaf, I busied myself at the stove.

I'd had the recipe, clipped from an article about Mexican vanilla by Florence Fabricant, for almost three years. The recipe came from Christian Delouvrier's book, Mastering Simplicity, and, with the mention of that bay leaf, had lodged itself in my head as something that simply had to be tried. Bay leaves, at least in my corner of the universe, only ever show up in soups and sauces. Sure, some people have you stick them on gleaming fillets of fish, or tuck them into a braise of meat. But in dessert? Never.

And doesn't it sound intriguing, now that you've thought about it for more than a split second?

I brought rice, water, and the bay leaf to a boil, then drained the rice immediately. This step still perplexes me, but I'm sure it served some purpose. The rice, the bay leaf, most of the milk, half the sugar and a good pinch of salt went into a second saucepan, along with the split vanilla bean. (Remember, I only used half a bean because I'm feeling pinched. But after tasting the results, I actually think half is plenty. No need to go whole bean here.) Over very low heat, the mixture slowly, slowly cooked together - each grain growing plumper, the vanilla-specked milk thickening and turning a rich, pale yellow.

When all the milk had been absorbed, I added another cup and let that cook down for a quarter of an hour before turning off the heat. The pudding was incredibly lush, like a risotto cooked with cream. The familiar scent of vanilla and cooked milk rose up from the pot, but it mingled with a faint, floral fragrance that I barely recognized - the bay leaf! I plucked out the bay leaf (I was feeling wary - bay can get so strong) and let the pudding cool before dolloping a luxuriant spoonful of it into a bowl.

The pudding was delicious - the rice still had an agreeable chew to it, despite being swollen with milk and sugar. The vanilla and bay combined to give the pudding an air of sophistication, but just barely. After all, rice pudding doesn't need too much gussying up. I didn't continue with Delouvrier's caramel sauce, though I imagine that step would turn the pudding into something worthy of a dinner party. Though these accompaniments might be even more dazzling.

For me, this rice pudding was an afternoon snack of the best kind - wholesome, nutritious, gently perfumed with the scent of my grandfather's laurels, and most definitely a good cure for any kind of Sunday blues.

Marie Louise's Rice Pudding
Serves 4 to 6

3/4 cup long-grain rice
1 bay leaf
6 cups whole milk, approximately
1 cup sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
Large pinch of salt

1. Place rice in a small saucepan with bay leaf and 2 cups water, bring to a boil over high heat, then drain immediately. Transfer rice and bay leaf to a heavy 3-quart saucepan.

2. Add 4 cups milk, 1/2 cup sugar, vanilla bean and salt. Place over very low heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until milk has been absorbed by rice, about 1 hour. Add 1 or 2 more cups milk, and continue cooking over low heat 15 to 20 minutes longer. Rice should be tender and mixture should be very creamy. Remove from heat, and allow to cool to room temperature.

3. Combine remaining sugar with 2 tablespoons water in a 1-quart saucepan. Place over medium-high heat, and stir gently until sugar dissolves. Continue cooking until mixture turns a medium amber color. Remove pan from stove and place on a heat-proof surface to cool. Caramel will darken somewhat and harden as it cools.

4. No more than 30 minutes before serving, add a little milk to rice if it has become too thick, then remove bay leaf and vanilla and transfer pudding to a shallow serving bowl. Add 2 tablespoons water to caramel, return it to stove and place over medium heat. Cook about 5 minutes until caramel has softened. Stir to incorporate water. Remove from heat. To serve, drizzle caramel sauce over pudding.


Claudia Roden's Bulgur Salad With Pomegranate Dressing and Toasted Nuts


Who doesn't love a good bulgur salad? Tossed with diced tomatoes and minced parsley, it shows up as tabbouleh on your summer tables, gets stuffed into pita with falafel, and is an all-around Middle Eastern workhorse. But did you know that an equally delicious winter version exists? One that holds its ground against hummus and baba ghannoush at a Levant-themed spread, and can just as easily transform itself into an exotic supper side dish? Without further ado, let me present it to you.

Courtesy of the eminent Claudia Roden (she of Arabesque and The Book of Jewish Food), this salad is the perfect example of a dish whose sum is greater than its parts. You see, the bulk of the salad is just made up of soaked bulgur, chopped parsley and toasted nuts (I used pecans instead of walnuts, because their fragrance totally bewitches me. Plus, walnuts make my mouth feel funny). But then you mix it with a kitchen-sink dressing that catapults this humble dish into the stratosphere.

Pomegranate molasses (use restraint! Or you'll regret it), olive oil, four different spices, tomato paste, lemon juice: the dressing is a symphony of flavors that bloom and develop with every dressing of the salad. It's a slow process as the bulgur soaks up each dose of dressing like a sponge. But it's worth waiting for. Because in the end you find yourself with an ochre-tinged pile of fluffy bulgur that is exotically perfumed, toasty and spicy and fragrant with a medley of flavors that make it very, very difficult to stop eating.

And all of this is done without turning on the stove. Well, you have to use the oven to toast the nuts, but that's barely even considered cooking, right?

Bulgur Salad with Pomegranate Dressing and Toasted Nuts
Makes 8 to 10 servings

2 3/4 cups bulgur, preferable coarse-ground
3/4 cup olive oil
6 tablespoons pomegranate molasses (I used only 3)
Juice of 2 lemons
6 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon cayenne, or more to taste
2 cups walnuts or pecans, coarsely chopped and toasted
1/4 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

1. Put bulgur in a large bowl and cover with cold, lightly salted water. Let soak until tender, from 30 minutes to 2 hours, depending on coarseness of bulgur. Drain in a sieve, firmly pressing out excess water, and transfer to a serving bowl.

2. Whisk olive oil with pomegranate molasses, lemon juice, tomato paste and spices. Add salt and pepper and taste; mixture should be pleasingly tangy. Add more pomegranate molasses and lemon juice as needed.

3. Pour half the dressing over bulgur and mix well. Set aside to absorb for 10 minutes. Taste for salt, adding more if needed. Add half the remaining dressing, all the nuts and parsley, and mix well. Before serving, taste again and add more dressing as needed.