Monthly Archives: July 2009

How To…Make Rice

In Nicaragua you get rice three times a day. If there’s no rice, you can’t call it a meal. For breakfast it’s mixed with beans and labeled “gallopinto.” At lunch, it’s served alongside the beans. At dinner, you can have gallopinto or rice and beans. Basically, it’s rice and beans, or riceandbeans. Got it? And you have them with everything. Even if you have pasta, rice and beans will be on the table, never you mind the double-starching.

I make rice fairly often. Nothing says “home” to me as much as a simple dinner with seared steak or a breaded chicken cutlet with a side of fluffy rice. I don’t know how common rice is at the American dinner table, but most people I know are crazy about it, but don’t know how to cook it. Even professionally trained cooks I know confess how inept they are at preparing rice.

This is how I go about the business, and it works beautifully every time.

Makes 4 to 6 side dish servings
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
½ small onion (about ½ cup), finely chopped
1 cup long-grain white rice
2 cups water or low-sodium chicken broth
1 teaspoon salt
– Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and cook, stirring, until softened and translucent, about 5 minutes.
– Add rice and cook, stirring, until grains are shiny and evenly coated with oil, 2 to 3 minutes. Add water or broth and salt, increase heat to high, and bring to a boil.
– Boil rice (do not stir!) until most of the liquid has evaporated and you can see small bubbles bursting on the surface of the rice.
– Immediately reduce the heat to the lowest setting, cover, and cook (do not stir, do not remove lid!) for 15 minutes. Fluff rice with chopsticks or fork and serve.

Lucy! I’m home!

Because my job entails eating at approximately 15-minute intervals throughout the day, I usually feel a violent burning, gnawing sensation in my stomach by the end of the day – think John Hurt’s exploding torso in Alien. Whether this uncomfortable feeling is a result of overeating or merely my belly asking for more, Sensible Me always hops on the train thinking “You will have a green salad for dinner. And maybe some fruit for dessert.” As I sweat out my toxins in the hot yoga room, Sensible Me only wants a glass of water and luxuriates in the thought that my body is being exorcised of all the excess butter and sodium I had during the day. Sensible Me walks home and wants nothing to do with food.

15 minutes later…Sensible Me has abandoned all Lean Cuisine thoughts, busts through the door and whines, “I’m staaaaaarviiiing!!!!” I start eating everything in sight. Peanuts. Macadamia nuts. Cold leftover rice. Orange juice straight from the carton. I eventually make dinner, but, oh, how nice it is when I get home and a Special Someone has made dinner. Leafy greens and all.


Balsamic Red Onions
Serves 2

1 large red onion
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper

– Preheat oven to 400 degrees
– Cut onion in half, and then into half-inch wedges
– Place in medium or large bowl
– Add vinegar and olive oil
– Season with salt and pepper
– Toss well
– Place into square or round pyrex dish
– Cook for 30 to 40 minutes.  At 15 minutes, stir onions to ensure they’ve broken loose

Chicken cutlets
Serves 4

4 large boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 eggs
1 cup flour
2 cups bread crumbs
salt and pepper
½ cup vegetable oil
1 lemon

– Large chicken breasts can take too long to cook, leaving the inside raw and the breadcrumbs burnt.  To avoid this, either cut the chicken breasts in half or preferably just flatten them with a wooden mallet.  But before you start hammering away, place a sheet of Saran wrap on top of the chicken breast to avoid making a mess.

– Trim the chicken breasts

– The most efficient way to make breaded chicken cutlets is to setup the ingredients and do one chicken breast at a time:

– Season each chicken breast on both sides with salt and pepper
– Beat both eggs well in a shallow soup bowl
– Cover inside of large plate with coat of flour
– Cover inside of another large plate with coat of breadcrumbs

– First, lightly dredge chicken breast in flour, just enough to coat it.  Then, dip chicken breast, one side at a time in egg; let excess drip off.  Finally, dredge chicken breast in bread crumbs, making sure that it is completely covered.  Set on a clean plate to let crumbs set.  Finish this process before starting to cook chicken.

– Heat up ¼ cup of oil in large skillet on medium-high heat.  Once oil begins to smoke put in two cutlets and lower heat to medium until golden brown, about 5 minutes.  Turn over and cook other side.  If oil is too dark, clean pan and pour in fresh ¼ cup of oil.  Cook remaining cutlets.

– Slice lemon for garnish.  I like a little lemon juice on top to add some acidity.

Serve with an avocado to balance onions and salad to feel healthy about what you’re eating