Reader-to-Reader Assists

It’s always a pleasure when I know I’ve helped someone in this space or in the chat, but I must say, I’m particularly tickled when readers lend an online hand and help each other. Last week, the reader-to-reader luv was at such a high it felt like Valentine’s Day had come early. Wowee. Even after last Tuesday’s show, the conversation continued on several topics, including the much-discussed Basmati woes. Below, a handful of follow-up tips from your fellow readers, plus a few recipes submitted in last Thursday’s vegetarian chat. Yay team!

Columbia, Md.: A suggestion for the person exasperated by Basmati rice. We have a "trick" where I come from on the East African coast, and that is to add either a few drops of fresh lemon juice or white(or rice)wine vinegar to the liquid. First soak the rice in very cold water for up to 30 mins. Using a proportion of 1 (rice): 1 (liquid) in addition to the acid should rid this person of the mushy rice results. While on the stove, the rice should remain at a rolling boil until the liquid evaporates, and then the heat should be turned low until it reaches dryness.

McLean Va.: A good way to cook rice is like pasta. Boil a lot of water and add pre-soaked rice. Check when rice is just done and then drain just like pasta. Let it sit in the pot for a while. This is the traditional way of cooking rice in eastern (and southern, I am told) India. You get rid of the starch (and nutrients!!); in India the starch would be used for starching linen and cotton saris...

Fondue in Baltimore: The question came up about using your electric fondue pot for non-fondue purposes. When I remodeled my kitchen last year I used my fondue pot to do all sorts of things. It, along with my toaster oven and microwave, was part of my kitchen in exile. Boiled water for pasta, warmed up soup, it's a great multipurpose tool, totally underrated. There are hot-pot fondues which are cooking food in hot oil so totally within the design for the appliance. It's a great idea to use the fondue pot for frying, I'm going to have to try it, now. I would still do it on the stove though just to have the ventilation and prevent messes.

Pesto tip from Anonymous: Here's a great pesto tip I learned - you dry roast the garlic on the stovetop (high/low heat). This way you easily avoid the raw garlic problem. I put the pine nuts and the garlic in the same cast iron pan.

Alexandria, Va.: My tiny, one-quart crock pot, purchased in a Chicago drugstore 15 years ago, is my secret to cooking beans. A cup or so of rinsed dry beans go in the pot in at 9 a.m. I add boiling water just to cover (along with any seasonings) and the beans are PERFECT when I'm home at 6 pm. This never fails.

My version of "fish" sticks, from Anonymous:

Tofu "Fish" Sticks
Kelp granules can be found in shaker containers at health food stores or here. Sprinkle them on any food for a low-sodium salt alternative; it is a good source of iodine.

1 pound package firm tofu, drained
2/3 cup fine organic cornmeal (or white flour)
2/3 cup sliced almonds
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
2 teaspoons kelp granules
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon dill weed
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2/3 cup plain, unsweetened soymilk
1 lemon
olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and coat parchment with olive oil. Set aside.

Combine the cornmeal or flour, sliced almonds, paprika, kelp, salt, onion and garlic powder in a blender, and blend on high until most of the almonds have been turned into a coarse meal, with a few larger pieces of almond remaining. Pour the mixture into a wide baking dish or pie plate.

Place the plain soymilk into a bowl and set next to the cornmeal mixture. With a sharp knife, cut the tofu into even slices just under ½-inch wide. Cut tofu out into fish sticks, or use a fish-shaped cookie cutter to cut out tofu fish.

Working with one piece at a time, dip the tofu into the plain soymilk, then toss gently in the cornmeal mixture to coat evenly. Place on the prepared baking sheet. When all the tofu fish are on the baking sheet, sprinkle them with olive oil.

Bake for 15 minutes, then turn the tofu fish over and bake for an additional 15 minutes, or until crispy (if making tater tots, place them on the baking sheet for the last 15 minutes). Remove tofu fish onto a plate, and squeeze some fresh lemon juice evenly over the tofu.

Makes four servings.

Tempeh Recipe from Anonymous: I made this tempeh bourgignon for my meat eater husband and he adored it. It is wonderful. It is from Vegetarian Times with my modifications (and FWIW, VT is really well worth the subscription. The website is also great -- it has a recipe search function)

Tempeh Bourgignon
Notes in parentheses are those of the reader who submitted recipe

2 cups medium-bodied red wine, such as Pinot Noir
1 8-ounce package tempeh, cut into 1-inch cubes (I used a multigrain version)
1 slice Fakin Bacon
1 small onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
1 fennel bulb, cut into 1/2-inch dice (about 1 cup)
3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped (about 1 tablespoon)
3 tablespoon olive oil, divided
1/2 tsp. herbes de Provence (I used a "multipurpose" seasoning I got at MOM's)
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons tomato paste
7 ounces sliced shiitake mushrooms (about 4 cups; I used a mix of white button and shitake, more than 7 ounces)

Combine wine, tempeh, Fakin' Bacon, onion, fennel, garlic, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, herbes de Provence and bay leaf in large bowl. Cover, and refrigerate 1 hour. (I marinated less time at room temp and it was fine)

Strain vegetables and tempeh, and reserve wine. (I just used a slotted spoon)

Heat remaining oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add tempeh and vegetables, and cook 5-7 minutes, or until tempeh cubes are browned on all sides. Add vinegar, and quickly stir to coat evenly. Add tomato paste, and cook one minute. Stir in red wine marinade, scraping bottom of pot to release any stuck brown bits. Reduce heat to medium low, cover, and simmer 20-30 minutes, or until fennel is tender and flavors blended (took about 15 for me), stirring occasionally. Add water if mixture seems too dry before fennel is fully cooked.

Add mushrooms and 3/4 cup water, and simmer 10 minutes, or until tender. Remove bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper.

Makes four servings.

And we're back! Join me and the kitchen gang at 1ET for another round of What's Cooking.

By Kim ODonnel |  February 3, 2009; 8:30 AM ET Chat Leftovers
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Wow, these are such wonderful tips! I was actually just wondering if slow-cooking dried beans in a crock pot all day would work. Thanks for posting the comments!

Posted by: godairyfree | February 3, 2009 11:35 AM

Kim - This is Elizabeth over from the Facebook page - thanks for the posting the tip about the beans in the crockpot. One more question for you (or anyone else able to shed a light) - I know you suggested throwing in some acid "at the end". When exactly is that: after cooking, before serving, or do you want the acid in while it's still cooking in the end? Thanks much!

Posted by: Lizka | February 4, 2009 9:50 AM

Wow, love how the circle gets even more complete. Lizka, when I cook beans on the stove, I usually add anything acidic after the first 45 minutes. This means the beans about halfway cooked. For the crockpot, you will prob. need to adjust, but use the halfway time marker to help you.

Posted by: Kim ODonnel | February 4, 2009 11:50 AM

When I am cooking beans (typically black beans), I add vinegar or lime juice just after I turn off the heat, but while the pot is still on the stove, in order for the flavors to mingle a bit.

Posted by: LaurenMcK | February 4, 2009 11:52 AM

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