“Shauna,” you may be thinking. “Have you lost your mind? That’s a bowl of rice. Is that all you have to give us now?”
It’s not that I have run out of ideas. New ideas always seam to leak at the seams around here, and sometimes at the most inappropriate times. For example, this week when we are busy planning an upcoming trip to Colorado for the book, doing signings at Costco, trying to finish a website for the book that should have been completed a month ago (and not for lack of trying), putting together a quite-exciting blog event for November, answering 180 emails a day and feeling like a jerk for leaving the rest unanswered, gathering all our receipts for reimbursement and trying to remember to invoice magazines for payment, plus trying to re-arrange all the furniture in the house to make it feel more like ours? This week? Of course this is the week that we admitted to ourselves that we would really like to buy a house instead of renting much longer. And thus spent some mornings walking around empty houses with Lu bouncing up the stairs.
At least we’re still laughing and dancing with Lu in the living room as much as we possibly can. She always restores us.
So does cooking.
Even when life feels as foreboding as the low clouds hovering over the house right now, standing in front of the stove slows me down. Lu and I made cookies together the other night. At the end, there were raisins strewn on the floor in a wide circle around the chair upon which she had been standing, some of them smooshed by her excited stomping in her new red shoes. She had taken every measuring cup out of the drawer, banged most of them on the counter in rhythm with the Sesame Street songs that played from the computer, and sprinkled potato starch on any remaining space. I should have been annoyed. But we were baking. And for the first time, she actually folded nuts into the cookie dough, using the spatula with deft hands. “I mashed cookies!” she shouted, delighted.
I cleaned up the raisins after she went to bed, then sat down to eat a warm cookie, thinking of all the years we might be cooking together in the kitchen.
Danny’s really the one who taught me to cook. I knew how to make a meal before I met him, but I sweated it. I wanted everything right. I knew how to bake before I had to cut out gluten but I didn’t really understand the chemistry and magic of baking the way I do now. I didn’t feel entirely comfortable in the kitchen until I stood next to Danny, watching, then joining in.
That’s really what our cookbook is about: how I learned to become comfortable in the kitchen from loving Danny. And really, how you can too, if you want.
Before I met Danny, I would never have thrown together this coconut rice. And without doing that, I would have missed out on this sustenance. We have eaten eggs fried crisp in coconut oil on top of this rice. I sauteed collard greens with various citrus juices and slivered almonds and ate it on top of this rice. Lu spooned up this warm rice with avocado and roasted chicken and said “Yummmmm.…” (She has picked up yum and delicious lately.) It’s brown rice without the hippie trappings. This rice sits soft in the bowl, steam rising, a faint smell of coconut and curry arriving after the steam. It doesn’t smell like tanning lotion or pina coladas or bad bubblegum. It entices without needing your attention.
You want this rice.
After soaking the brown rice, and throwing in pinches of curry powder and ginger, pepper and lime, on a whim, I turned on the rice cooker and walked away. Lu and I read about 18 books, including this Lois Lenski book, which she asks for 14 times a day so she can recite the text by herself. I cuddled her while the rice bubbled and steamed on the counter.
(By the way, we make every grain we eat in the rice cooker. We throw in quinoa when we first wake up and have a soft pile of it with poached eggs for breakfast. Or teff porridge with molasses and dried cherries. Or oats with prunes and maple syrup. We have at least one big bowl of whole grains as one of our meals every day. And we don’t have to think about how to cook them. Just throw them into the rice cooker.)
You see, as much as I love the long, entailed kitchen projects on slow Sunday afternoons, we have far less time to cook elaborate meals these days. We eat quite differently now than we did in the days I wrote about in the cookbook. Somehow, I have thought that the simple meals we eat aren’t interesting enough to show you here.
However, in the midst of a chaotic time, sometimes a simple bowl of coconut brown rice is enough to make me slow down and enjoy these moments more.
What would you throw on top of this coconut brown rice? I’d love to know.
COCONUT BROWN RICE
My brother and I used to tease my father that he had a lifetime subscription to Somewhere Magazine. Whenever we asked him where he had read a statistic that proved his point, or a story that seemed too far-fetched to be true, he always said, “Oh, somewhere.”
Karma’s coming back. I cannot for the life of me remember where I read the tip recently that soaking brown rice for at least an hour makes it far more fluffy and less “good-for-you” tasting. Somewhere. Still, you should do this too. Somewhere Magazine was right.
The directions here are for a rice cooker. That’s how we cook our rice now. I haven’t made a pot of rice on the stove in at least 3 years. If you would like to make this on the stove, then use whatever method you traditionally use.
Or buy a rice cooker.
2 cups brown basmati rice
1/2 can (7 ounces) coconut milk
juice of 1 medium-sized lime
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1/2 teaspoon Madras curry powder
1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
Soaking the rice. Soak the rice in 4 cups of cool, fresh water. Let it sit for at least 1 hour, preferably longer, if you can. This helps to remove some of the starchiness from the rice. Pour the rice into a large strainer, draining out all the water.
Cooking the rice. Pour the rice into the rice cooker. Add the coconut milk, lime juice, coconut oil, curry powder, ginger, salt, and pepper. Stir it all well. Add 3 1/2 cups cool, fresh water. Stir it all up. Close the lid. Turn the rice cooker to the brown rice setting, then turn it on.
When the rice cooker says it is done cooking, you may eat.