Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

I haven’t had time for much – you know, the gift thinking, the gift shopping, the gift wrapping, and in the case of this year, the carrying of the gifts from Texas to NJ where we await the birth of ... a baby Hilton. But I did make THREE batches of roll-out cookies – for my children, my mother-in-law, and the two physical therapy clinics that I figure are the reason I was able to make them in the first place.

So from my kitchen to yours, here's a wish for all of you to have the very best of the holiday season, and a happier, more prosperous New Year!

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Breakfast Dilemma
What’s cooking? Coconut Oat Pilaf

To cook or not to cook? When it comes to breakfast, that’s the big question. Especially when we have guests, I’m always torn between the desire for sleep (“Breakfast here is DIY – we have yogurt, eggs, cereal, fruit,...”) and the image I have in my head of everyone gathering around the kitchen island while I whip up some eggy concoction or pull yummy biscuits or coffee cake out of the oven.

The truth is, of course, that hardly anyone ever wants to wait the hour or so it’ll take me to manage one of those scenarios. And I have the additional challenge of making myself look like someone you want to face at that time of day.

But when my children show up for a visit, breakfast is a lot easier to manage. They sleep late enough that I can have it ready when they make their morning appearance, and they don’t care as much what I look like. They also really like breakfast, which means they’ll tolerate whatever fuss I want to make.

So when my younger son and his girlfriend showed up over the Thanksgiving break, I pulled out all the stops. Ginger scones one day, Paris breakfast another, and this wonderful breakfast pilaf for a third. (It doesn't look like much in the photo, but what can you do?) The original recipe came from the indefatigable Mark Bittman, a couple of years ago in The New York Times. Some of the ingredients he uses are a bit more exotic than my pantry, so I tweaked it here and there.

The pilaf is delicious as a savory breakfast, but I need something sweet in the morning, so I serve mine with a touch of pure maple syrup (no Aunt Jemima’s, please) or some honey. You could also try it with your favorite jam. Leftovers keep well in the refrigerator for days.

Coconut Oat Pilaf

2 tablespoons butter
1½ cups steel-cut oats (not rolled), rinsed and drained
1 tablespoon minced or grated ginger [Kitchen Goddess note: Buy fresh ginger and keep it in an airtight container in the freezer. Life will be a lot easier.]
1 tablespoon mustard seeds (brown or black are both fine)
¼ teaspoon Chinese Five-Spice Powder
a pinch of chili flakes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ cup grated coconut (which also keeps well in the freezer)
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro, mint, or parsley, or a combination (I prefer the combination.)

1. Put butter in a pot with a tight-fitting lid over medium-high heat. When it melts, add oats and ginger and stir until coated. Add spices and a pinch each of salt and pepper; stir until fragrant, just a minute or two.

2. Stir in 2½ cups water, bring to a boil, and reduce heat enough that the mixture gently bubbles. Cook undisturbed, until most of the water has been absorbed and holes begin to appear on surface, about 10 minutes. Cover, remove from heat, and let sit for up to 20 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, toast coconut in a skillet over medium-low heat, shaking pan and stirring several minutes until the coconut is toasted and fragrant (careful that it doesn’t burn). Toss coconut and cilantro into oats, fluffing mixture with a fork. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary and serve hot or at room temperature.

Yield: 4 servings.

Kitchen Goddess note: All three of my breakfasts were easy and reasonably fast to make, especially if you check the night before that you have all the ingredients, and that you set out whatever dry ingredients you’ll need. It’s that maddening mise en place philosophy of organizing and arranging what you need at the beginning, that the Culinary Institute harps on. Don’t you just hate it when they’re right?