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  • Writer's pictureNick Clarizio

Rice, Rice, Baby! (Friend Feature Friday #1: Grace)

Updated: Oct 8, 2023

Dear Committed Readers,


I've been AWOL for a few weeks now. I was busy with job interviews, writing, cooking, spending time with friends and family, running, learning Arabic, and whatever other things life threw at me unexpectedly. This is a passion project for me, so I have to put it on the back burner from time to time. But that doesn't mean I've stopped thinking about it, or about all the wonderful people who take the time to read this. In fact, the high interest of a few of you is what inspired me to take even a few minutes out of my busy schedule to create this post. I've also been playing around with new ideas for the blog to keep things fresh.


This post is the first of a new series I'd like to begin. I think it'll be called "Friend Feature Friday". And, yes, typically, I will try to get it published on Fridays. For this series, I want you guys to send me your favorite recipes, food questions, or just something you'd like to see me cook or put on the blog. I'd also like to eventually begin doing mini "food biographies" about the role of food in your lives and how that's changed with the years. Most of you are close enough friends that you have my contact info, so go ahead and send me a message if you're interested in either/or of these ideas!


For this first installment, the request comes from my lovely friend Grace. She asked me for a recipe to use up some extra potatoes in her pantry, as well as any tips on meal prep for a busy lifestyle. Grace, sit back, relax, and enjoy because I have both ready for you!


Before we dig in, let me explain a few key terms.


T = Tablespoon

t = teaspoon

C = cup

g = grams

3-finger pinch = take your thumb through middle finger, form a claw, pick up a clawful of salt with it

2-finger pinch = grab a small bit of salt between your thumb and index finger


I know the pinch technique seems like a joke, but it's legit. It's how you learn to salt dishes to your liking without needing measuring spoons or a quantity in the recipe. If you think the amount of salt I use may be too much for your taste, start out slow and build up to taste. Salt enhances other flavors, each time you add salt, your dish should taste more ALIVE and VIBRANT - more like itself. Also, note that your hands are most likely a different size than mine, so you'll need to taste the dish to see if the quantity I recommend is right for you.


Here's how I learned to taste for salt (on YouTube lol--- I can't find the video to link):

  1. Take 2 small spoons

  2. Scoop out some of the dish in each

  3. Add a tiny bit of salt to one while leaving the other unsalted.

  4. Wait 5 min.

  5. Taste the unsalted one.

  6. Clean your palate (water).

  7. Taste the salted one.

  8. Which tastes better? Which tastes more like you want the dish to taste?

  9. If it's the salted one, add a cautiously proportionate amount of salt to the dish (don't over do it).

  10. If it's the unsalted one, you're good to go!

  11. If you keep salting and tasting and nothing seems to make the dish better, try adding an acid - like lemon or lime juice. A 'flat' dish can be the result of too little acid to 'wake up' the taste buds.





Recipe: Potato-Lentil Curry


Ingredients:

  1. 1. 1 medium onion (Yellow, sweet, or whatever you have), sliced thinly

  2. 3-4 cloves garlic, smashed

  3. 3-4 potatoes (whatever variety you have or want), cubed - larger cubes = longer cooking time

  4. Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO), QB (Quanto Basta = whatever is enough for you)

  5. Tomato purée/passata (optional), 8-12 oz. OR 2-3 T tomato paste

  6. Red Lentils, 180 g.

  7. Salted Broth or Stock, 3 C if using Tomato paste/2 C if using purée

  8. 3 T butter OR Ghee

  9. 3 T spice mix of your choice (Masala, Berbere, or whatever combo floats your boat)

  10. Salt, 2 finger pinch + 3 finger pinch

Serves: 3-4


Preparation:

  1. Heat a medium sauce pan to medium high. Pour enough EVOO in to 'sweat' your onions. This is subjective, but don't skimp on the oil because fats are what convey flavors in cooking. If you don't use fat, it'll be that much harder for all the flavors to permeate throughout the dish. I'd estimate I use 3 or so tablespoons in this step. Toss in your onions, salt lightly (2 finger pinch) and stir every couple minutes.

  2. When your onions are looking translucent and a bit brown in some spots (~10-15 min.), toss in the garlic and let it cook 2-3 min.

  3. A ----- If using tomato paste, add that in, stir, and let cook 2-3 min. Then, thin out with your broth or stock.

B ------ If using tomato purée, add that in with the lentils and the rest of the liquid.

4. Stir in your potatoes, making sure there's enough liquid to cover them throughout the cooking time.

5. Bring to a boil, then simmer over medium-low for 30 min.

6. After 20 or so minutes, add in a 3-finger pinch of salt.

7. After 30 total min., check on the doneness of the lentils. Let them cook longer for a creamier, thicker consistency. Check the doneness of the potatoes - a fork should go through them with little resistence - ultimately, make them as soft or al dente as you like. If the potatoes aren't done cooking after 30 min., cover with a lid and simmer for another 20, checking every 10 min.

8. When the lentils and potatoes are done to your liking, place a small sauce pan on a separate burner over medium heat.

9. Melt your butter or Ghee (you can also use any other cooking fat you want to try or have on hand). Once fully melted, toss in the spices, stir, and cook for 1 min. - they should be fully fragrant/aromatic.

10. Pour this spice mix (called a tadka) into your lentils and stir well.

11. Taste and adjust to your liking.

12. Serve with toast, naan, yogurt, herbs, etc!!!!













Voilà ! Not too many steps; not too many ingredients, and you have yourself a lentil curry/tadka!




Meal Prep Tips: Role Play


On to the next half of this post: Meal prep tips. I have a constant rotation of 3-4 servings of 3-4 different dishes ready to go in my fridge. I've taken to calling them make-aheads instead of leftovers. There are a few tips that help me accomplish this, but my favorite one is role play. Yep. You read that right. Role play. Now get your mind out of the gutter and focus back in on the article. When I cook, I pretend I'm cooking for 6 people; I pretend I'm a nonna from centuries ago who's cooking for her extended family. My current family unit consists of 3 people. And often, I'm the only one who eats the majority of what I make. [My parents love me but not my food 😢 --- hi mom and dad, this is a joke 💕.] Which means I then have at least 3 and typically more like 4-5 portions made ahead for future days. If you're working during the week, that means one night's cooking gives you lunch for the rest of the week. If you cook dinner in this style both days over the weekend, you have lunch and dinner for the rest of the week. And if you get tired of eating the same thing every day, you can create extra options by reusing this method on whatever day during the week you have time to prepare a quick dinner. Even if you cook only twice during the week, you now have several portions of 4 different food options to choose from.


The second tip is to make large batches of grains. Feel like baking bread? Bake a baguette large enough for the whole week and customize the toppings each day to have sandwiches galore. In a rice mood? Make enough for 6 people and you'll be swimming in the endless options of rice/buddha bowls all week. Speaking of rice, lots of people find rice tricky to make or have a secret approach for making it. Today, I'll share mine, since I find it makes consistently lovely rice and everyone deserves to enjoy that.


Note: This method will get you fluffy grains of rice that don't stick too much to each other. If you prefer sticky rice, look elsewhere.


Ingredients

1. EVOO, QB

2. Basmati Rice, 2C/360 g.

3. 3 C salted broth or stock


Preparation

  1. Heat a large (preferably wide) frying pan, sauce pan, or skillet - whatever you have - over medium heat. Add a good glug of oil. It's probably about 4-5 T oil here.

  2. Add your rice in. Stir so it's evenly coated with oil. Let toast 2-3 min. on medium-high heat.

  3. When some of the grains are turning color - a kind of translucent gold/brown - turn down the heat to low and add in your stock or both (watch out for steam and bubbling).

  4. Bring the whole thing to a simmer over medium heat.

  5. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook on the burner for 20 min.

  6. After 20 min., turn off the burner and let the pan sit there for 5 min.

  7. Uncover, fluff in oil with a fork to taste, and serve!






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2 comentarios


Grace Scartz
Grace Scartz
29 ago 2023

Wow Nick ! So much care and thought into this post, I’m so grateful and in awe of you, thank you and I will send updates! all the best and keep being who you are forever pls :)

Me gusta
Nick Clarizio
Nick Clarizio
29 ago 2023
Contestando a

I can't wait to see the updates! You inspire and leave me in awe every day, too. So so so grateful for our friendship - keep doing you :)

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