Oct 7, 2022

The best brownies ever

Hello Readers.
You know that day that you can't get the idea of fudgy delicious super-chocately brownies out of your head? Well, that was me, yesterday.
I guess it was a week of honey cake and other dairy-free desserts, but whatever... I had to make BROWNIES.
Now, I know that a lot of you, dear readers, look to my blog for the convenience of not having to sift through dozens of recipes to find the best ones. Well, here is the definitive brownie recipe, thanks to Ina Garten, who we know, never holds back on the crucial ingredients-- in this case, butter and chocolate.
I have tweaked it a tiny bit, using espresso powder instead of instant coffee, increasing the salt a bit, and exchanging pecans for walnuts. So give it a try and let me know what you think.
*note: this makes A TON of brownies

Ina Garten’s Outrageous Brownies
The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook
1 pound unsalted butter
28 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate
6 extra large eggs
3 tablespoons instant coffee granules, or 2 Tablespoons espresso powder
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups chopped walnuts or pecans

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour a 12x18x1 inch baking sheet. Melt together the butter, one pound of the chips, and the unsweetened chocolate in a medium bowl over simmering water. Allow to cool slightly.
In a large bowl, stir (do not beat) together the eggs, coffee granules, vanilla, and sugar. Stir the warm chocolate mixture into the egg mixture and allow to cool to room temperature. In a medium bowl, sift together 1 cup of flour, the baking powder, and salt. Add to the cooled chocolate mixture. Toss the nuts and 12 ounces of chips in a medium bowl with 1/4 cup flour, then add them to the chocolate batter. Pour into the baking sheet.
Bake for 20 minutes, then rap the baking sheet against the oven shelf to force the air to escape from between the pan and dough. Bake for another 15 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Do not overbake!
Allow to cool thoroughly, refrigerate, and cut into squares.
Ina’s notes: Flouring the chips and walnuts keeps them from sinking to the bottom.
It is very important to allow the batter to cool well before adding the chips, or the chips will melt and ruin the brownies.
Do ahead: This recipe can be baked up to a week in advance, wrapped in plastic, and refrigerated.

Aug 3, 2022

All About Challah. Best Bread Machine Challah

Several (ok, dozens of) years ago, I was lucky enough to receive the perfect Bread Machine Challah recipe From Shari Levy. Over the years I have made it hundreds of times, and given the recipe to dozens of cooks. Over time, I have come to "slightly" prefer making Challah in the kitchenaid stand mixer, based on the resulting product, but in terms of practicality, the old bread machine wins out 95% of the time. You dump in the ingredients, push the "DOUGH" cycle button, and pretty much walk away for 90 minutes.

Do check during the first five minutes of the mixing, to make sure that the flour isn't lumping up in the corners of the bowl/pan. Don't be afraid of the paddle, you just need a swipe or two with a wooded spoon.

If you don't have a bread machine ask around, because lots of people have them and don't use them. These people will be thrilled to let you experiment with theirs, provided you offer them a taste of the results. Or find one easily at a Thrift Shop, I have seen brand new ones there. If you see a gently used one, I personally would not be squeamish, but I would wash the baking pan very well.

I never do anything but mix dough in the bread-maker, so don't ask my advice if you are interested in actually baking in it.

In my bread machine, the dough cycle takes 90 minutes, the rise for shaped loaves takes about 60 minutes (use your warming drawer on "proof" setting if you have one). Baking takes 25 minutes on my baking stone.

If you can't do it all in one sitting you have various choices:
1. Make the dough in the machine (or mixer) and take it out immediately and put in an oiled bowl in the fridge to slow the rise. Put a spoonful of oil in a bowl about 2x larger than the dough. Spread oil around the bowl. Put dough in, and turn over so all of the dough is lightly coated in oil. Cover with a cloth napkin, then plastic wrap*. When you are ready to resume, remove from the fridge and allow to rise, then proceed.

2. Let the dough rise, then put it in the oiled bowl in the fridge to slow the rise. When ready to proceed, bring to room temperature, punch down the dough and let it rise again before shaping, rising, and baking.

3. Make the dough, shape the breads, and put, covered with a cloth napkin and plastic wrap* in the refrigerator (or even the freezer) before allowing the loaves to rise.

4. Do everything including rising the loaves, and par-bake for 15 minutes. Remove, freeze if desired, and return to oven for final baking.

Having Troubles? Here is a link to a good article about troubleshooting yeast breads

*The cloth napkin between the bread and the plastic is my way cutting down on the contact our food has with plastic. If you have no plastic issue, it can go right over the bowl.

Bread Machine Challah
makes 2 loaves

1 cup warm water
2 eggs
1/3 cup sugar (white or brown)
1/3 cup oil
1 tsp. Salt
3 tsp (1 packet) yeast
1 tsp. vanilla
4 cups of flour
Egg glaze: one egg beaten with splash of water

  1. Put ingredients into Bread machine in order recommended by manufacturer.
  2. Set to DOUGH cycle
  3. Remove from machine
  4. Set on lightly floured surface
  5. Cut into 6 equal parts.
  6. Braid into 2 loaves

  1. Set onto parchment paper on baking sheet, or into pam-sprayed glass loaf pans.
  2. Allow loaves to rise until double. About 45 minutes.
  3. Paint loaves with egg glaze.
  4. Bake for about 25 minutes.

For Caraway Salt-- Sprinkle Caraway seeds and coarse sea salt on egg glaze

Whole Wheat Variation: substitute one cup of  whole wheat pastry flour for one of the cups of flour, add 1/4 cup of ground flax for extra healthiness.

Cinnamon Bread variation:
Instead of braiding 2 loaves, roll dough out into rough rectangle and sprinkle heavily with cinnamon and brown sugar, using at least one teaspoon of cinnamon and half a cup of brown sugar (can spread with soft butter first if making dairy).
Roll up loaf, tucking in ends well, put in sprayed loaf pan.

Bake as above.

High Holiday Sugar-Crunch variation: (shown in picture)
Cut the dough in half, and shape into a thick rope, tie the rope into a big knot, and sprinkle with a coarse sugar like Sugar in the Raw, Turbinado, or this sparkling white sugar from King Arthur. A touch of cinnamon would probably be good too.

Holding one end of the rope in each hand, just tie it into a simple knot, stretching slightly if necessary. Let rise as usual. Before baking, brush well with egg-water wash  or Agave Syrup, or Maple Syrup, and immediately sprinkle more sugar all over the top.
We all hate raisins in, in anything actually, so this is my version of gussied up Challah.

Challah, regular recipe, (not machine)
40 minutes 10 mins prep

1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup warm water
3 teaspoons yeast
4 cups flour
4 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup oil
2 eggs
1/2 cup warm water
1 egg yolk, beaten with
1 teaspoon water

sesame seeds or poppy seeds, or any of the variations above.

Preheat oven to 400 F.

  1. Dissolve 1 teaspoon sugar in 1/2 cup water in bowl of mixer.
  2. Sprinkle yeast over water and mix,let stand 10 minutes until foamy.
  3. Add the next 6 ingredients to mixing bowl.
  4. Mix with dough hook for 6 minutes.
  5. Dough should be a little sticky.
  6. Place in oiled bowl, cover and let rise in warm place until double in bulk.
  7. Punch down dough.
  8. Let rise until double in bulk.
  9. Punch down again.
  10. Divide dough into 3 equal parts.
  11. Roll dough into three long strands.
  12. Braid the strands, tucking ends under.
  13. Cover with towel and let double in bulk.
  14. Brush with beaten egg yolk.
  15. Sprinkle with seeds.
  16. Bake at 400 F for approximately 30 minutes, until golden brown.
  17. The challah is done when it sounds hollow when thumped on the bottom.

Dec 4, 2020

Short Ribs and Horseradish Potato Puree

Seder 1
Daube of Short Ribs of Beef Picholine adapted from Terrence Brennan's recipe:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, chopped
  • 2 medium celery ribs, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons fresh or dried rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons dried thyme
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely cracked black peppercorns
  • 3 (3-inch) strips orange zest (removed from orange with a vegetable peeler)
  • 2 bottles hearty red wine, such as Zinfandel
  • 8 (1-pound each) meaty single-rib portions beef short ribs, sawed crosswise in half by the butcher- or 8 big strips of Flanken-style short ribs
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 1 1/2 cups pitted black olives (nicoise, or israeli)
  • 6 anchovy fillets, chopped (optional)

In a large nonreactive pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, and celery and cook until the vegetables are softened, about 6 minutes. Stir in the garlic, rosemary, thyme, peppercorns and orange zest. Add the wine and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Cool the marinade completely. Place the short ribs in a large nonreactive bowl and add the cooled marinade. Cover and refrigerate at least overnight, preferably 24 hours.
Strain the marinade into a large nonreactive pot and discard the solids. Bring the marinade to a boil over high heat. Simmer until reduced by one-fourth, 20 mins or so. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Place the short ribs in a large, flameproof nonreactive casserole (such as enameled cast iron). Add the reduced marinade and the stock. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cover and bake until the beef is very tender and pulling from the bones, 3 1/2 to 4 hours. Transfer the beef to a platter and cool. Discard the bones, trim away any excess fat.
Meanwhile, skim off and discard the fat on the surface of the cooking liquid. Put in refrigerator to cool further, and remove more fat that rises to the surface. Strain the sauce into a large nonreactive pot and bring to a boil over medium heat-high. Add the olives (and anchovies). Cook until the sauce reduces and is thick enough to coat a wooden spoon, about 30 minutes. Return the short ribs to the pot. (The short ribs can be prepared up to 1 day in advance, cooled, covered, and refrigerated.) Assembly: Bring the short ribs and sauce to a simmer over medium heat and cook until the short ribs are heated through, about 10 minutes. Spoon a portion of the potato pure onto the centers of 8 warmed dinner plates, and top each with the short ribs. Spoon the sauce around the potatoes.

"Seder plate" Potato Puree (horseradish, parsley, salt)

  • 6 medium (1 1/2 pounds) Yukon gold potatoes, scrubbed
  • 3 tablespoons fine sea salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup peeled, grated fresh horseradish
  • handful of fresh parsley
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Place the potatoes in a large pot, add enough cold water to cover by 2 inches, and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the 3 tablespoons of salt and cook until the potatoes are tender when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife. Drain and rinse under cold water until easy to handle. Pass the unpeeled potatoes through a potato ricer into a large bowl. Beat in olive oil and horseradish. Season with salt and pepper. (The potato pure can be made about 20 minutes ahead, placed in a heatproof bowl, loosely covered, and kept warm over a pot of simmering water

Nov 8, 2020

 End of Summer

Easy- Can Green Tomato Habanero Salsa

Every year, in a burst of Autumnal Glory, the tomato vines push out a final gasp of perfect specimens. Sadly, never to ripen, they are delicious in this easy salsa. And each time you open one of your cute little mason jars, you can remember the happy hours you spent in the garden. At exactly the same time you might have more hot peppers than you know what to do with. 

This is an easy recipe to adapt to your own taste and supplies. This year I was making this with the hottest habanero peppers I ever had. I barely used half a pepper in this recipe. I would probably have used 2 unseeded jalapenos. All spice amounts listed are for a medium hot salsa. Adjust to your own preferences.

6 Half Pint or 3 Pint Canning Jars, lids, bands
Pot big enough for boiling the jars
small pot for lids
pot for cooking salsa
wide mouth funnel optional but useful


3 Lbs green tomatoes
2 large yellow onions (3 medium) 
2 peppers- red, green, yellow or orange
4 large garlic cloves
1/2 cup lime juice
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar (or white vinegar)
1/2 of a habanero pepper (or 2 :, or like hot pepper)
3 Tbs. Maple Syrup (more or less to taste)
1 Tbs. Salt
1 tsp. pepper
1 Tbs. oregano
1 Tbs. cumin
1 T. chili powder, (ancho chili or chipotle chili

2/3 cup cilantro chopped (optional) 

Wash the jars in hot water with soap, rinse and put into large pot with a dish towel or small rack in the bottom. Boil for 10 minutes, leave hot jars in the pot. In a separate smaller pot, put rings and lids to boil for a minute. Also leave in the hot water.

Chop up all the vegetables to medium fine, and put into large pot with the rest of the ingredients, except for the cilantro. Don't add all the hot pepper all at once, so you can adjust the spice level to taste.

Simmer for 25 minutes or so, until everything is well combined, and as soft as you want it to be. Stir a bit.

For the last 10 minutes add the chopped cilantro if you are using it.

Let cool a bit, and taste once more. Adjust if necessary.

Remove the warm jars onto a dry dishtowel, and using a ladle pour the hot salsa into the warm jars to 1/4 inch from the top. If you have a wide mouth funnel it comes in handy for this.

Wipe excess if necessary, and lay on the lids, and screw on the bands loosely.

Bring water in the the large jar-pot back to the boil, and carefully lower the filled jars into the pot.

Boil for 15 minutes.

Remove jars from pot, and gently press the middle of the lids to make sure they have all popped down.
Leave undisturbed to cool. 

Don't forget to label and date your jars.

Jun 28, 2020

Garlic Scape Basil Pesto or What do I do With This Green Stuff

Garden Greens/Basil/Garlic Scape Pesto

Garden Pesto on Sourdough with Ricotta and Tomato

In early summer, gardens and markets overflow with green leafy stuff. Make the most of it with this versatile spread that is delicious spread on (your delicious sourdough) bread, spooned into pasta, or stirred into steamed new potatoes. If you want to make a giant batch and freeze it, leave out the cheese and add that when you use it later. I like to freeze it in silicone ice cube trays, and pop out cubes into zip lock bags.

A food processor or high speed blender is required for this. Like many of the best recipes you can adapt it to your own fridge and palate.

  • For the basil consider swapping arugala, parsley, cutting celery. escarole, spinach, or bolted lettuce or mix them.
  • For the garlic scapes test before you commit, especially if you don't LOVE garlic, the bigger they are the stronger they will be, young thin ones are milder. Of course you can use scallion scapes chives, and spring onions.
  • For the pine nuts swap walnuts, pecans, sunflower seeds, pistachios or almonds.


I cup garlic scapes, roughly cut up (about 8 scapes)
1/2 cup pine nuts 
1 cup basil leaves and tender stems
1/3 cup good olive oil
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese grated
sea salt and black pepper

Add all ingredients to the processor or blender and blend till its about the texture of peanut butter. Add more olive oil or a bit of water if it is still too thick. Feel free to adjust the amounts above to your taste.

Jun 6, 2020

Coconut Curry Carrot Soup

This is a delicious summer soup. You probably have all the ingredients around. You can easily make it vegan. It is good warm or cold, and really benefits from an overnight stay in the fridge.

    • 3/4 cup finely chopped scallion (about 1 bunch)
    • 1 small onion, chopped (about 2/3 cup)
    • 1 tablespoon finely grated peeled fresh gingerroot
    • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
    • 1 tablespoon curry powder
    • 1 1/2 pounds carrots, peeled and sliced thin (about 4 cups)
    • 1 lemongrass stalk, peeled and chopped (optional)
    • 4 cups vegetable stock
    • 1 can unsweetened coconut milk
    • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice plus additional to taste
    • trimmed scallions for garnish

      1. In a large heavy saucepan cook chopped scallion, onion, and gingerroot in butter with curry powder and salt and pepper to taste over moderately low heat until softened and add carrots and stock. Simmer mixture, covered, 20 minutes, or until carrots are very soft.
      2. In a blender or vitamix purée mixture in batches with coconut milk until very smooth, transferring as puréed to a bowl. Stir in 1 tablespoon lime juice and chill soup at least 6 hour or overnight.
      3. Thin soup with ice water if it is too thick, and season with additional lime juice and salt and pepper.
      1. Garnish soup with trimmed scallions, or a dollop of yogurt and chopped cilantro.

Apr 13, 2020

Chreime: Tunisian style Fish in Spicy Tomato Chili Sauce

This dish, called Chreime, is a Shabbat staple in North African Jewish Kitchens, where it is often served as an appetizer with fresh Challah and Tahini. We love it as a main dish.
This recipe makes a good amount of sauce, which keeps for several weeks in the refrigerator, and is delicious with eggs, and chicken (simmer chicken breasts or thighs in the sauce.

Serves 4
takes about 45 minutes

Spicy Tomato Sauce:
4 dried ancho chilies
5 cloves garlic, peeled
3 plum tomatoes or about 20 cherry tomatoes
1 jalapeno
1 tsp. cumin
3 tsp. turmeric
1 Tbsp smoked paprika
6 Tbsp tomato paste
1 Tbsp salt
2/3 cup neutral oil- canola or grapeseed
about 1 cup water

1. Pour boiling water over the chilies and allow to soften.
2. Cut up tomatoes and peel garlic- sprinkle with olive oil and roast at 425 for 10 minutes until fragrant
3. Add chilies, garlic and roasted tomatoes to vitamix and start to blend, adding about 1/3 cup of the oil.
4. Add remaining ingredients except water and blend until smooth. Add water and continue to blend until a smooth paste forms.

4 boneless fish fillets, any firm white fish, a dense one like halibut, black cod, or striped bass is best, but tilapia, sole, or salmon works too

8 Tbs. Spicy tomato sauce
1 cup of water

Tahini, chopped cilantro for garnish

Put Tomato sauce in a large skillet and heat for about a minute. Blend in water and bring to a simmer.
Add the fish, and simmer covered until fish is cooked through.

Serve right away with tahini, olives, olive oil, a bit of cilantro and fresh baked challah

Sophie's Sweet and Savory Chicken Tagine A Passover Treat

This is a very yummy Moroccan- spiced tagine that is a great dish for a party, a holiday, for passover (leave out the chick peas if you don't do kitnyot), or for whipping up to bring over to a friend.
For a vegetarian version add one more can of chick peas and some zucchini. Thanks to Sophie Robbins Mestre for the recipe.

Serves 8-10

4 lb boneless, skinless Chicken thighs, halved
2 medium yellow onions, diced
4 cloves garlic chopped
1 1/2 tsp cumin
2 tsp turmeric
1 Tbsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp cayenne
2 tsp salt
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes with juice
1 8 oz can chick peas, rinsed and drained
1 quart chicken stock
1 lb sweet potatoes
1 large butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1" pieces
1/4 cup cilantro
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup dried apricots (or any other dried fruit you have/like)
1/2 lemon juiced
1/4 cup slivered almonds (optional)

1. Season chicken with salt and pepper, coat a large pot or dutch oven with a thin layer of olive oil and brown the chicken in batches over high heat, don't crowd the pieces. Don't worry if the chicken sticks a little, its good for the flavor of the sauce. Set aside.

2. Add the onions to the pot and saute over medium heat until translucent, scraping up any bits clinging to the bottom, about 7 minutes. Stir in the garlic and all the spices.

3. Return the chicken to the pot with the tomatoes and chick peas. and stir in the stock- at least enough to cover, and simmer over low heat, or put in 325 degree oven.

4. After 30 minutes add the sweet potatoes and the butternut squash.

5. Continue to cook, with lid of pot ajar for  a total of 1-2 hours, the longer the better.

(you can do up to this point and refrigerate overnight, reheat before serving)

6. before serving add the dried fruit and heat thoroughly

garnish with chopped cilantro and almonds.

Serve with rice, couscous or quinoa.

Oct 13, 2019

Chocolate Cherry Oatmeal Cookies

I have always been a fan of Oatmeal Cookies, but sometimes they can be, admittedly, a little dull. This variation will shake things up with the flavors of Black Forest Cake. Of course, if you are looking for a good Oatmeal Cookie recipe and don't care for the chocolate cherry idea, simply choose your own mix-ins; raisins, cranberries, walnuts nothing at all.

Do not over-bake these cookies! The edges should be brown, but the rest of the cookie should be very light in color.
If you use salted butter, omit the salt called for in this recipe.


  • 1 cup (1/2 pound or 2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, OR 1 cup Earth Balance Buttery Sticks (2 sticks)
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla paste or extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup dried cherries, cut in pieces if very large
  • 1 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans (optional)
  • 3 cups "Quick" or "Old Fashioned" rolled oats 

How to:

1 Pre-heat oven to 350°F. 
Line baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpats.
2 In a large mixing bowl, beat butter or Earth Balance until creamy. Add the sugars, beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Add the vanilla extract, and cinnamon.
3 Mix flour, salt, baking soda together. Mix the dry ingredients into the butter-sugar mixture. Stir in the cherries, chocolate and nuts. Stir in the oats.
4 Spoon out the dough by large tablespoonfuls onto the prepared cookie sheets, leaving at least 2 inches between each cookie.
5 Bake until the edges of the cookies turn golden brown, about 14 minutes. Note that the cookies will seem underdone, but they will firm up as they cool.
6 Cool 1 minute on cookie sheets. Then carefully remove them, using a metal spatula, to a wire rack. Cool completely. They will be quite soft until completely cooled. Store tightly covered.

Sep 18, 2019

Korean Spare Ribs (Kolbi)

Kalbi (Korean Barbequed Beef Short Ribs)
Recipe courtesy Judiaann Woo

4 to 6 servings as a main course

5 pounds Korean style beef short ribs*
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup mirin (rice wine)
1 small onion, peeled and finely grated
1 small Asian pear, peeled and finely grated
4 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons dark sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 green onions, thinly sliced (optional)
Sprinkle brown sugar over beef and mix well to evenly coat. Let sit at room temperature for 10 minutes while preparing marinade. In a bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients. Transfer beef into a large sealable freezer bag (you may need 2). Add marinade, press out excess air from bags, and seal. Turn bag over several times to ensure beef is evenly coated. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours but preferably overnight.

Heat gas or charcoal grill to medium-hot. Drain excess marinade off beef. Grill short ribs, turning once, to desired doneness, about 3 to 4 minutes per side. Garnish with thinly sliced green onions, if desired. Serve whole pieces as a main course or cut into smaller pieces, using kitchen shears, for a starter or party nibble.

* NOTE: Korean-style short ribs can be found at most Asian markets. The cut, also known as "flanken," refers to a strip of beef cut across the bone from the chuck end of the short ribs. Unlike American and European-style short ribs, which include a thick slice of bone-in beef, Korean-style short ribs are cut lengthwise across the rib bones. The result is a thin strip of meat, about 8 to10 inches in length, lined on 1 side with 1/2-inch thick rib bones. The thin slices make for fast cooking on the grill.

A viewer, who may not be a professional cook, provided this recipe. The Food Network Kitchens chefs have not tested this recipe and therefore, we cannot make representation as to the results.

This Malaysian rice salad is ideal summer fare: light, cooling, and scented with
green herbs like basil, mint and kaffir lime leaves.
In Cradle of Flavor, James Oseland tells of stopping in a teashop on the northeast coast of Malaysia just before nightfall. The Chinese cook had only one dish left to offer him: a jasmine rice salad tossed with freshly toasted coconut and aromatic herbs so finely slivered that they looked like “green lace” draped over the rice. It was so intensely fragrant, Oseland says, that he became an instant convert.
Herbal Rice Salad is a perfect summer dish: light, delicately flavored, redolent of anise-flavored basil and cooling mint, citrusy lemongrass and lime. Before you begin, sharpen your knife since all the herbs must be slivered very finely. The author notes that the flavors of the salad are not cast in stone—you could add more of any herbs that please you, or even use other leafy herbs that are running riot in your garden—say lemon verbena, purple basil and black-stemmed mint.
Resist the temptation to skip the dried shrimp, however. They are available in most Asian markets, and, although pungent-smelling, these tiny crustaceans add just a whisper of the briny deep once they have been pulverized in a food processor and mixed with the rice. I did cheat on one ingredient, though—Instead of grating and toasting fresh coconut meat, I made do with the packaged variety, lightly toasted until it turned golden brown. I know fresh coconut would have been luscious, but even this poor second added richness to the rice salad.
This is a dish that engages all the senses—taste and smell of course, but also the sense of touch if you toss the rice with your hands as Oseland suggests. Its light green herbal flecks are cooling to the eye, and, as for the ear, well, you are likely to hear little whimpers of delight from everyone at your table.
Herbal Rice Salad
(adapted from James Oseland, Cradle of Flavor: Home Cooking from the Spice Islands of Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore)
Makes 4 servings as a main course, 6 servings as a side dish
4 heaping tablespoons toasted grated coconut (recipe follows)
About 50 fresh lemon basil, Thai basil or Italian basil leaves (about 1 small bunch)
About 35 fresh mint leaves (about 1/2 small bunch)
About 60 fresh Vietnamese basil leaves or cilantro leaves (about1 small bunch) (see note)
1 thick stalk fresh lemongrass
3 whole fresh or thawed frozen kaffir lime leaves (see note)
3 to 4 tablespoons small dried shrimp (see note)
3 shallots, very thinly sliced lengthwise
5 cups cooked jasmine rice at room temperature (recipe follows)
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
About 1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1. Prepare the toasted grated coconut: If using fresh coconut see recipe below. If using packaged coconut (very finely grated and unsweetened), heat a skillet over a medium low flame. Add the coconut and with a spatula, gently stir until it begins to change color. Continue to stir until the coconut becomes a light caramel color. If it darkens too quickly, remove it from the heat and keep stirring. After a minute or so, return the pan to low heat and continue to stir until it has turned a rich golden brown. Place the toasted coconut in a bowl and allow it to cool. (If you have used shredded rather than finely grated coconut, place it in a food processor, and pulse until it resembles sawdust, 30 seconds to 1 minute.) Set the coconut aside.
2. Working in batches, stack the lemon basil leaves, roll up lengthwise into a tight bundle and slice crosswise as thickly as possible with a very sharp knife. You should have about 5 loosely packed heaping tablespoons of the sliced herb. Cut the mint leaves in the same manner; you should have about 3 loosely packed heaping tablespoons of the sliced herb. Finally, cut the Vietnamese basil leaves in the same manner; you should have about 5 loosely packed, heaping tablespoons of the sliced herb. Set all the herbs aside.
3. Cut off the hard brown bottom and the bristly green top of the lemongrass, which should leave you with a pale white and lilac piece about 5 inches long. Discard the 2 or 3 tough outer layers. With the same sharp knife, cut the lemongrass on the diagonal into the thinnest possible slices, making them as close to paper-thin as you can. (The lemongrass slices will be difficult to chew if they’re too thick.) Set the lemongrass aside.
4. Again with the sharp knife, remove the tough center vein and hard stem of each kaffir lime leaf. Cut the leaves lengthwise into the narrowest possible strips—as narrow as a strand of hair if your knife will allow it. (The lime leaves will be difficult to chew if they are sliced too thickly.) Set the sliced lime leaves aside.
5. Place the dried shrimp in a small food processor and pulse until you have a fine powder resembling sawdust. Set the powdered shrimp aside.
6. In a large bowl, combine the sliced herbs, lemongrass and lime leaves; the powdered shrimp; the shallots; and the rice. With a large spoon (or better yet, your hands, which will allow you to distribute the ingredients more evenly), combine the ingredients until the herbs and the rice are well mixed and the rice is free of clumps. Add the lime juice and mix once more.
7. Add the salt and pepper and taste for seasoning. Because the herbs and shallots are intensely flavored, you may need to add less than 1 teaspoon salt. This dish should be neither salty nor acidic. It should be subtle and intensely fragrant with the clean taste of each herb clearly coming through. Add a squeeze of lime juice if needed.
8. Transfer to a serving bowl and eat at once. The herbs in this dish will wilt and lose their zing if allowed to sit longer than 30 minutes.
Note: Look for Vietnamese basil, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and dried shrimp at markets carrying southeast Asian ingredients. If you cannot find peppery Vietnamese basil, substitute cilantro—As Oseland notes, it tastes nothing like Vietnamese basil, but its fresh, clean taste makes it a pleasant addition to the salad.
See below for recipes for Steamed Rice and Toasted Grated Coconut.
Steamed Rice
(from James Oseland, Cradle of Flavor)
Makes 4 generous servings, or 6 small servings
2 cups jasmine rice
2-1/2 cups water
1. Place the rice in a 1-1/2 or 2-quart saucepan. Fill the pot halfway with cold water. If any rice hulls or small twigs float to the surface, scoop them aside with your hand and discard them. Gently swirl your fingers through the rice until the water becomes cloudy from the surface starch on the rice grains, about 20 seconds. Be careful not to massage the rice aggressively. You don’t want to crack or break the grains. Allow the rice to settle for a few seconds. Tilt the pot over a sink and drain out all the water, cupping the rice with your hand to prevent it from spilling out of the pot. Repeat this process with 3 more changes of water. The water after the first 2 rinses will be quite cloudy; by the fourth rinse, it will be much less so. The water need not run completely clear by the final rinse. Slightly cloudy water is fine. Leave the rinsed rice in the pot.
2. Add the cooking water to the rinsed rice. Gently shift the pot back and forth a few time, letting the rice settle in a flat, even layer at the bottom.
3. Place the pot over high heat and bring the water to a rolling, noisy boil. Allow the rice to boil vigorously for 15 seconds. Immediately reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting and cover the pot tightly with the lid. Continue cooking for 15 minutes. Don’t be tempted to lift or remove the lid during this time. You’ll lose essential cooking steam if you do.
4. Remove the pot from the heat and allow the rice to continue to steam, covered, away from the heat for an additional 10 minutes. This period ensures that the rice will be fully tender and makes it less prone to sticking to the bottom of the pot. Open the pot and fluff the rice gently with a fork, being careful to break as few grains as possible.
5. Transfer the rice to a deep serving bowl and fluff it again well with a fork, lifting it into a peaked mound. Serve the rice piping hot. (Editor’s note: If you are making the herbal rice salad, spread it out on a platter so that it can cool to room temperature.)

Toasted Grated Coconut
(from James Oseland, Cradle of Flavor)
Makes about 1-1/2 cups
Meat from 1 medium-sized coconut, cut into 1-inch pieces
1. Fill the work bowl of a regular-sized food processor one-third full with the coconut meat. (Be sure the pieces are no larger than 1 inch; larger ones will get caught in the processor blades.) Pulse until fluffy and light, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Don’t over-process, or the coconut will become gluey. Repeat until all of the coconut is grated.
2. Heat a 12-inch skillet (non-stick works best) over medium-low heat. When it’s hot, add the grated coconut and toast slowly, stirring often with a spatula and gently rotating the pan to disperse the coconut evenly around its surface. Continue until the coconut is the color of light caramel and pleasantly fragrant. (The coconut will color fairly evenly but some bits won’t noticeably change color.) This will usually take 10 to 20 minutes, depending on how dry the coconut is and the intensity of the heat. Resist the temptation to raise the heat. It’s easy to overbrown the coconut, which will make it taste bitter. (Conversely, if it’s underbrowned, it will taste bland.) If the coconut begins to burn or overbrown, immediately remove the pan from the heat, allow to cool for 1 minute, stirring the coconut constantly, and then return to low heat to continue cooking.
3. Transfer the toasted coconut to a bowl and set it aside for a few minutes to cool.
4. Place the cooled toasted coconut in the food processor, and pulse until it resembles fine sawdust, about 1 minute. Use immediately or store in the freezer where it will last for up to 3 months in a tightly sealed jar or plastic container or a zip-lock bag.