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Fast, Fresh and Pure

February 22, 1996|MARIE SIMMONS

I am always looking for recipes and dishes that I can make in the limited time I have. It is through this quest for uncomplicated, fresh, good-tasting, seasonal food that my style of cooking evolved.

Because I refuse to compromise good taste for the sake of convenience, overly processed foods are not for me. Instead, on a day-to-day basis, and even when I entertain, I prepare dishes based on my favorite fresh fruits and vegetables, quick-cooking cuts of meat, poultry and seafood, pasta, rice, beans and grains.

I can prepare these pure whole foods without spending hours in the kitchen, and the results are far superior and the experience far more satisfying than with any packaged or "convenience" food I've tasted. But there are some convenience foods that I truly couldn't cook without, and the frozen peas in the following pilaf are one.

The fast part of the pilaf recipe is that it takes only about 10 minutes to prepare the ingredients; once the cover goes on the pot, you can forget about it for the entire cooking time (about 45 minutes). Pilaf should not be uncovered while it is cooking, or else the precious hot steam might escape. And it should never be stirred. You can use the unattended cooking time to make the orange salad, prepare the dessert--or read the newspaper.

MUSHROOM AND BROWN RICE PILAF WITH GREEN PEAS

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 (10- to 14-ounce) box white mushrooms, wiped, halved through stems, placed cut side down and sliced

1/2 cup chopped onion

2 cloves garlic, chopped

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 cup long-grain brown rice

1 cup carrot nuggets

1/2 cup quartered dried tomato halves

3 cups water

1 cup thawed frozen green peas

Heat oil in deep skillet or wide saucepan. Add mushrooms and onion and cook, stirring, until mushrooms begin to brown, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook 2 minutes. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper to taste.

Stir in rice, carrots and dried tomatoes. Add water and 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to boil. Cover and cook over medium-low heat until almost all moisture is absorbed and rice is almost tender, about 40 minutes. Sprinkle peas over pilaf. Cover and cook until peas are heated through, about 5 minutes.

FRESH ORANGE SALAD

To save time, look for pre-washed and trimmed mixed greens at the supermarket. They are sold either in clear bags or loose. The secret to taking the pith and peel from the oranges quickly is a very sharp knife. If you don't have one, save this recipe for when you do.

2 to 3 large navel oranges

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

4 cups washed and trimmed salad greens

Cut slice from top and bottom of each orange. Stand orange on sliced end and cut thick strips of peel and all white pith from oranges. Then slice each orange crosswise into 6 slices. Place on plate and drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Sprinkle with a little salt and add generous grinding of black pepper. Set aside.

When ready to serve, combine remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and lemon juice in bowl. Add dash salt and salad greens. Toss to coat. Divide among 4 salad plates. Arrange orange slices on top, distributing evenly. Serve at once.

GINGER ICE CREAM WITH HOT FUDGE SAUCE

1 to 2 pints vanilla ice cream

1/4 cup chopped crystallized ginger

1 cup good-quality bottled fudge sauce, heated

Empty ice cream from container into bowl. If very hard, let stand at room temperature until softened, about 10 minutes. Add ginger and mash in with wooden spoon until evenly distributed. Cover and return to freezer until ready to serve.

To serve, scoop ice cream into dessert bowls and top with fudge sauce.

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