Cooking Together: Soft Pretzels Part Duex and Yellow Rice

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Yesterday as I was chopping onions and Mr. Foodie was rolling dough, I thought of how wonderful it was to have found someone with whom my soul sings. While Mr. Foodie is not as crazy obsessed with food as I am (reading about it, going *way* out of the way to eat it, cooking it even when we’re dog tired, etc.), he is always game to go along with my schemes and is responsible for more than his share of culinary inspirations. It was his idea to re-do the soft pretzels because we were still unsatisfied with the yeasty taste of our last batch. I was throwing together an easy enchilada dish and trying to make yellow rice for the first time. He had patiently steered the cart through the “foreign” aisle and spice aisle in our limited grocery store while I was looking for annatto (or poor-man’s saffron) to make the yellow rice. He picked up some more yeast thinking he’d like to retackle the pretzels sometime.

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No time like the present! When I came up from my first swim in days (thank you hurricane-like weather), he had just finished the first rise. This time Mr. Foodie adapted the recipe from The Kitchn, adding garlic powder and a bit more flour than was called for to make the dough less tacky. As you can see from the photo, the “skin” of the pretzels did not come out as brown as the last batch, but man were these delicious. No yeasty-flavor this time. Just light, flaky bread with the tiniest hint of garlic at the back and the perfect amount of salt on top – provided by this excellent seasoned salt that my mom brought back with her from our trip to Austria a couple years ago. I didn’t miss the brown crust or baking-soda taste it can often have. These were, perhaps, closer to dinner roles, but they still held up perfectly to a bit of mustard. Beauties they are not, but I found myself sneaking bites off the rack all throughout my dinner prep.

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The enchiladas I made are the most basic recipe – cooked onions and 1/2 green pepper w/ shredded chicken meat I pulled off our roast chicken for the week, canned red enchilada sauce (I wanted green, but they were out), and regular shredded jack cheese. Assemble, bake for 30 min at 350 or until bubbling. Because I was using all the meat from a roast chicken, it made a LOT of enchiladas – a whole 9×13 casserole of them. That’s okay as Mr. Foodie and I like to take breaks from prepping dinner to just eat leftovers sometimes. To make them more filling (and because we prefer the flavor) we used whole wheat tortillas. Don’t they look delicious?

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Yellow rice is something I’ve had for years in restaurants all over the place, but never once tried to make at home. My rice is basic – stove top, fluffy, white. Mr. Foodie doesn’t *love* rice or pasta as much as some people do (me), but he will eat it as the bed of whatever entree I’m making. I’ve decided that 2016 is the year I learn how to make different rices to expand my repertoire. I have this recipe from the FL Keys foodie authority Victoria Shearer whose recipe book on Keys cooking inspired me to start this blog! I have been very pleased with the recipes I’ve made from her book, although for many of them I use substitutions because of the number of expensive or one-off ingredients she calls for (had I a walk-in pantry and a small fortune I’d invest in these, but alas).

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In this case she asks you to cook a cup of chopped onion and a cup of green pepper until softened, then add water, annatto, salt and pepper and chopped two plum tomatoes. Bring to a boil, add rice, and simmer for 25+ minutes to cook the rice. It cooked up beautifully and I loved the onion/pepper to rice ratio here. The only critique I had was about flavor. Supposedly the annatto does more than color the rice, flavor wise, but I found the rice was significantly underseasoned. I would have replaced the water with stock, maybe thrown in some chili powder, at least put a bit more salt and pepper than was called for. We both had to add salt at the table, which pains me. The color and texture were perfect, though.

All in all, not a bad night in the foodie department. And I got to test and retest dishes with the man I love. The man who brings me coffee in the morning. The man who cleans all the dishes after our epic cooking feats. The man who patiently holds the cart while I practically body-check an old lady trying to get to the annatto. 🙂

Recipe for Yellow Rice from The Florida Keys Cookbook by Victoria Shearer

1 C Vidalia Onion chopped

1 C Green Pepper, chopped

1 1/2 C Water

2 Plum Tomatoes, chopped

1/4 teaspoon annatto

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 C Rice

Cook onion and green pepper until softened. Add water, tomatoes, and spices and bring to a boil. Add rice and stir until boiling again. Turn down heat and simmer for 25-30 min until rice is fully cooked (ours took 25 min and even had a little crust on the bottom which was tasty). I would recommend the following amendments: replace water with stock, increase salt and pepper and/or add 1/2 teaspoon chili powder if you like a bit of heat.

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