Long post alert: I included two recipes in this post - with their attendant explanations - so this is a long blog!
Like many men I know, my husband’s culinary skills are mostly centered around cooking large portions of meat, preferably on the grill. Side dishes? Not so much. Meatless meals? Not so much either, unless you count pancake breakfasts or grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch. Now that we’re working together in the kitchen, I’m rapidly discovering that a large part of my contribution to the team is going to come in the form of encouraging the inclusion of vegetables and whole grains in our menus.
When deciding on last night’s menu, there was a little tug and pull going on. We had some pork steaks in the freezer that could be cooked on the barbecue, so that part was easy. The rest was a little more challenging:
For a starch, I wanted either barley or bulgur. My fella didn’t. They take too long to cook. He didn’t want potatoes either. “What about that rice and pea thing I like,” he asked and, although it is white rice, I conceded the point. At least it has some vegetables in it.
Our vegetable selection is pretty limited right now. It’s the week before Good Food Box so I don’t want to buy anything, but most of what we got last month has been used up. We had cabbage, carrots, frozen peas and green beans, a single beet, some onions, and a few cloves of garlic to choose from.
I wanted to use up the beet, but beets can be a tough sell at our house. Sometimes Jack likes them, sometimes he doesn’t. He suggested that, if we must have the beet, we use it up in “those little shredded pancake things, with the sour cream.” It took me a minute, but then the light bulb went on: He meant beet and carrot latkes! We hadn’t had them for a while so I thought, "Why not?"
So...We had white rice and fried vegetables last night. Not the very best nutritional choices, but we’re working in baby steps here. My husband learned to prepare two side dishes, both with vegetables, and he enjoyed them both when they were done. I’m content with that.
Here are the recipes for last night's side dishes. I hope you enjoy them.
Jack’s Favourite Rice
Like many dishes at our house, this one evolved out of a need to use what we had on hand. As a result, it's really adaptable. I’ve made this rice with vegetable stock or with beef stock instead of the chicken stock listed here, and I’ve used leftover cooked vegetables in place of the peas, adapting the seasonings to suit the different flavours.
To make Jack’s Favourite Rice, you’ll need:
- 2/3 cup finely chopped onion
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 2/3 cup rice
- 1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
- 2/3 cup frozen peas (or more, to taste)
You’ll need a medium sized saucepan with a tight fitting lid to make this dish.
Sauté the onion in a little oil until it’s tender and starting to turn translucent.
Add in the stock. When the stock comes to a boil, stir in the rice and poultry seasoning. When the mixture returns to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low and put the lid on the pot. Cook the rice for 10 minutes.
Remove the pot from the heat. Stir in the frozen peas.
Put the lid back on and let the rice rest until all of the liquid has been absorbed. Before serving, fluff the rice with a fork and, if necessary, adjust the seasoning.
Carrot and Beet Latkes
I first learned to make latkes from Martha Stewart Living magazine. I know. But it's true. The December 2002 issue had several latke recipes. They appealed to me because they offered a new (to me) way to present winter vegetables, giving these affordable vegetables a texture we don’t usually see on our table.
Although the latkes I make now are still based upon the recipes in the magazine, I’ve changed the components over the years to suit our personal tastes. I don’t include potatoes in my carrot and beet latkes, nor do I grate my vegetables by hand. (A food processor is always your friend when grating beets. Much less clean up!)
Because onions, carrots, and beets all have a characteristically sweet flavour, we like these latkes best with some added sharpness or heat. They're wonderful when seasoned with fresh grated ginger, but they're also very tasty when made with paprika (either hot or smoked), or with a generous addition of coarsely ground black pepper and orange zest.
We didn’t have any fresh ginger on hand last night, so we made our latkes with smoked paprika and garnished them with a little sour cream.
- 1 small onion
- 2 carrots
- 1 large beet
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 3 Tablespoons of flour
- Seasonings of your choice. (I used smoked paprika and salt)
- Oil for frying
Grate the onion, carrots, and beet, in the order listed. You can either use the coarse side of a box grater or grate them with the fine shredding disk on your food processor. If using the food processor, it’s important to shred the onion first. It tends to pulverize into juice and get stuck in the shredding blade. Following it with the carrot and beet helps to push it through the blade into the processor carafe.
Turn the shredded vegetables into a bowl. Beat the egg and add it to the shredded vegetables, along with the lemon juice, the flour, and your seasonings. Mix until the ingredients are well combined.
Preheat a skillet with just enough oil in the bottom to keep the latkes from sticking. Portion spoonfuls of the vegetable mixture into the hot oil. Flatten each portion into a small patty. Fry the patties until they’re crisp on each side.
Transfer the cooked patties onto paper towel to drain. You’ll need to work in batches until all the latkes are cooked. Keep the cooked latkes warm in the oven until the entire batch is finished and dinner is ready to serve.
My guy portioned out and fried our latkes and apparently his idea of spoonfuls is a lot different than mine! Here’s what the latkes looked like when they were cooked.
Baby steps, right? They may not look pretty but they tasted great. :)
If you have latkes left over, store them in the fridge. To reheat them place a wire rack on a rimmed baking sheet and put the latkes on the rack. Heat them in a 350˚F oven for 10 to 15 minutes. They make an excellent base for eggs benedict.