There are some foods, some dishes, that I feel I could eat to infinity - dishes where I lose all self control. Or at least, I don’t want to stop eating, and making myself put on the brakes requires a great deal of discipline. Usually salty crunchy things fall into that category; for instance, I could eat Doritos until I turn orange, but the other foods that put me in a state of compulsive gorging followed by a state of gleeful shame are less obvious. These foods may include, but are not limited to, mashed potatoes, spaghetti carbonara, uni (Well, I’ve never actually had the opportunity to eat my body weight in uni. I’m guessing I’d get my fill faster than I think), chicken fricassee, sausage biscuits, my mom’s cream of mushroom soup (I could drink it like a milkshake), pimiento cheese, tomato sandwiches, burrata, buttermilk pie, Cadbury Creme Eggs (made myself sick eating four in a row) and vichyssoise (made myself sick on that one, too), and pan gravy. I can power down some gravy. And I don’t need it to be on anything, either.
Some of these foods come from my childhood, but just as many don’t at all. Some are sweet and some are salty, some are solid and some are liquid. I don’t see a particular profile or pattern in them at all. That’s what is so interesting about all of us. And what’s so fascinating about food.
Recently, like a bolt of lightning, a dish zapped into my head from my childhood. It was from the era of my mom’s ‘experimental and/or ethnic food phase’ - I’d say this was the late 1980s. We called it Anuradha Rice. I remember exactly what it tasted and looked like, but I couldn’t recall its story or what the recipe was at all. So I called Mom.
When she used to work at an art gallery back in Richmond, she had a co-worker that had recently moved, with her husband, from India. Her name was Anuradha. My mom, Harland and Leslie - all Anderson Gallery people - were all going through this ‘experimental and/or ethnic food phase’ together and thought it would be really great to learn about some of Anuradha’s favorite dishes from home and how to prepare them here. Or rather, how to prepare them in Richmond, Virginia.
I don’t know what, if any, other dishes came out of these cooking classes, but I do know that one in particular stuck in our kitchen. It was a rice dish with some sort of yogurty-ness on top. No one ever found out the actual name for this dish, if it had one, so it has always been Anuradha Rice. My mom, Harland and I ate it all the time, especially in the warm months. It seems like it would be a side dish but it was our meal. And I tell you what, I could have eaten a mountain of it.
After finding out about the dish, and a loose version of how to prepare it, I set to finding the ingredients so I could go about bringing Anuradha Rice into my house, here in LA. When I was searching for the mustard seeds, I was chatting on the phone with Heather. I told her I “was trying to make a rice dish that mom used to m...” At which point she cut me off and stated, “Anuradha Rice!” That shows you how much of a staple it was back then.
I’ve made it twice in the past few days, both versions came out perfectly. The main reason for that is it is a breeze to make. Not only is it a cinch, but the ingredients are easy to find and inexpensive. It’s a bright, fresh, clean, velvety and incredibly satisfying dish. The simplicity of the ingredients and the way they marry perfectly together is uncanny. The smooth, cool yogurt with little crunches of cucumber on top of the warm, soft rice with the teeny-tiiny pops of the mustard seeds make for an eye opening journey in temperatures and textures. My mom came over to visit today and is literally eating a bowl of it while I type this.
Serves 4 as an entree
Serves 6 as a side dish
2 cups Basmati rice, cooked and cooled to room temperature
1 ½ tablespoon mustard seeds
1 ½ teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon oil or ghee
2 1/2 cups plain yogurt
¾ cup red onion, diced
1 large (or 2 medium) ripe tomato, chopped
*1 cup cucumber, peeled and chopped
1 large clove garlic, minced
½ cup cilantro, chopped
Salt & pepper to taste
*Toss chopped cucumber in a small bowl with ½ teaspoon of kosher salt, and let sit 10 minutes. This is to remove excess water from cucumber.
Place all ingredients for yogurt mixture in bowl and mix well. Set aside in refrigerator.
Heat oil (or ghee) in wok or large cast iron skillet. Add mustard seeds and cook on medium-high until they begin to pop. Be careful not to get hit in the eyeball by hot, oily, popping mustard seeds. Cook until a few of the seeds have popped, but don’t worry about popping them all.
Add the cooked and cooled rice, add turmeric and stir well. Once rice is mixed well with the oil and mustard seeds, and heated through with the littlest bit of crisp remove from heat.
Portion rice on to plates and top with a generous amount of the yogurt mixture and serve.
One year ago: Yerp: Part 7 - The End
Two years ago: Great Balls on Tires
Three years ago: Baked Tomatoes with Goat Cheese, Fresh Herbs & Hazelnut Breadcrumbs